My boss can't keep a promise or make a commitment
September 17, 2009 8:32 AM   Subscribe

How do I politely get my boss to follow through and keep promises he makes to my customers?

I have begun a new sales position with a new company. The new boss seemed to be a great guy, smart and creative. Only one problem, he does not follow through on his promises to clients.

He seems to say "yes" to anything asked of him but whether or not he follows through is another matter. "Yes" seems to really mean "maybe".

He does not commit to anything in writing. He does not respond to follow up emails regarding unkept promises. If I confront him nicely on the phone or in person and he tells me what I want to hear then does not follow through.

He shouldn't be contacting customers directly. That is my job, but he constantly butts in, makes his promises and leaves me holding the bag.

The matter has already been discussed with his new superior and his superior says he has to give the guy a chance to improve. He is not improving and I am constantly left covering for him and looking like a fool.

He seems to be afraid of commitments. He seems to be afraid to rock the boat and be assertive to win support from above for the sales team. He seems to be afraid to make mistakes or have his sales team make mistakes. For lack of a better word he just seems to be an ineffective weenie.

I am embarrassed in front of my new customers and don't feel this guy is letting me get anything done. Any suggestions on how to work with a manager like this will be much appreciated.
posted by 4Lnqvv to Work & Money (4 answers total)
I'm not sure I have advice on working with him - but what I would do, and what it sounds like you are doing in part now, is document, document document. When he makes a promise, do send an email (maybe cc his supervisor?) - that way, even if he doesn't follow up, when it comes time for your performance review, you can show that you've always done what you can and issues with clients are not your fault. You'd hate to have him burn you in terms of your performance.

Is there any way to indicate to your customers that his promises aren't trustworthy? Like, when he leaves, something like - "Hey, I know he said X, but he's a bit new, and he didn't realize that X isn't something we can do for you. I'm sorry to disappoint. What I could do for you is Y - would that be useful?"
posted by mccn at 9:07 AM on September 17, 2009

If he's not going to change, either he or you needs to leave. If he doesn't want to change, he won't. Or you can keep covering for him and keep the status quo.

It seems that you're already trying to work with him by CHA (covering his a$$) and that you're fed up with it.

Does he have other direct reports? If so, does the boss exhibit the same behavior with all of them? Is it just you because you're new or something?

If the guy knows that he needs to change and he doesn't, then he never will. If he doesn't really know, or the consequences haven't been laid out to him, then that needs to change.

How confrontational do you want to be? The next time he doesn't follow through and you talk to him about it and he promises to fix this one issue, ask him why you should believe him this time. But that might be too dickish, especially for a new employee.

How long has it been since you're spoken with his superior? Have you tried talking to him directly about the issue? Not about specific instances, although it's good to have those to back up your points.

If his boss knows of the issue and has laid down the law, keep him updated with the situation. He'll be your ally if the guy needs to be let go.
posted by reddot at 9:24 AM on September 17, 2009

1. Document everything. Especially document when he loses you a sale, and keep track of how much the lost sale was worth.

2. When the file becomes substantial, or the lost-sales number gets to a point that is obviously intolerable, bring the file to your boss' manager. Let him know in no uncertain terms that this guy is killing you, and you've had enough.

Hopefully, step three is you holding the door open for him when he walks out with the contents of his desk.

The lesson: Nothing gets under the skin of management like lost revenue. Especially when it didn't have to be.
posted by Citrus at 9:57 AM on September 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Some thoughts, having been in this situation:

"There's no future in being right, when your boss is wrong."
Exception: when there's more than one of you, and preferably most / all of you who work for him. One of my bosses was walked out of the building due to our not being able to work with him. The matter came to our boss's supervisor's attention because we started inviting him to all meetings and calls (the advantage of getting to Outlook first to make the appointment), and we didn't have to complain or put our thoughts in writing: he could see what was not happening. If his supervisor *did* ask why he was invited, we just asked him to "help check if expectations are aligned" - which is polite code for "Am I crazy, or is he crazy?"

Read receipts are silly, in my opinion, as they can be ignored, and are simply a declaration of hostilities that can set up passive aggressive confrontations that won't get noticed.

Do document - don't be a pain. Cross-check with colleagues who also work for him.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 1:05 PM on September 17, 2009

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