Meeting with Department Head
April 6, 2010 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Meeting with department head

After trying to resolve stressful conflicts with my supervisor I'm going over her head and meeting with my department manager. Chronic issues are: 1. late monthly work schedules--I want to know a week ahead when I'm needed to work, 2. failure to reply (and read) emails necessary for departmental communication, 3. failure to reply to emails, 4. failure to answer phone calls, return voice mail messages, clear mail box inorder accept voice mail, messages,
5. failure to schedule days off & vacation time despite proper notification. I like my part-time job, and think my supervisor does some of her job very well, she's just a terrible administrator. I will be speaking for myself, but I represent colleagues with the same complaints. How best to put forth my case to my department head, who, I believe, will want to be supportive of subordinate?
posted by NorthCoastCafe to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Be as dispassionate as humanly possible. Offer facts, not opinions. Don't evaluate her performance. Stick to specific details that concern you.

In short, don't act ax-grindy or whiny, remain positive and focus on the desire to work things out.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:49 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have a list of your complaints, and present them as yours. Write down everything in your post with at least two examples of each situation so that you sound just as prepared as you wish your boss was.

Also, encourage your colleagues to speak with your Department Head as well, because nothing will make your points more invalid than "Oh yeah I'm not the only person who thinks this!! They just umm yeah didn't want to come forward but yeah they're unhappy too."
posted by banannafish at 7:51 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I would

-Mention 1 or 2 things your boss does well

-Absolutely focus on specific examples (does not reply to email after X days, mail box is full X days/week).

-Do not use any adjectives to describe this (e.g. do not use the word "terrible" adminstrator), let the chair make the conclusion from your data.

-Emphasize that you want to find a solution for yourself and colleagues. Ask perhaps if the person could have an administrative assistant, or someone else in your workplace tcould take on a particular task (create the schedule, blessed by boss, distrubuted by a certain date).
posted by Wolfster at 7:58 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Talking-to-boss communications are always best phrased in terms of "please help me know the best way to get done what needs to be done", as opposed to "your system is totally broken". Also, I don't see in your question a clear indication of what you're asking for. All you've stated is you want to put forth your case that Supervisor is a terrible administrator. What do you want Department Head to do? nod sympathetically? fire her? put you in charge of setting all the schedules? hire an assistant for Supervisor? It's best to know what you want before you go to ask for it.

For example, conveying that Supervisor is difficult to get responses from:
"I know everybody has their own methods of communication, and their routines, and I was hoping you could give me some tips for getting a good response from Supervisor. For example, I'm getting the impression that phones and voicemail aren't something that she really works with (specific example, with numbers, as Wolfster said). I've tried email, too, though, and that's kind of hit-or-miss as well (specific example). I must be missing something, because I know Supervisor handles (example) really well. What works best when you need something from her?"
"As an example, there have been several times that I (method of communication) told her about scheduling vacation, and I never even knew that she must not have (read/heard/recorded) it until I saw the schedule, and since that only came out N days in advance, it caused a lot of grief that could easily have been avoided. What's the best way to be sure that Supervisor is handling something?"
"It really seems like Supervisor is overloaded, because some things just aren't getting done. Is there a way to shift that scheduling responsibility to someone else?" (this is where you actually need to have a suggestion, not just have set up the meeting to go in and complain.)
posted by aimedwander at 8:01 AM on April 6, 2010 [7 favorites]

Work up a talking points memo with exhibits. Don't just tell her about these things, show her. Show her the unread e-mails. Show her the dates of the issuance of the schedule. Show her all of the problems with specific documents. Don't say that there have been "several examples." Provide those examples from e-mails and documents.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:13 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get your co-workers to provide feedback themselves and just talk about your issues with the supervisor.

Definitely back up whatever you are saying with the relevant emails, examples etc. Explain what the impact is on you.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:31 AM on April 6, 2010

1. Go in with a written list of examples that include dates of problems and and the bad results that came from them

2. You should also know ahead of time what you want as a solution. Do you want ot be transferred to another manager? Do you want Dept Head to talk to Supervisor? Do you have new systems to suggest and implement?

3. Don't be a complainer, be a problem pointer-outer and solver. People don't like it when you present them with issues and haven't thought out ways to remedy them. Keep it professional, keep your personal feeling out of it so you don't look like a whiner, and come iwth a can-do attitude ready to help fix these problems.
posted by rmless at 8:35 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Limit yourself to the problems with her performance that negatively impact you. It is not your job to police the quality of her work otherwise - you are not her supervisor.

It's easy to get bent out of shape when you see a co-worker being a screw-up when you're doing hard work, but it's inappropriate for you to meddle in that if it doesn't concern you.

Not getting you your schedules on time: fair.
Doing a shitty job responding to voice mail in general: no.
Ignoring things till they spill over and become your headache: maybe

That may not be fair but that's life. Stick to these concrete things and if they really address them the other things will likely sort themselves out along the way. Just be prepared to be ignored as being an irrelevant part-timer. It's also unfair but in many organizations there's a bias against half-time workers.
posted by phearlez at 8:53 AM on April 6, 2010

I predict this will not end well. Your department manager will support her direct report. If you must go ahead with the meeting, state your concerns in a way that do not refer to your boss at all; in other words, couch your discussion in terms of what you need to be effective. This may take some creativity on your part. I hope you do not need this job very badly. Best of luck.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:57 AM on April 6, 2010

You're there to help out your supervisor, not the other way around.

When you go above her head and talk to the big boss, you need to frame it as "how can I adjust my communication style so that she will pay attention to me?" And don't complain. Offer a solution. Bosses like solutions.

Supervisors not responding to emails, phone calls, etc can be common, especially if they are busy, type-A personalities who are not details-oriented and not organized.

You need to approach your supervisor and ask what is the best way to communicate with them. Are you in the same geographic location? Can't you just schedule a ten-minute convo?

Personally, I try to limit emails. If I do send an email to a decision maker, I make sure that I ask a question in the subject header, kind of like texting.

The email itself contains two sentences, with a promise on my part to follow-up.

But you really need to get in front of your supervisor, and find out how they prefer to communicate.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:16 AM on April 6, 2010

How best to put forth my case to my department head

Your case for what? What do you want? For your supervisor to be fired? Reprimanded? For you to be transferred? For you to be able to vent steam on this?

You need to figure out what you want before you can figure out how to get it.
posted by grouse at 11:49 AM on April 6, 2010

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