my boss is consulting my peer about my work

A reader writes:

I work in an 8-person field office of a major national nonprofit. Our office is currently in the midst of a major collaborative initiative which has placed increasing demands on our Executive Director’s (my boss) time. My boss is so busy cultivating relationships with volunteers and funders that he spends less time on the day-to-day management of the organization. Morale is low, as people are feeling spread too thin.

Over the past few months, my boss has increasingly leaned on one of my colleagues to handle the day-to-day management responsibilities. In many ways, my colleague has become a de facto deputy director. I respect my colleague, but I was angered to learn that my boss gave her a draft of my annual work plan for feedback without telling me first. I was particularly upset that my boss gave me additional responsibilities based on my colleague’s feedback with involving me in the discussion. Work plan development has always been an employee-manager activity in the past. Am I out of line for feeling upset that he shared my work plan with her without first telling me? I don’t mind her input, but I’m upset at the lack of communication and now have questions about about how my performance will be monitored and by whom.

You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 8 comments… read them below }

  1. Kristen

    Since your co-workers hasn’t been named “Acting Deputy Director” they should not have been involved in your review process without your knowledge. Your manager should have brought you into a meeting and stated why he wanted to involve your co-worker in the review process and if you had any problems or questions in that being part of your annual review. During your review meeting with your manager you could ask the question “I am aware that you asked co-worker X about my work plan in preparation for this meeting. Are they now part of my management chain of command?”

    1. Lily in NYC

      It doesn’t sound like this was an actual performance review. I don’t see the problem with this at all! Even if it were a review, the boss can show it to whomever they please. I was asked to give feedback on a junior admin’s review because she gave herself top marks in her self-evaluation and her boss wanted to get my opinion – because he doesn’t think she’s all that great and he knows I work with her a lot and wanted to make sure he was being fair.

    2. AMT

      Not sure I agree. Title or no title, there’s no practical reason why this coworker shouldn’t have some input on OP’s future duties. This isn’t OP’s performance review — it’s an annual work plan, so it’s not unreasonable to think that someone who has been acting as a de facto supervisor should have input. There’s nothing confidential or sensitive about it.

      It sounds like the OP has a problem with two things: (a) the fact that the manager added to OP’s workload without consulting him/her and (b) the fact that someone without the official title of “supervisor” is, well, supervising. OP is certainly justified in being annoyed at the first thing, but the second thing doesn’t sound like it’s doing any harm — in fact, it sounds like the role this coworker fills is a much-needed one. There’s no reason why we need to get bureaucratic and insist that someone needs a job title change in order to take on a supervisory role.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        I agree; it seems like the co-worker is acting in an informal advisory capacity to their mutual supervisor, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. People often get promoted to management positions because they’ve already been doing the work, and the raise and title come later.

      2. Koko

        And it seems like this coworker is in OP’s corner – I would think that adding additional responsibility means the coworker/possible future deputy director has a lot of confidence in OP’s skills and talents. That’s exactly the kind of person you want in your corner when work assignments are being doled out! OP should see this person as an ally, not an interloper.

  2. Cat

    I didn’t read it as a review process . . . more a strategic planning/prioritization process. I agree that the former is inappropriate, but if it was “check this over and see what you think of these proposed projects,” I think that’s a different thing.

  3. Gem

    Heck, my partner’s line manager makes sure to talk to everyone in his team around review time for feedback on other members of the team to incorporate if necessary into the review (its more complex than that – he doesn’t take word as gospel, but I feel the point is valid).

    I don’t think it’s weird for someone who is slightly overworked or even not as involved day to day as they like running stuff like this past colleagues to see if it makes sense from their point of view, and then including you once they were happy with it.

    I too got a promotion-ish (new duties and raise, still working on a title), just because I took work on from someone over-worked, love it and am good at it. It happens.

  4. Not So NewReader

    I have had many opportunities to have inputs about hiring new people, work assignments for coworkers, etc with many of my jobs. And it was out of my realm to be doing this officially. Usually, though, I had seniority and experience in place, OP does not mention these two factors. The times I have been in situations similar to OP’s are because the boss did not take time to inform me or anyone what was going on.

    OP, you could have a good boss who trains people to move to the next step, or who delegates responsibility to grow employees. Possibly your turn will come, if you are interested. Go softly here, and see if you can find out what is happening, first.

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