Our new project leader is making my staff miserable and threatening the professionalism and success of the project itself. Both project and staff are dear to my heart, as well as my professional identity. No one wants to make waves while on the project; I've recently transferred to a different project. Is there anything I can do?
posted by anonymous to work & money (17 answers total)
For about three years, I directed a particular project for my organization. Just under a year ago, I participated in a search for a new project leader who took over my administrative responsibilities, leaving me to focus on content creation. When hired, that leader promptly made me redundant, leaving my content-related responsibilities on the project uncovered. Because I care about the credibility of the project, I still do some content creation voluntarily, in addition to my full-time responsibilities on another project in the organization. It's complicated, but I love the project and although I would strongly have preferred to stay involved officially I am willing to work this way in order to keep the project viable.
To a certain extent, the new leader acknowledges that she needs me, but she has created a situation with my current supervisor that makes my participation increasingly difficult. By her own admission, she finds me intimidating and hard to work with (I have considerably more expertise than she does, and I do have strong opinions about this project) and that has added to our challenges. Finally, I have discovered that she exaggerated her level of experience, and that in reality she is plagued by self-doubt, smallness of vision, poor time management, and little ability to handle simultaneous deadlines. Moreover, she micromanages and is unwilling to delegate or allow others to make decisions, even though all of her staff members have more specialist expertise than she does.
Before her hire, I was essentially co-leader and originator of the project, and was directly responsible for building a team of 3 employees. They are fantastic, and we brought this project from nothing to being a major organizational player over the three years of my management. Since her hire, she has added another 3 to the team, all of whom are also excellent team players. Of the six total staff now on board, four have directly expressed their frustration with her leadership to me in the last six months, and there is a clear understanding that the other two share these feelings. My own experience, as I noted above, has been that the new team leader is incapable of performing effectively and is actively threatening the success of the project. I have recently learned that the staff are, individually, all actively searching for new positions because they are worried that staying on this project will taint their professional reputations as it devolves into incompetence. They are, moreover, very demoralized and a couple have admitted that they dread going to work. The most recent hire considered quitting after just three days because of the hostile work environment. They are all unwilling to complain to HR or to the project leader's supervisor for fear of repercussions. I strongly believe that the loss of the team would be a far greater tragedy than the loss of the project leader.
Because I've moved to a new team (albeit one that has to collaborate with the old one), I am to a certain extent insulated from any such repercussions. And the ship on my personal relationship with the new team leader has unfortunately sailed, I suspect, although I like her as a person. However, I'm well aware that anything I say about the sentiments of the staff in general will have a non-zero chance of getting back to her, which would expose them against their will. I'm also aware that because I was made redundant, any complaint coming from me will inevitably bring a flavor of sour grapes with it, regardless of how it is framed.
However, I have a strong desire to protect this project and to protect the staff. I freely admit that I think of both the project and the staff, especially the original 3, as "mine" -- and I feel directly responsible for contributing to a very poor hire in the new project leader (in actual fact, we only had one candidate by the end of the process; but we were offered the opportunity to reopen the search and turned it down). I would like to see her leave the project as soon as possible, but I have no idea how realistic that is. Mostly, I would like to find a way to communicate to the (non-specialist) upper management how incredibly unsuccessful the (specialist) staff is finding her as a leader -- ideally in time for it to impact her first annual review.
Complicating factors: her hire included a spousal placement so the upper management is likely to be reluctant to do anything dramatic; there's no reason to believe a second search would be more successful; I cannot take the responsibility back without permanently threatening my position at the organization (and anyway I'd be not-great at it; I only survived the three years because I was given an unusual level of admin support in recognition of my lack of experience on that front).
Finally, my continued involvement has allowed her to disguise my redundancy from the upper management -- some conversations last week led me to conclude that they think I am still on the project. Is the simplest-fastest course of action to tell them about my reassignment, and let the conversation follow naturally from there (without a content creator this project is, quite simply, screwed -- so it should raise some red flags about her decision-making)? Should I just be minding my own business and letting the project chips fall where they may?