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  #1  
Old 09-22-2019, 11:30 PM
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Colonel Smoothie Colonel Smoothie is offline
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Default Awkward reporting structure

Have you ever seen a situation where a person receives most of their work not from their direct supervisor, but from their supervisor's boss (or from other departments)?

I've seen this situation happen a few times in my career, and also to myself at times - (both as employee and supervisor) even to the point where the direct supervisor has almost 0% involvement in their direct report's work, due to a lack of expertise in the area, resource constraints, or for some other reason. I think this can be awkward for a number of reasons:

- The supervisor assesses the direct report's performance, but can't give an accurate assessment because they are not involved in their work

- The supervisor may feel like they are unnecessary/unneeded/not useful

- The supervisor can sometimes be insecure

- The direct report feels like there is an unnecessary layer of management between them and the person who actually assigns them work

- The supervisor has their own work to do, and can't do as much of it if his boss is using up his staff's time

I think in these situations, a reorganization is necessary - either with a change in the reporting structure or a recalibration in the manager's performance objectives given the actual resources they have available.

As a staff member, I've had this arrangement work with a supportive boss who granted their staff a high degree of autonomy while providing resources and connections, and performing administrative work to assist their reports while staying out of their way. However, I've also had pretty insecure bosses who did not like that assignments were coming from other people.
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Last edited by Colonel Smoothie; 09-22-2019 at 11:39 PM..
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Old 09-22-2019, 11:34 PM
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Oh yeah, and I guess this would also cover the situation where your boss tells you to do X and then your boss's boss tells you to do not X, and then both of them get into an argument about it. "Uhhhhh I'm gonna need you guys to sort that out, later."

But maybe we need another thread for that.
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Old 09-22-2019, 11:51 PM
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I'm in this situation (I do a lot of work for UWs and CFO, among others) but reorganization would be tricky because the structure here is already very flat to begin with. There's no awkwardness with my supervisor. In fact, he encourages that I broaden my work but it's definitely the case that there's a lack of understanding from my boss in terms of my performance and whatnot other than hearing appreciation from those I do some work for. I'll sometimes CC my boss whenever I send stuff for others even though my boss has nothing to do with the work nor probably gives a **** what I send out, just so he sees that I'm doing work.
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Old 09-23-2019, 05:43 AM
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For 5 months after I quit teaching I was a department administrative assistant where basically anyone could give me work. Within a couple weeks a particular manager had seen my potential (wait, twig has a math degree???) and was giving me a lot of work that was not administrative assistant work in nature, and then he was getting increasingly grumpy when any of his own direct reports had me do an expense report or something mundane like that.

So despite a company rule that no one could be promoted with fewer than 18 months in position, he burned some political capital to promote me onto his team after 5 months. Basically re-wrote things as if I’d never been an Admin. Lucrative and much more interesting work, but it seriously ruffled the feathers of a mean girl / high performer who I’d replaced as Admin after she *had* put in the requisite 18 months before being promoted. She was constantly trying to undermine me, which was unfun, but literally all of management thought she was the greatest ever.
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Old 09-23-2019, 06:08 AM
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My first actuarial job the department was fairly loosey-goosey where basically anyone could give the newbie work. The manager had a dim idea of what the newbie was doing because the folks that gave the newbie work would report to the manager after the fact on how the newbie did. It was basically up to the newbie to say “sure, I have the capacity to take that on” or “yikes, I’ve got A and B and C also and I’m not sure where your D project fits in terms of priorities” and then whomever had project D would attempt to figure out if any other projects were less important, or just drop it, or whatever.

Drove my friend (who started the same day in a much smaller actuarial department with only one manager) batty as I would describe it, but to me it seemed perfectly normal because previously

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I was a department administrative assistant where basically anyone could give me work.
The advantage of the anything-goes-until-someone-cries-Uncle system was that it was fairly effective at balancing out capacity amongst department members. It also exposed newbies to a lot of different unrelated projects which was helpful in both learning the business and discovering strengths & interests. The disadvantage was the manager wasn’t keeping super close tabs on direct reports’ workloads until they complained.

The department did eventually organize into more functional teams at some point. It was logical, but the work became less varied (and to me this meant less interesting) after that. And there was still *some* work-sharing going on. The one time my manager got angry at me for doing something he didn’t like because he just didn’t understand the situation was *after* the re-org. One of my tasks carried over in spite of not being something he had any familiarity with and he assumed I was grossly inaccurate about something where I was not at all. So all the supposed advantages of the new org structure didn’t save me from a big misunderstanding with my boss.
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Old 09-23-2019, 06:30 AM
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Different job: I reported to A for a while. A was a new manager who had been a high performer. Classic situation of “good worker bees do not always make good managers”. A was not a good manager and people were quitting left & right because of A. A did not enjoy managing either, so eventually they re-org’d and made A not a manager again. So I started reporting to B.

But A was responsible for a big project and I was the person most familiar with what needed to be done, so suddenly I’m effectively reporting to A again, but technically reporting to B. All was going along fine, great actually, until A got really sick.

A tells B “have twig write some SAS code that does X; I’ll send her an email with more details.” It was clear that this was a 2-4 day project. The next morning B checks in on me and is furious that I’m not finished yet, which is a completely unreasonable expectation. A was thinking that she’d given me enough work certainly for two days and didn’t check in with B on day 2 of her illness. B assumed that since she hadn’t heard from A, she could give me something unrelated to do. B chewed me out because “any SAS program can be written in a day”.

B was in charge of much more mundane stuff than A and B was not a very good SAS coder herself. She certainly couldn’t have handled writing the code at all, so this was an infuriating comment.

B made a really big stink about this to her boss, who realized the problem and moved me back to reporting to A. The one who didn’t like being a manager.
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Old 09-23-2019, 06:39 AM
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From the perspective of a manager; I’ve run into problems with the actuarial rotation program where a student rotating in couldn’t extricate himself from a prior role. Even a year after rotation people were still asking questions that required many hours of his time to resolve. He was trying to do his full-time job for me and help his old team out and I was having to intervene so he wasn’t overworked. Kind of the nature of the rotation program, but I was surprised how little his former boss knew of his work and the extent to which he was needed for questions.
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Old 09-23-2019, 06:40 AM
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Originally Posted by twig93 View Post
From the perspective of a manager; I’ve run into problems with the actuarial rotation program where a student rotating in couldn’t extricate himself from a prior role. Even a year after rotation people were still asking questions that required many hours of his time to resolve. He was trying to do his full-time job for me and help his old team out and I was having to intervene so he wasn’t overworked. Kind of the nature of the rotation program, but I was surprised how little his former boss knew of his work and the extent to which he was needed for questions.
Sounds like they had a poor rotation program.
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Old 09-23-2019, 06:51 AM
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Sounds like they had a poor rotation program.
I think the problem was more that the old manager was SO hands-off that he didn’t really understand his direct report’s job. He should’ve been able to handle more of training the replacement, in my opinion. But it wasn’t entirely his fault either as he’d been re-org’d around and the person most familiar with the tasks left the company. But the student who later reported to me figured everything out with very little involvement from his boss and then the boss was ultimately helpless to train the student rotating in.
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Old 09-23-2019, 03:34 PM
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Surprisingly the situation I'm in right now. I'm currently taking assignment not just from the boss of my supervisor, but from the person another level above as well (it's complicated). I have weekly one on one with my direct supervisor to talk about my projects, but now that I think about it I have no idea what my supervisor is going to do when the annual performance review comes around.
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