my employees keep going to their old boss instead of coming to me

A reader writes:

The person who formerly held my position was promoted and works right down the hall from me and the three people I supervise. Rather than come to me, the people I supervise go to their former manager with problems and questions. If she tells them something, they will do it, even if I say something different.

I have been here almost two years now and this has gotten very irritating. What do I do?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My boss is hostile to another department
  • When should I call references?
  • Can I apply for a position “for new grads” even though I’m more experienced?
  • Paying internal hires less than external hires

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. LK*

    It’s asking for a login or to create an account… this hasn’t happened in the past at this website… :(

      1. LK*

        thanks! I’m @ work so can’t alter ad blockers plus outside US. Looks like that’s that for me.

    1. Watch the Birdie*

      Use your browser’s Incognito Mode (or similar) and it should be fine. That’s what I always do.

  2. Lily Rowan*

    Ugh, I’ve had the same problem as #5 – my internal hire was moving into a higher position in a different area of work, and HR insisted that she could only get an X% increase, even though we would have paid an outside hire well above that. It was infuriating!

    1. Nunya*

      I left a job because of this. My manager left precipitously and I took over in the interim. They asked me to take on his role formally, plus keep key aspects of the lower position. I asked what pay raise would be involved, and they were shocked! that I expected more money for much more work and responsibility, since I had been given a raise a few months prior.
      I declined, and they posted the position at much higher pay than I was offered, and expected me to train my new boss. They were also using this as a chance to demolish existing workflow & practices of the department to better suit micromanagement from higher admin . I gave my notice, and strangely enough, they paid me quite a lot for writing a department manual, then coming in a couple hours each morning for a couple of weeks to see that things were on track.
      I guess it wasn’t about money so much as being able to bully the new dept manager. Odd.

      1. Application Development Manager*

        Yep! Me too.
        I did my boss’s (who had recently left) for about a month and then asked for a pay raise and promotion. The shock on their faces and the fudging and the “ahems” and “buts” were amazing!! Ultimately I was told I am getting promoted…with a new title and pay grade but no actual increase. When I declined and instead presented them with my resignation they couldn’t even believe it.

        I know my self worth, I am attuned to industry and market trends, why would I ever agree to a lot more work without pay.

        1. Chaordic One*

          Good for you!

          Congratulations on standing up for yourself and not letting yourself be disrespected.

    2. rageismycaffeine*

      My husband and I both work for a state entity and yup, this is a thing here, and it’s a thing my husband has been screwed by repeatedly. For more than a certain % raise – regardless of the degree of promotion, change in job title, change in people or budget $$ managed, etc. – raises have to go to a higher-up administrator to be approved. And those administrators ask a lot of questions. So a lot of times, rather than deal with the hassle, managers stop at the X% that doesn’t need to be approved and kind of shrug and say “you know how it is.” It’s really crappy.

    3. Jeanne*

      At my job, people were always leaving and coming back 2 years later. It was the only way to get a decent raise. I think the company would have saved by just giving them the raise rather than the turnover.

  3. Marche*

    #4 leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I graduated not quite a year ago from engineering and have yet to find a job, not for a lack of trying, so admittedly this could be a result of my frustration. OP#4, if you have experience, let new grads get some too. Don’t make it harder for them.

    1. writelhd*

      It’s harder for people with experience in engineering to get work too if they end up out of it, because it has seemed to me like “siloing” is a big problem in this realm, made worse by the fact that the sectors that typically employ engineers are only getting more complex and specialized and everybody would rather hire somebody who already has experience in their increasingly specific thing. If your experience is in engineering spouts, it’s an uphill battle to try to get a job working with handles instead when market forces take spout jobs away, despite that fact that good engineering training covers spouts, handles, lids, and steam to boot, yet because you have an engineering degree you’re fighting the battle of being overqualified for other technical work. At least that’s been my increasingly jaded observation. I know a lot of unemployed engineers.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Since you graduated almost a year ago, are you going to step aside for the new grads who will be looking for jobs in a few months? Aren’t you making it harder for them?

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s a snarky way of putting it, but you’re right. There’s no ethical duty to leave an entry-position open for another applicant, especially if you can’t find one yourself.

        If OP4 can’t find a higher-level job, then I think it perfectly understandable for them to look down-market.

      2. Sue Wilson*

        I mean, Marche says right in their answer that this is about experience, not how long someone graduated from school, but by all means continue to beat this straw man.

  4. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    It’s a little hard to be altruistic when bills need paid.

  5. Rincat*

    Re: #5 internal vs external salaries – can someone explain to me why companies do this? I’ve seen it all over the place but have never really gotten a good explanation of the logic behind it.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      The “logic” that was explained to me was about current employees and the kind of increases they get in general. So if everyone’s getting a 3% COL, it’s “not fair” for Jane to get a 20% raise — even if Jane is getting a new position that pays 20% more! Or would pay 20% more to a new employee, at least.

      Jane just gets screwed, and might not even know it.

      1. Czhorat*

        This is close to the logic I’ve seen. The company has essentially decided what you’re worth to them, and expect you to be happy with, say, a 10% increase even if a new hire would be getting 20% more.

        It is not the best strategy.

        1. Lablizard*

          Funny this came up because when I got promoted I ran into this. I asked if I should quit and reapply, unless another company gave me a better offer, in which case…
          tl;dr: They gave me the same salary as an external hire

      2. Mongoose*

        This “logic” is very popular where I work. I am in the middle of getting “promoted” to a new position and HR can’t seem to understand that increasing my current salary by 4% is not the same as 26%, which is what’s offered to external candidates as a starting salary for the same role. HR rep stopped by my desk yesterday completely confused as to why I wasn’t “happy” getting a 4% raise in February vs. our annual 2% COL raise in December. Verbatim quote was, “but you’re doubling your raise and getting it sooooo much earlier than everyone else! You’re lucky!”

      3. Blossom*

        That is… just not logical at all. I think we need a few additional sets of quote marks to better cushion that “logic” from reality.

    2. rageismycaffeine*

      commented about this above – at my organization, which is a state agency, it’s because there’s a rule (which might actually be a law? I’m not entirely sure) that anything above X% of a raise has to approved by very high-up people, and most managers find it too much of a pain to fight with them about it, so give the max raise that doesn’t need to be approved, regardless of the degree of promotion.

    3. hbc*

      At my job, there’s no deliberate intention or policy to restrict it, but it seems to come down to:

      1) An external person can probably fudge their experience into sounding more knowledgeable. The external guy can talk about he implemented 5S, while I know the internal guy had a couple of training sessions and did what he was told (and he can spin it bigger at another company himself.)
      2) If you’re trying to get the lowest price, you know what IG will take, because he’s taking it. EG’s low point is unknown.
      3) There’s a definite sense of something being a stretch or a step up because you’ve seen IG at that lower position, while theoretical EG has experience.
      4) You already have IG contributing to the success of the business, so it’s not a huge loss if he turns it down. EG is bringing in something you don’t have.

      I don’t agree with caving to these ideas, and I lost my cool with the owner when he tried to put an internal promotion below our recently-set pay range for her new position. “You can write up a new lower job title and description or admit that you put the wrong range in place, but you don’t get to decide that the limit you just set up doesn’t matter. We won’t win the lawsuit, for starters.”

  6. VioletFem*

    There are so many more positions that only want candidates with experience than positions that are willing to hire inexperienced new grads. This is likely a position that focuses heavily on training the new hire. In addition to the much lower pay that this position likely offers, this would just be a bad fit for OP#5. I am confident that you will find other positions seeking experienced candidates. Hold out for those.

  7. NLMC*

    I’m guilty of #1, except I was the boss that got promoted and the new manager reported to me. I created a specialized team and when I got promoted the role was filled by someone with industry experience but not in our department. His team and others outside the department would ask me questions and I got in the habit of just answering since it was quicker than directing them back to him, who would then come to me, and then would have to go back to the original asker.
    I had to keep reminding myself I was doing him a disservice by not using those questions as coaching opportunities.

  8. Anon4this*

    I have a similar problem as #1, except they are going to my boss, who is a severe micro-manager. My team has told me they feel interrogated by him, but feel like they have to take everything to him because he is going to ask about it multiple times anyways and re-check their calculations over and over. I’m new to this role, and it is outside of my core area of expertise, but the team is very competent and I can rely on their expertise. My boss doesn’t think anyone else knows the details as well as him, which I expect is why he micro-manages everything. Any suggestions?

  9. Juliecatharine*

    I was offered a promotion after four years at my first company; as an internal candidate I was only “allowed” an 8% raise…which would have put me $4,000 under the bottom range of the salary posted externally. I had another offer 24% higher than what my company was offering for the new position. I leveled with them and offered to accept the promotion at the lowest externally posted level, they stuck to their guns. I took the other offer and never regretted it. I figured if the company didn’t value the four years of training, not to mention the M.A. they had just finished paying for, enough to pay me the rock bottom they would pay an external candidate, that it was their loss.

  10. Contrarian Annie*

    #1: A reprimand for insubordination should do it. You are their boss and they’re taking orders from “others” (presumably the old boss wasn’t promoted to be the OPs boss, or OP would have said so?) and disregarding the orders of their own manager.

    It’s possible that the old manager is still emotionally invested in the department, or the team are lacking confidence in the OP as a manager for some reason.

    I’m inferring that the OP was an “outside” hire and so is/was perceived by the team as lacking some kind of ‘essential’ institutional knowledge.

    … Do you actually have the knowledge and experience to give the ‘right’ directions? Maybe the team members know better?

    1. Contrarian Annie*

      Actually, if it’s the second case (incoming ‘outside hire’ manager doesn’t have the required knowledge to resolve these questions) I’m afraid to say as a team member in this position myself in the past, I’ve fallen back to “malicious compliance” and carried out whatever the manager said, even if I knew better, as I was “just following orders ;)” So tread carefully OP.

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