Tell the boss, or no?
June 18, 2009 12:43 PM   Subscribe

How do you handle a situation where a few of your co-workers -- some of who are above you -- are inefficient, show very little work ethic, disorganized, slow, and generally ineffective in their positions?

Do you talk to your boss (who is also their boss) about it, even though it's not really your job to be concerned with this, or do you just keep your mouth shut and hope the boss eventually notices and takes action?

I have a genuine love for the company I work for, and can't help but feel a few people are keeping us from being what we have the potential to be. Up until now, I've combated this by simply doing great work and ignoring what they do or how they work. As a result, I've got a couple promotions with more responsibility, but I'm starting to feel like I should speak up.

Should I? Or should I just continue with my head down doing good work?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would stay out of it. It's your boss's responsibility to keep an eye on your co-workers, not you. You may be seen as overstepping your bounds by commenting on it.

As my father likes to say, "not my part of ship".

There is nothing stopping you, however, from mentioning your ideas to your boss about making the company what it could be. Just don't mention the co-workers. If your boss likes the idea, he/she will figure out the rest.
posted by LN at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Throwing people under the bus is generally a bad career move.
posted by bunnycup at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2009 [6 favorites]

Are you a manager? If not, then this is what "360" performance reviews are for. If you work with the person, your feedback will be solicited. Be careful what you say -- constructive comments are useful, venting is not.

On a day-to-day basis, you should speak up if other people's incompetence is affecting your work directly. Limit your comments only to how it impacts YOU directly.

Do not backstab unnecessarily. If it doesn't affect you, then just shut up.
posted by randomstriker at 12:57 PM on June 18, 2009

During my 1-on-1 with my manageer I'll occasionally indicate "I'm in a holding pattern on project X until task Y is completed by [employee Z]. This affects the timeline of my output as such..." If the work you are doing is a priority for your manager, generally thats a polite way to apply thumbscrews.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:03 PM on June 18, 2009

For the most part, keep your mouth shut. However, when a specific person is actively or passively thwarting your ability to get your job done, talk about that specific person/instance with your boss. Not throwing your co-workers under the bus is one thing, but letting your own performance suffer and becoming cynical isn't a good idea.
posted by davejay at 1:06 PM on June 18, 2009

Management in my experience measures things by progress and return on investment (including salaries). When the metrics are done, and it's obvious certain people and or dept are under-performing, corrective action will be taken if the management is competent and want to stay in business.

That said, a lot of people are depressed right now, that affects work performance and any desire to innovate among other things. HR may understand this and mitigate action.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:09 PM on June 18, 2009

You show how ineffective they are at their positions by being extremely effective at yours. Chances are if it's that obvious to you, it's pretty obvious to others as well -- even their managers -- and that the powers that be might just be waiting for the right time to take care of something. Like Nanukthedog said, just casually mention to the manager during a status update that you're waiting on them. This has worked for me in the past. It's slow, but it's the most respectful way of doing things.
posted by olinerd at 1:10 PM on June 18, 2009

My boss is super quiet and passive. When I was an intern I was frequently pissed off that the other intern was slacking all the time. At the end of the year, I was offered a full time job with the agency and the other intern was not. There are other factors in there, but I found out my boss consistently notices more shenanigans than I give her credit for. Be patient... Hopefully you'll get some reinforcement.
posted by ShadePlant at 1:25 PM on June 18, 2009

The best advice I got about working with difficult people is not to own their mistakes. Don't take responsibility and don't worry about it. It is not your job to manage these people, that includes saying things about them to management. Going above their head every once and while can be good, but it has do be done respectfully. Don't get a reputation for being a rat. It is your managers job to supervise these people.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:32 PM on June 18, 2009

No, you don't speak up. You wait to be asked and you CYA in case someone above you tries to throw you under the bus to save themselves for incompetence. Keep copies of telltale emails, keep notes of egregious screwing off, etc.

However I don't think that's what you're talking about. You say"[I] can't help but feel a few people are keeping us from being what we have the potential to be." Well you know what? Most people aren't above average. We can't all be rock starts like you. Don't hate on us for that and for the love of god don't stir up the workplace over it, you'll just come across as a pompous douchebag. Do good work and if your company is worth of your love they'll eventually reward you for it.
posted by Ookseer at 1:37 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't say a word about the situation, even if asked. Learn to accept it, and work around it. A workplace without this is rare indeed.
posted by telstar at 1:44 PM on June 18, 2009

I don't know, in some places, throwing people under the bus is the _only_ career move! It really depends on your work atmosphere. Of course, it is more human and manly to just tell the coworker in question that you are sick of picking up the slack, when you are working together, or you are not satisfied with the quality of work, when you are in charge of them.
posted by shownomercy at 1:45 PM on June 18, 2009

Up until now, I've combated this by simply doing great work and ignoring what they do or how they work. As a result, I've got a couple promotions with more responsibility.

Your current approach is working out very well for you. Continue.
posted by rokusan at 1:46 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do your best and don't "stir the turd."
posted by heather-b at 1:57 PM on June 18, 2009

What everyone says, plus, you may be ratting-out someone tapped-in to the hierarchy. They probably have connections to upper management - a relative, lover, etc.. and that's how they got where they are.
posted by Zambrano at 2:50 PM on June 18, 2009

As an undergrad I once worked on a research project with someone else who was a big slacker. I was frustrated by her flakiness but never said anything, and didn't think the professor noticed. However, years later when I stumbled across the paper that resulted from our research, right on the front page it said, "And we'd like to thank flaky other person and especially losvedir". So he did notice after all...

Sometimes people may notice more than you think.

That said, maybe your boss isn't noticing. I could see how you should mind your own business like everyone above is saying, except for this line:

I have a genuine love for the company I work for, and can't help but feel a few people are keeping us from being what we have the potential to be.

I think that's an interesting and valid point. What if you addressed that without calling out your coworkers directly? You could say something to your boss like, "You know, last year we grew 10% but I feel like this year we could even hit 15%. I would have to ____, slacker coworker A would have to ____," and so on. Then you wouldn't be saying they're "inefficient, slow, disorganized" exactly, but rather suggesting what you think an efficient, fast, organized person could get done. If that's more than the coworkers are doing, then the boss will have to evaluate whether your ideas are unreasonable, or whether the coworkers are underperforming.

That approach seems less destructive to your relationships and more constructive towards the company, to me.
posted by losvedir at 4:29 PM on June 18, 2009

Only mention it if their poor performance is directly impacting your ability to perform. Otherwise, it looks bad for you and if it gets back to them, it will result in a bad situation.
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:06 PM on June 18, 2009

Don't mention it. Your job as an underling is to get along with them, not to criticize them and start an "improve everyone else" campaign.

You love your company? It's time to love something more reliable than your employer, because when the mission statement gets replaced or you get sacked, you'll get shattered.
posted by anniecat at 5:17 PM on June 18, 2009

Nobody likes a tattletale. But if your work is being slowed by them, say so. Because nobody likes a cover-upper, either. Don't make judgments on it, that's for the boss to figure out. Their slack might be caused by some other influence that you can't see, and you'll look like a jackass if you go off half-cocked.
posted by gjc at 5:18 PM on June 18, 2009

You are fortunate that your good work is being recognized and you're being promoted. You getting promotions, and the slackers NOT getting promotions, is about as much as you can expect, and is pretty good for the workplace. There are far worse situations to be in.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:59 PM on June 18, 2009

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