my employee isn’t performing well — but is getting a ton of public praise

A reader writes:

I have a direct report who is not performing as well as expected after a year in his role. He is on a development plan and has clear objectives to work towards. He receives monthly feedback (positive and developmental) and we discuss ways I can help him to achieve his objectives.

My problem is this: others in my immediate network and some senior managers are praising him publicly for work that he has very little real ownership of and has not contributed to enough on his own merit. He requires a large amount of input, feedback, and suggestions on projects, which then also take several rounds of feedback and meetings with me to get to a “final” version, which he then sends out to others.

My issue is not that I myself want the credit; after all, it’s my job to coach him and develop him. But I do have an issue with him appearing as if he’s produced a great piece of work by himself, as I think it sends a message to him that is contradictory to what we are discussing as part of his development plan. I’m also concerned that it could appear that everyone except me is giving him great feedback and recognition. Outwardly his documents look polished, but nobody but me is aware of just how much of a struggle it is to get to that point. Whilst I am always the first to give credit where it’s due, I don’t feel with him that it IS due, as he’s had so much help.

Am I wrong in feeling this way? How do I handle this with those giving him praise which I don’t feel is in proportion to his actual contribution? I’m concerned I will come across as stingy with my praise when in fact I would rather he was praised and credited for things which really were his own work.

I don’t think you’re wrong to feel that way — but I also think there might not be a lot you can or should do about it.

There are two potential problems that you need to head off though. The first is your worry that he might think everyone but you loves his work — which might make him take your feedback less seriously and could make him think you’re off-base when you tell him he’s not performing well. It might also make him resentful that he’s on a development plan, if everyone else appears to think his work is wonderful.

Are you seeing any signs that that’s happening? If you’re not, I wouldn’t necessarily worry about it … but if you are, it’s trickier and there’s not a great solution. It’s unnecessarily harsh to say, “Hey, all that praise you’re getting is because of the corrections I’ve made to your work.” But you can try to connect the dots more subtly for him. For example, you could say something like, “We got a really positive reception from people on the X project after making changes A, B, and C — what lessons from that can you take forward for future projects?” (And that kind of debriefing and lesson-drawing is actually helpful to do anyway, totally aside from this issue.) It’s not perfect, but it’s probably the closest you can reasonably get.

The other problem is a perception problem; if people hear he’s on a performance improvement plan and they’ve loved everything they’ve seen from him, that might raise eyebrows about you as a manager. And if you end up having to fire him at the end of that process, it might be tough for people to understand (although experienced managers will know that there’s probably more to the story than what they saw firsthand). The most important thing you can do in this regard is to keep your own manager in the loop about what’s going on — make sure she knows that it’s taking you significant amounts of feedback, correction, and coaching to get his work to the point that others are seeing it at, and make sure she knows you have him on a formal improvement plan. (And possibly other senior managers too, depending on how that kind of thing works in your office.)

Those are the two areas that I’d focus on, because those are the ones that could have real impact. I’d try not to get hung up on the principle of the thing (that he’s getting more praise than is warranted) and instead see that as just one of those things that sometimes comes with the territory as a manager. You’ll always want to distribute the credit to your team when things go well. In this case, he’s getting more than his share, yes, but it really only matters as far as it impacts the two pieces above … so keep your focus there.

{ 161 comments… read them below }

  1. Student*

    Disagree a bit with AAM on talking with others about this. You should clue in the senior managers, especially your own boss, that this is an employee with problems that you are continuously covering for. Otherwise, you are putting this guy in a position to take credit that isn’t due for his work quality, and easily bypass you and get an inside track with the senior managers eventually. It’s not about you taking credit for the work; it’s about letting other people know that this guy is not actually doing well, so they don’t trust him with even bigger projects or reward him with more power while he is struggling.

    Alternative option: cover for him less, so that his actual work quality shows, and then people will hopefully stop thinking he’s a hotshot. Use the failures as a teaching spot instead of fixing them before they go out. If his failings are too bad to do that with, then he’s in the wrong business and you should be looking to fire him.

    I was in your spot once. I kept covering for the guy and trying to get him to improve. Nobody but me knew how deep the problems were. Then, suddenly, he leapfrogged me in promotions because everyone thought he was so great. Then he screwed up a major project as soon as he was out from under my wing. He still gets paid more than me, but now he periodically screws up my life with his crappy work and crappy management. Nobody who can do anything about it understands why he struggles, and they all think he did so great early on that it’s just a matter of “getting his bearings” or “he needs more support staff to help him do great things”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree that she should consider letting other senior managers know (although to some extent, that depends on the dynamics in her office, like I noted in the post; in some offices that would seem odd and out of place, and in others it would be normal). But in a lot of roles, letting his actual work go out unedited wouldn’t be an option because it would mean the OP wasn’t doing her own job and would reflect poorly on her.

      1. Safetykats*

        I really think it depends. If OP is rewriting problem employee’s work, I think that’s above and beyond a manager’s job. It’s easy to fall into that trap if you want everyone’s work to be perfect. The key is figuring out how to make everyone’s work just good enough to publish – which will often mean that you can totally tell who did the work if you’re familiar with their style and the specific kinds of small errors they tend to make. If that somehow really doesn’t work in the particular industry I understand. But mostly as a manager it’s not your job to bring everyone’s work up to a very high standard – only to ensure an acceptable standard is met. That way it’s really clear who is actually doing the best work.

        1. M-C*

          I agree. Would it be possible to have a ‘draft’ version published first ‘for feedback/comments’, the unedited work of the employee, followed by a ‘final’ version, which makes it clear the OP has done their stellar job of editing afterwards? Perhaps even adding the OP’s name as author in the final version? The gap would be much better perceived than by anything the OP might say.

          And really, OP, pay close attention to Student’s story, because it sounds to me like this is about to happen to you..

        2. BBL*

          I’m the a Manager of this issue, thanks everyone for your advice and questions. I don’t think I’ve captured all of the loose ends, but here goes:

          A development plan is what we put employees on as a way of avoiding putting them straight onto a PIP and giving them a chance to improve before the more formal HR PIP process kicks in.

          This employee has been on the development plan for 3 months. We review it together ‘formally’ on a monthly basis. We have a month left to go on the plan. I’m not sure what will happen after that…HR have advised me that it’s ‘ difficult to get rid of someone’ and that we ‘want to avoid that if we can’. So I feel like I have to make this work?

          My own manager is fully aware, although is very distanced from the situation. She is supportive but is not advising me necessarily.

          The rewrites that I mention are often things like correcting errors that have been coached on before. I avoid changing sentences to my preferred way of writing it for example, but if I do, I explain why. The work is for multi cultural multi language clients and has to fit into a certain style accordingly.

          I do have very high standards and have a hard time accepting things that are less than 100%- I realize that this is perhaps adding to my own stress levels, but feel uncomfortable allowing less than perfect work to be sent out. There have been some really helpful comments on this point which I will try to address.

          As for micro managing, I’m not actively doing this, although I do feel as though I have been almost forced into doing this in some ways….I have told the employee that I don’t want to be micro managing him, I don’t have time, and that he needs to own his work and hand it in to me for feedback only once he is absolutely sure that he’s worked on it and checked it several times. ( which he says he is….when I point out errors, he sometimes says things like, ‘ yes but that was only once that I did that’ Or ‘ oh yes, I missed that one’.

          I meet with him weekly to discuss general workload, issues, questions etc….and during these weekly updates I give feedback if something needs to be addressed there and then, rather than saving it up for the monthly development plan meeting. I feel like he is receiving more feedback, coaching and support than should be necessary and honestly, I resent it sometimes. As a manager it’s often easier to avoid these challenging conversations and frequent development conversations which I prep for, document and summarize to him afterwards via email. I spend hours each month on this ‘admin’ with no support from HR, who leave this to me as the Manager. They haven’t checked in with me to see how it’s goibg or if I need support, so I do feel alone with trying to solve it.

          I do feel concerned as someone pointed out in the comments, that he feels like this is a personal grudge; this definitely isn’t the case; my feedback is always developmental, focused on clear suggestions and often direct feedback on what needs to improve and always the reasons why. But ultimately I wonder if he probably feels like I’m impossible to please, and this is uncomfortable for me- my need to be liked is an issue here, and I’m aware is compounding the stress of this situation.

          I also feel like he does listen to the feedback, but I’m not sure he really sets out to prove he is committed to improving. I feel like I’m almost putting in more effort than he is to improving the situation. Sometimes he seems to improve and I get excited at the progress, then the next piece of work comes in, with some of the same types of mistakes that I’ve picked up before….one step forward and two steps back.

          If anyone has any other advice on how I can handle people saying to me how great he is ( he’s very personable) I would be grateful….I find myself trying not to outwardly grimace when this happens, whilst thinking ‘ if only you knew’. It’s not office policy to share details of someone being on a PIP or development plan, although I have shared that information as discreetly as I can with some key people, for my own sanity!

          Thanks all, and look forward to any more advice. Much appreciated.

      2. Student*

        As a manager, the OP can try things like looping in other managers about this ahead of time, and pick things with low overall impact to let his personal touch slide and expose the problem employee’s real work quality. He can get the other managers in on helping coach the employee that way, which will both reinforce the problem with the employee and let others know what is actually happening so the employee doesn’t get an unearned reputation for good work.

    2. Dawn*

      Seconding “cover for him less, so that his actual work quality shows”. Your job is to COACH him, not do his work for him. Give him feedback, do post-mortems, help him connect the dots, but from this point forward refuse to hand-hold him anymore. You’re doing yourself a huge disservice AND you’re not helping him actually grow at all since he will just learn that he doesn’t have to actually apply himself, someone else will polish his work for him.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        But presumably OP is ultimately responsible for a high quality deliverable. She would put her own position in jeopardy if she misses an important deadline or let’s something go to print with errors.

        1. BBL*

          This is my issue exactly! I need to put out high quality. If I don’t, it reflects badly on me and goes against my own value set.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        There may be thing that the OP could – and should – let their employee flounder on. That can be a valuable growth experience for an employee, as painful as it is initially. But I bet the big deliverables, the ones that are getting all the public praise, are things that need to be done right no matter what.

    3. Murphy*

      Alison does say that OP should let their manager know what’s going on.

      I also don’t see what OP is doing as “covering” for their employee. They’re his manager. They wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t make sure that their employee’s work was up to snuff before letting it out the door.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Exactly — “stop covering for him” makes sense when you’re a coworker, but not when you’re the person’s manager and your job is to ensure that the work in your realm is done well.

      2. Snark*

        I agree, but I personally read “stop covering for him” as “put him on a PIP or a quality improvement plan to address the fundamental performance issue rather than serving as a crutch by endlessly cranking through rounds of review to get it where it needed to be the first time it hit your desk.”

        In the sense that “stop covering” can be read as “let him fall on his face to teach him a lesson,” I agree that’s a bad idea and an abdication of a manager’s job.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this.

          At what point are you just doing his work for him instead of just making sure the company is turning out an acceptable product? This is why kids hate group projects: There’s always that guy who gets the credit without pulling his weight. I know managers are responsible for the outcome, but they’re also responsible for how it’s produced, and this dude isn’t cutting it.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It sounds like he is on a PIP though. I assume that’s what the OP is referring to here: “He is on a development plan and has clear objectives to work towards.” (If I’m misunderstanding, then yes, the OP needs to immediately put him on a PIP and let him go at the end of it if his work hasn’t improved significantly.)

          1. Snark*

            I guess I kind of assumed that meant some kind of training/development plan as part of starting his current role – like, getting him spun up and trained for this task, not a PIP.

          2. Where's the Le-Toose?*

            I’m in the government sector and for us, a “developmental plan” is a euphemism for PIP.

          3. Jennifer Thompson*

            It sounds like a failure to delegate.
            If the final product is so wonderful that praise is rolling in from multiple sources, then it seems the manager is holding the hire to too high of a standard.
            You do not get unsolicited kudos for average work.
            Step back and let him fly solo. Let the performance be average.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              There’s nothing here that indicates she’s holding the employee to an unrealistic standard. The revised work is probably getting kudos because it’s being done by the manager, who probably has higher-level skills.

              The OP is in a better position than any of us to judge if he’s producing acceptable work or not, and she says he’s not. We should take her at her word.

            2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

              I manage a client facing team of writers and designers. Other people are privy to the work product sent to the client (account managers, project managers, sales), but only see the final version.

              When I have had someone on a PIP, I still have to make that we are delivering excellent products to our clients. All of my team members are held to the same standard, and all products must meet that same standard (even if it means me or a lead stepping in to ensure high-quality work).

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              What? No. I don’t think this is a failure to delegate or having standards that are too high. Plus, as a manager, the goal is not to step away and make your report intentionally look bad if you’re responsible for the end product.

              I assume OP appropriately assesses the quality required and delivered on final work product. If the employee is on a development plan (euphemism for a PIP?), then I think we should focus on how to help OP appropriately signal to their managers that the employee is struggling instead of focusing on whether OP’s assessment is correct.

        3. Amtelope*

          He’s already on a PIP, though. Which should be a clear message that, regardless of compliments from other people in the company, he’s not doing well, but it’s possible that the OP hasn’t communicated that directly. In that case, I’d recommend saying something like:

          “The final drafts you’re producing are well received, which is good, but I need to see you producing work at this level independently with only one round of feedback and revisions. I want to be clear that this is a serious issue, and that turning in work that requires multiple rounds of revision is putting your job at risk.”

          1. Snark*

            I agree, but I guess I was assuming that his “development plan” was more training and PD because he’s newish in the role, not a PIP. Though even so, a year in, you should be flying solo.

            1. yasmara*

              @Amtelope, that is very good wording. I am getting the impression that Problem Employee might think he is doing totally fine…or even well, based on all the praise he’s getting from the OP’s higher up’s.

              1. Amtelope*

                We have had employees who would not stop turning in sloppy rough-draft work even after coaching, and it’s led to PIPs and in a couple of cases to letting people go. But I don’t know of a good alternative — part of my job is to review and edit work from other employees, but I can’t spend infinite amounts of time going through multiple awful drafts with one person when I have six other people’s (much cleaner) work to look at.

      3. The IT Manager*

        Ditto. If you’re the manager of a department that’s responsible for putting out a final product, you should not allow a shoddy product to prove a point that an employee is a poor performer. It’s not covering to review and improve a product before it goes final when its your department’s responsibility (.i.e YOUR responsibility) to put out a product. The manager is failing in their job if they knowingly allow shoddy products out the door.

        I do whole heartedly agree that the LW’s manager should be in the loop especially for an employee on a development plan for the sole purpose of improving to an expected level of quality. I also think that it may be time for you to quietly (not in public) tell those praising him that actually his original work has been requiring more editing and correction than you expect after a year.

        I agree with Snark that if you haven’t been clear you should straight out tell him: “Once we do go round four or five time, they’re very good, but this level of feedback and reworking isn’t sustainable. A year into your role here, I expect you to be able to draft a grooming report to an 85% level of readiness on your own, and for revisions to be minor and administrative,” but I don’t think you should stop helping and put out a subpar product. If you haven’t already, you should just covey to your employee that a year into the job he should not need this amount of support and editing and it isn’t sustainable.

    4. Snark*

      I tend to agree. I’d say something like: “Dweezil, I’m concerned that you’re submitting llama grooming reports in a really rough state, and they require four or five rounds of feedback, suggestions, and review before they’re deliverable-quality. And the revisions that need done tend to be big, substantive revisions of content and detail, not just tweaks. Once we do go round four or five time, they’re very good, but this level of feedback and reworking isn’t sustainable. A year into your role here, I expect you to be able to draft a grooming report to an 85% level of readiness on your own, and for revisions to be minor and administrative. Moving forward, I’m going to limit you to two rounds of revisions, and I need you to limit your requests for input and suggestions from others.”

      1. Troutwaxer*

        I’m hung up on an earlier letter with a similar question, in which the advice was that the manager should stop rewriting the employees work and have the employee do the rewriting with guidance from the manager. Eventually the employee needs to be able to produce “good prose” on their own. We’re talking about the difference between the manager peddling the bike and the manager giving the employee a “training wheel” bike so the employee can learn to ride on their own.

        The style in which the manage “corrects” the employee’s work here is very important. The work should not be rewritten by the manager. The manager should write things like, “we have a policy on how to report llama grooming rates. Please make sure this portion of the report reflects that policy.”

        1. fposte*

          The work sometimes does have to be rewritten, though, because the manager is responsible for getting the work in by deadline at standard. You can’t delay a deliverable to reveal your report’s incompetence.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            Absolutely agreed. I’m more concerned by the process involved in bringing the report to the correct standard. One process teaches the employee that they can turn in garbage and the manager will always fix it (and keep the employee out of trouble.) The other process makes sure the employee understands their deficiencies and hopefully corrects them.

          2. Student*

            If it’s that bad, then a PIP isn’t the right solution. Firing him and hiring somebody who can do the job is.

            There’s a level of incompetence that merits firing, not a PIP – when you cannot put out any work without having your boss redo everything and attend to every detail, that’s too far off expectations to be appropriate for a PIP. That’s a negative-employee, because he is making more work overall than he is contributing. Normally even an employee in training is producing some time savings. Normally an employee is doing something useful and competent while learning or fixing a skill, not completely failing at the entire job.

            OP – does this employee add anything useful to your department, or is he just a time drag? Why keep him if he’s pure liability?

            1. NW Mossy*

              In many companies, though, a PIP or equivalent measure is a necessary precondition to firing someone for poor performance. It’s a way for the company to document that they clearly articulated the problems and the standards for success to the employee, and failing to meet those standards leads to firing.

              A PIP can be pretty darn short, too, given an employee’s history – I just concluded a 4-week PIP on an employee who basically underperformed for us for 4 years. I only managed her for 6 months out of that, but it was enough to work the steps of performance management.

            2. BBL*

              He’s not adding a lot that is useful, proactively that is. He takes direction well and can produce some good low key project work, but he certainly hasn’t relieved me of workload in the way I expected. He interviewed very slickly compared to the reality of his performance. It’s certainly made me rethink my interview questions to try to get better quality and more revealing answers!

        2. Kitten*

          It might not be direct re-writing though. It might be more of a ‘can you put all the titles in properly’ and ‘can you update that standard table to reflect the rates for this client’. Things that the Employee should know to check by now, but has to be reminded each time.

          If it’s something like the rates, where the Organisation is writing to a Client, the boss can’t just let them go out wrong, no matter how good a lesson it would be for the Employee.

          (This applies even more if it’s not prose at all but is instead a product or some configuration. If bad code goes out to a client, the company will lose business, which is too big a cost to use on teaching an employee a lesson).

  2. Miso*

    To be honest, I don’t see how your first paragraph is disagreeing with anything, because that’s exactly the advice given here…

  3. L.*

    I have a colleague like this. I’m not his boss, so I have no standing to stay anything and just put up with it. He takes a long time to do anything and spends a lot of the day socializing. But, he is also a bit of a martyr and makes a big deal of staying late and how he’s SO BUSY all the time. I also sometimes to take on stuff that’s his job because he’s “too busy”– I get my stuff done in 40 hours a week, so I must have all kinds of free time, RIGHT? Thus, a lot of our company has the impression he “works so hard!” and they have rewarded him with a team of interns to help handle his “massive workload.” Complaining would just make me sound bitter and not a team player, but I worry people think of me as a lesser employee because I don’t make the same show.

    1. Artemesia*

      Every badly managed workplace has this problem Lots of people moan and groan and stay late while producing far less than their efficient counterparts who put their head down and get the work done. And yet the guy who ‘works late’ and moans about how much he has to do is perceived as the hard worker because he makes such a production out of doing little. A good manager knows what people are producing but there are not many good managers.

      My daughter in college got read the riot act by the editor of the school paper; she left on deadline day at 6 and ‘poor Suzy was stuck at the office till 2 am laying out the paper.’ At this point my daughter pointed out that she had laid out 6 pages of the paper before leaving and Suzy did only two. This is typical again with bad management that notices the drama and not the work.

      1. Snark*

        I was involved with my college’s Alpine Club. “Snark, you asshat, you left Derpina to load the second van alone! She was here until 1am!” >:-(

        “I packed half of it and left at 11:30 to get some sleep, and she was still studying for her accounting exam when I peaced out.” o_o

      2. Myrin*

        I know you mentioned that anecdote about your daugher before but I can’t remember if you ever said what happened afterwards – did the editor see where they went wrong or did they double down in some way?

    2. Chupalupe*

      Ugh, I feel this so hard core. Trust me, even if your manager doesn’t see it, your colleagues know that you’re the one actually getting work done.

    3. Susan K*

      The same thing happens where I work, too — the people who do the least work are the first to complain about how overloaded and stressed they are (maybe if they spent less time on Facebook they would be able to get their work done?). And more work gets assigned to the people who just buckle down and get the work done because apparently it’s just easy for us, so we totally don’t mind taking on more.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This kind of colleague drives me out of my mind. Luckily, most places I’ve worked have figured it out and adjusted after a few months, but if you’re a person who is organized, focused, and efficient, having to deal with the spillover from coworkers who are not is exhausting.

    5. Princess Cimorene*

      Very curious to know how Alison would propose handling this? I think we’ve read letters in a similar family, but is this something you talk to your manager about on your own or during your review or?? I’d hate you to get passed up for something you deserve because you kept quiet not to rock the boat…

  4. Is it Friday Yet?*

    Are you sure you’re not micromanaging him? It doesn’t sound like he has the opportunity to contribute his own work. You’re meeting about it and then completely re-doing it for him.

    1. Snark*

      It sounds like he needs a lot of help and input drafting up a rough, flawed first draft that needs several revisions. He’s not contributing high-quality work, so it needs rework. Not sure where you’re getting micromanaging.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I’m agreeing with you. I’m seeing this from my perspective as an editor, where the work has to be publication standard and it’s my job to get it there, no matter how large the gap I have to bridge between that and the writer’s ability. It’s not micromanaging to coach somebody to improve what they produce and lessen that gap.

        1. Snark*

          I do peer reviews of a lot of my colleagues’ work. That’s part of the job. It’s not micromanagey to expect that a direct report isn’t going to flop as half-assed product onto your desk for you to rehab to fully-assed, it should be getting a 90%-95%-assed product to fully-assed.

          I kind of half-assed that analogy. Sorry.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I like the idea of ass percentages, though. Next time my VP needs something, when I send him the draft I’ll tell him this is 80%-assed, needs your review and feedback to get to fully-assed. I promise to take pics of his reaction. ;)

    2. BBL*

      I’m not completely redoing it. But I am having to input and correct grammatical errors, style of writing and inconsistencies that I’ve explained, coached and corrected on multiple previous occasions.

  5. Marietta*

    The OP may also want to be sure that any deliverables don’t make him appear to be the sole author, but credit authorship to both of them (and anyone else involved). There may also be places to stipulate who contributed which portion. Depending on her office dynamics, it may be very important for the higher-ups to know that deliverables were produced by the team, not just by one person.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      Yeah, this is what I was thinking- you and he together are producing a product, but because he’s sending it out it is appearing as though he did it all himself. Maybe you should send out the final product and mention he helped put it together, not have him send it with no commentary.

      1. BBL*

        If I send it out always though, doesn’t that make him feel like he has no autonomy at all, and I’m trying to steal his thunder and give off the vibe that he had no ownership?

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          It doesn’t strike me as that odd – especially when you have to do the final review/sign-off. Many people complete work for their supervisor and turn it into them, and the supervisor then adds it to a larger project or reviews it one last time then sends it out on behalf of the department/team. It’s understood that a manager probably had their team help produce work they send out, since that’s what a team is for, but people won’t infer the reverse about an individual team member sending out work. **Which seems to be the source of the problem.**

          I think the only fiddly thing would be that he might misinterpret switching from one way of doing it to another. I’d suggest you could say it’s simply for efficiency and because you need to do a final review before it’s sent out. So once you have a final draft you approve, you send it out directly (eliminating an extra step of giving him your approval and him sending it instead).

          Also, if he interprets it as a criticism or him being on thin ice, well, he should. He IS on thin ice. “Stealing his thunder” just doesn’t apply here since you’re still crediting him and his work isn’t that great to begin with- you’re just clarifying that this is a team effort not an individual one by sending it on behalf of your “team”. If he sees it that way- well, he’s got an inflated ego and you can’t deflate it without a puncture or two. And of course he doesn’t have ownership, he’s not working independently enough yet for that, it’s something earned with time and proving yourself as needing minimal supervision. You can take the sting out by saying “here are the new X materials from the Sales Team/ myself and Fergus.” so you’re not dropping his credit altogether, but folding it into the team effort.

          1. PersephoneUnderground*

            Well dang- now that I wrote all that, I see Nellie said it much better further down the thread. What She said!

        2. Cat Herder*

          Well, why should he feel he has much ownership or thunder when his work is poor until you fix it? The kinds of errors you listed above—that says to me he doesn’t deserve the credit, and especially since it doesn’t seem like he’s even looking for the errors on his own, he’s leaving that to you. He shouldn’t feel he has autonomy when he’s not capable of doing good work independently. He hasn’t *earned* autonomy.

    2. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I came here to say this. Maybe there is a way to coach your employee (if only by example) that when he gets praise for him to respond, “Thanks but I couldn’t have done it without Susan Ivanova.”

      1. BBL*

        I’m struggling to know how I could do this without it sounding like ‘I want people to know I was involved’. It feels like this would come across to the employee as sour grapes on my part. Any further advice?

  6. frabjous*

    I had a direct report who was well-loved in the organization, and it made it very difficult when their work wasn’t up to par. Agreed that you need to loop your own manager in ASAP, and let her see the original work as submitted.

    1. Artemesia*

      Perhaps take in the original work and ask her advice about having him be more productive as you continue to have to coach him through several revisions and do some of the work to produce adequate final results. The goal is to move him to independence here; sounds like that isn’t happening.

      1. GG Two shoes*

        I had a co-worker that we had to do this with repeatedly. Our manager was aware of the issue, but when we had to start doing it for every piece she worked on (because she as on our version of a PIP) he realized how much time we all had to spend correcting, then explaining why, that they realized the burden she had on our team- and also our morale. She was here for 7 years and “resigned” two years ago. Our team is actually more efficient with 4 people then with 5 with her gone.

  7. Dust Bunny*

    If you can’t let him fail, is there a way to document what kind and how much help you’re giving him? Because this sure sounds like you’re digging yourself a hole of getting stuck with an employee who can’t stand on his own two feet, because you can’t afford to turn in a subpar product. That’s not actually a workable outcome. Is there somebody else you can loop in on his training as a secondary coach/witness?

    1. Kate 2*

      This! Or can OP present copies of the work to their bosses? Like, here is a copy of E’s first draft, here is a copy of the first draft with my notes in red, here is E’s second draft, and so on, made into a packet, so bosses can see precisely whose contributions are whose.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        She can do that if she’s asking for coaching in how to address the situation with the employee, but otherwise she’ll just be taking up their time unnecessarily.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          . . . it doesn’t seem very unnecessary if he’s already on a PIP and her bosses are under the impression that he’s doing well because she’s dog-walking him through things he should already have mastered.

          She has to have some kind of recourse here: She can’t continue to hide his weaknesses through repeated editing, and also not be allowed to address what should be done differently, etc. *Some* kind of action needs to be taken with this guy, and if her bosses don’t already know, they need to, and since she’s created the illusion that he can do the job, I suspect she’ll need documentation that he can’t.

        2. M-C*

          Sorry AAM, I also disagree here. The OP doesn’t have to do this for -every- report, but she needs to do it soon for at least one of them, to explain how she’s wasting so much time because it takes so much to get the employee’s product up to par.. Pointing out problems like that is not wasting the manager’s time, it’s preventing them getting stuck long-term with a sub-par employee.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It really depends on her role and how senior she is. If she’s a junior level manager without authority to decide to fire on her own, then yes, she needs to make the case to her own manager. But if she’s relatively senior/has authority to handle this herself, then her manager will assume she’s looking for coaching/advice. In a lot of cases, the OP could simply tell her manager “here’s the situation and here’s what I’m doing about it and here’s my timeline for resolving it.”

    2. Kitten*

      Or, could she pick this up in a coaching session with the employee. Save their first draft and the final draft and then lay them out side-by-side, with the changes tracked, to show how the piece progressed.

      If she also took a draft that was version 3 of 5 maybe, she can point out ‘this is the state the work needs to be in before it can come in for review’.

      I write fiction in my spare time and it was really useful to me to see what people’s writing looked like in draft versus the finished object. If OP can quantify the amount of effort that’s going into polishing things up, the Employee can’t shy away from the work or carry on believing that he’s doing the majority of it on his own.

    3. BBL*

      Dust Bunny, yes I’m documenting things, and this is adding to my stress as it takes time, but I know I have to do it. I like your suggestion of someone else checking his work in addition to myself, although if that second checker has lower standards, am I compounding the situation?

  8. Shadow*

    As long as you’re clear about how you’re measuring his performance you’re fine. You sound like you’re measuring the way I do. Not so much by just the outcome, but by the steps it takes to get to the outcome. In other words How much assistance to they need? Failure is they need to be spoon fed and success is they’ve problem solved correctly with little or no direction/course correction.

  9. CityMouse*

    I am going through something similar. I am training a guy whose work needs a lot of revision. What helps is that I am doing a lot less editing for him now but pointing out issues and trying to get him to learn to fix them in his own. I also loop my boss in on his progress regularly, so she is entirely aware of how much work is going into his training.

  10. Iris Eyes*

    Allison’s advice to connect the praise to his hard work in the revising of the project. Editing and revising is hard work (that I personally prefer to avoid whenever possible), compiling feedback from multiple sources is work. Yes, much of the content is coming from other people and it might be good for you to coach him on some responses to praise like “Yeah, I really appreciated the feedback I got from the Llama teapot team, it helped push this project to the next level” or “I appreciate working for a company that focuses and takes pride in quality so I’m able to take the extra time and attention to get things done right” things like that, so that he practices giving credit to others. Part of that is usually picked up when that’s part of the broader work culture, so make sure that is something that you are doing consistently in front of him.

  11. Been there*

    I understand he’s on a development plan, but is he making enough progress to that development plan? You didn’t say how long he’s been on it, what stage he’s in, but is he hitting the performance milestones?

    1. Been there*

      Ughh… posted to soon.

      The questions come from the wording used that he is still needing large oversight and rework. Hopefully this doesn’t sound cold… but from that it doesn’t sound like he’s meeting the core requirements of the job and potentially shouldn’t be there.

    2. BBL*

      Been There, yes he’s making some progress, but not consistently. It’s one step forward and then two back. He says he feels he is improving- I find it hard to agree wholeheartedly but am stuck between recognizing that I should acknowledge improvement however small, with just only giving developmental feedback every time. So the performance milestones are sometimes hit, sometimes not. He’s been on the plan 3 months and has one month to go.

  12. Meg*

    He might well be aware of the disparity between the public praise and the private performance. As someone who’s been in a similar position, it heightened my impostor syndrome, but sometimes helped me from feeling like a complete screw-up. My advice woul be to keep working with him and, unless he shows some sign of needing a correction or ignoring your feedback, let him have the praise.

  13. Jesmlet*

    “My problem is this: others in my immediate network and some senior managers are praising him publicly for work that he has very little real ownership of and has not contributed to enough on his own merit. He requires a large amount of input, feedback, and suggestions on projects, which then also take several rounds of feedback and meetings with me to get to a “final” version, which he then sends out to others.”

    This would really bother me. I may be petty, but if I’m doing the lion’s share of someone’s work, whether it be a coworker or a direct report, I’d be annoyed if they were sending it out and representing it as if it was done independently. PIPs should really not involve this much hand-holding in my opinion. Eventually he’s got to be able to do things on his own. He’s also likely to not internalize your feedback as much if he’s receiving the constant praise elsewhere. Depending on how long he’s been on the development plan, I would try pushing him out of the nest a bit. If you’re months into a PIP and he hasn’t been able to noticeably improve, then be very clear with the other managers and put up with it until you can let him go.

    1. Been there*

      I think you said this better than I did. It struck me that he’s months into a development plan (is this equivalent to a PIP) I tend to think that by the time you reach the point where you are counting in months it’s been going on too long.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If he’s months into it, absolutely — but she doesn’t say how long he’s been on it. She does say he gets monthly feedback, but I’d hope she’d be doing that regardless of the PIP — although if that indicates that the PIP itself has been going on for months, then yes, it’s time to bring this to a close.

        1. BBL*

          Hi, he’s 3 months in with a month to go. This is standard in our organization. He gets regular feedback and check ins in addition to the development plan meetings.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      If you’re petty, I’m petty too. These things always bothered me because I noticed, more often than not, that the person who isn’t pulling their weight doesn’t try to redirect the praise in my direction. However, they, more often than not, are happy to let me take the fall even when they are to blame.

    3. eilatan*

      I’m currently in the middle of this situation with a coworker. I’m doing a large chunk of her job on top of my regular job and two special projects. Last week , when our manager asked me to go easier on her, “I’m doing her job” just popped out of my mouth. He agreed. But he’s not doing anything about it. In fact, this morning at a team meeting he mentioned what a great job she’s doing on one of the special projects when he knows damn well that I’m the one who went around and forced a bunch of scientists to actually tell us what expensive toys they wanted to buy; she was just going to give them a bucket of money (anyone who has worked with R&D people knows exactly how that was going to go).

      This is a situation that is going to resolve itself; we’re in the middle of a re-organization and at some point I will no longer be on a team with her. Which means I won’t have to do her work anymore.

  14. Phoenix Programmer*

    Honestly I am questioning the pip from reading this
    so you are right to worry about perceptions

    One thing that stands out to me is that praise from higher ups is rare so the final results must be stellar. Is that the norm? Does the product need to be stellar? Can he produce “good enough” on his own? Can you step back and let his own work come through next time?

    Also if I were the direct report I would definitely not be taking your feedback seriously if your managers were praising me. I would assume you had a personal grudge against me tbh. Taking you at your word that is not the case. Just be aware of your direct reports potential thoughts.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Well if someone is at good enough and you put them on a pip until they reach stellar than yes I suppose. It’s hard to say with the letter since we don’t have the details.

        Another way to think of it is that most employees produce work that rates 3/5. They should not be put on pips to reach 5/5 which is what I am assuming the results are due to senior feedback.

        1. Amtelope*

          1) It doesn’t sound like the LW is describing work that’s “good enough” when it reaches her.

          2) I review other people’s work as part of my job, and I don’t aim for it to be minimally acceptable when it leaves my desk; I aim for it to be a high-quality product that will make our clients and bosses happy. If someone’s doing 3/5 work, they need to aim higher. If someone’s consistently turning out 4/5 work on the first draft, I don’t mind that it’s not 5/5. But once someone dumps 1/5 work on my desk, you’d better believe I’m going to insist they fix every single problem I can identify, both as a learning experience for them and for the sake of my own reputation as a reviewer. Want to be more lightly edited? Get it right to an acceptable level the first time.

    1. Em Too*

      I think most people would understand ‘the product was good but you needed an unacceptable level of help’.

  15. FRchick*

    I had the same situation last year, when I was overseeing the work of a junior colleague. I was not his manager, but my boss had asked me to supervise his work since I was basically transfering to him things that I was doing previously (and training him on how to do it), and as a way to gain some management experience.
    Most of the things he delivered required at a minimum three different revisions from me before it would be possible to send it out to my boss (it was riddled with typos, inconsistencies, formatting problems, and new problems were appearing with each new version of the work!). This drove me crazy, and at first I thought the problem was mine (I am a self-confessed perfectionnist). Maybe I was not clear in my instructions? Maybe I was too harsh on him?
    This was starting to eat me, so I went to my boss (who had little direct interaction with him without my filter before) and explained the problem. She told me she would test him, assign him some work to do directly, on which I would explicitely not be assigned (so that he would not expect me to review the work he did before sending it to her). And she came to the same conclusion than me! He was a temp, so we decided that we would to let him finish his current contract but not extend it further.
    So if you have a good relationship with your manager I would follow AAM advice and let them know what’s going on. Even if you are not able to change the situation, this can really ease your worries and the feeling that this guy gets praises unfairly.

  16. Argh!*

    The important question is whether this employee is being coached or micromanaged. If the work is exemplary due to learning how to do it better, then the praise is deserved, even if the supervisor has a role in it. If the person isn’t actually learning anything but the work is great, then I have to question whether actual coaching is happening.

    Read Harvard Business Review’s article about the “Set up to Fail Syndrome,” which has changed my approach greatly.

    1. CityMouse*

      I actually found that just editing a trainee’s work was a bad way if teaching. I started sending back vague comments (“Please address the typos” or “You failed to address something important here we discussed before. Please find and fix.”) And it was much more effective for training. Trainees can’t have their work done on the back of a trainer, spotting all issues.

      1. Argh!*

        Exactly. If your boss is happy to be a copy-editor, where’s the incentive to elevate your work product?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Your incentive is that you’re being told “your work currently is not up to the bar needed for this role, and I need you to be consistently meeting standards X Y and Z by December 1 or we will need to let you go.”

          1. Argh!*

            Or the incentive could be “I expect an error-free product, not a draft. Please be sure the next one doesn’t have this kind of problem. Here are some tools and resources for you to use, and this is how I make sure that what I send to my own boss is high quality.”

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure. And if the person doesn’t actually have the skills to do it and thus the next draft has the same problems, then the manager is back to “your work currently is not up to the bar needed for this role, and I need you to be consistently meeting standards X Y and Z by December 1 or we will need to let you go.”

              1. Argh!*

                Right. Merely correcting someone’s work isn’t helping them to learn. They have to be shown the standard and given a chance to figure it out, and PIPs are supposed to include coaching. If the manager corrects without coaching, would that hold up in court?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It wouldn’t be an issue in court. There’s no legal requirement in the U.S. that managers coach employees. It’s generally (although not always) good management practice, but it’s not a legal thing.

              2. Argh!*

                What I’m trying to get at is this all has to be explicitly stated, rather than assuming the person gets the message from having their stuff copy-edited by their boss. Some bosses are nitpicky micromanaging copy-editing fussbudgets who just like adding their two cents to everything. Employees don’t know whether other people’s work is getting corrected or not (we hope) so it has to be explicit that this is not ordinary.

        2. BBL*

          Hi Argh! I’m sure that he knows I’m absolutely not happy to be his copy editor, I’ve said this and he’s said that he gets that. I’ve asked him if sub consciously he is not turning out work that is error free because he knows that I will review it and pick up the errors, but he says not.

    2. BBL*

      I feel like I’m doing a huge amount of coaching, but I’m struggling to get away from the feeling that he should be doing this/producing this level without so much support.

  17. JP*

    I don’t think that being on an improvement plan means that a person is totally undeserving of praise and recognition, though, like Alison, I can certainly see the potential problems here. I’m also curious to know if the OP thinks that the praise is making their employee less receptive to feedback (or if they have problems receiving feedback in general). It’s not clear to me if the employee has improved any since being put on a PIP, or if they are unresponsive to the OP’s coaching and are continuing to make the same mistakes.

    1. BBL*

      Hi JP
      The employee is inconsistently improving if that makes any sense. I am definitely finding it very hard to give him any praise, as I honestly am so frustrated with it. I feel disappointed that what we saw at interview stage is so different from reality. He is accepting of feedback, but equally then often goes on to make the same mistakes again. Meanwhile, he says things like, ‘ oh yeah, I missed that error, sorry about that. But I do feel overall I’m improving’. It’s like he knows deep down that he’s struggling but doesn’t want to admit it.

      1. jnsunique*

        OP, I really appreciate your initial question and followup! I just started one of my employees on a PIP today. I have the opposite issue that you do – everyone thinks he’s incompetent to the point that some people try to circumvent him and come to me directly. His biggest problem is attention to detail & First Time Right, which is something our company is trying to promote as a culture change. His reaction to the plan is that everyone makes errors. He seemed angry when I presented the PIP, and like he thinks I’m setting him up for failure. But I can’t continue to double-check all his work and his errors are so frequent that I think it is about 50/50 whether or not he has to redo something or I have to do it for him. We’re in manufacturing, so spelling and grammar isn’t critical, but he has to upload the right instructions! I tried to tell him that his rate of errors is way higher than typical and not acceptable but I don’t think he sees it either, and doesn’t appear to understand why I think it is so important. I get the impression he thinks I am holding him to impossible standards. And really, I just want to trust him to upload the right file attachment, which he’s done wrong at least 3 times in the past 3 months. And he’s not doing a crazy amount of file attachments – so it is a high % error rate. I can’t think of an example of anyone else uploading a wrong attachment in the 8 years I’ve been at my company. I think his attitude may sink him, though it is hard to imagine he can improve as much as I require. I think my employee knows he is struggling too.

        1. BBL*

          Hi Jnsunique

          Reverse issue but very similar in every other way! My employee also feels everyone makes errors, which I know is true, but not this amount and not after a year in the role with very consistent and developmental support. I also feel my employee feels I have impossibly high standards, which maybe I have? But I’ve always been this way and I just feel that it’s unprofessional to be comfortable with making frequent mistakes.
          Good luck with your situation!

      2. Cat Herder*

        I hope you are telling him, no, overall you are not improving very much at all, and missing these errors repeatedly is one example of how you are not improving.

  18. Anonymous Educator*

    I think there’s a key piece of information missing from the OP’s letter. How is the employee taking this public praise? Is he soaking it in? Is he throwing it in the OP’s face? Is he saying “No, it’s really the OP has been helping me out a lot”?

    How I would deal with this situation would depend a lot on the employee’s reaction to the public praise.

    1. BBL*

      Hi, the praise is often via email, and not always directly to the employee but to myself. For example, a peer said verbally to me ‘ xx is amazing isn’t he! That piece of work he shared on xx was fantastic’. In this type of a situation I struggle to have an appropriate response, when I’m really feeling frustrated with my employee and resentful at my input level.

      Via email directly to the employee he just takes it. He doesn’t mention the support he’s had.

  19. Andrew*

    The employee might be accepting of the feedback, I know I was. I think I was in the shoes of the employee mentioned in the post. At my job last year and had instances were I had to to several revisions to my work that outside of my team most liked. But I think it’s why I was probably one of the many let go during the spring and summer. There were a lot of revisions I remember doing.

    I always struggled with the proofreading part of writing. The ideas and how I set them up were solid, but I knew I was hampered by the little mistakes. My job before had a dedicated editing team which hid my problems.

    Being let go was probably for the best in my case. The position ended up changing to more sales and service oriented rather than technical and I probably would have done a lot worse. But the experiences of that job helped

    1. Argh!*

      I am a speed-reader, so I miss little things all the time. I have a friend who is disabled, and she has agreed to proof read for me, and I pay her. I was hired for my knowledge and experience, but I’m evaluated on my typos.

      1. Jesmlet*

        But you can change your habit of speed reading if you made the effort right? Most people are hired to deliver a product and for a lot of jobs, part of that is the ability to deliver something that doesn’t need a second set of eyes. Like it or not, typos detract from the quality of something. If you have someone who can proofread things for you, that’s great, but most people don’t have that and most jobs require the whole package.

        1. Andrew*

          pretty much, I’ve been able to incorporate better proof reading strategies at the new job, at the same time found a role where writing material is not the MAIN focus of my job and use more of my technical background on the job as opposed to writing touchy feely sales training type material that the role was shifting towards…

        2. Argh!*

          I read online professional journals and magazines and frequently find a typo. I just found one in a Forbes article a minute ago. I have found several in New York Times articles. They aren’t as important anymore. It’s old-fashioned to fuss over those things. I have found that I proof better in paper than on the computer, which helps, but I prefer to have a second pair of eyes. Professional writers with advanced degrees make typos and need proof readers, so why shouldn’t someone who specializes in something else have one?

          1. Cat Herder*

            But there’s a difference between occasional errors, and the number and kind of errors the OP is talking about. Especially if it’s the person’s job to produce relatively error free work on their own.

  20. jnsunique*

    I’m intrigued by the comment Alison made that people might hear he’s on a performance improvement plan. I’ll be meeting with one of my reports tomorrow to start his PIP, and I really want people to know that I’m addressing a problem in my department but at the same time I want to respect the employee. How public is it usually when someone is on a PIP? I don’t expect this employee to survive it. The feeling is widespread that this person is incompetent, so no one will be surprised, and I think many will be relieved.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not something a manager typically makes public, but some employees share the fact with their coworkers (often to complain, sometimes to express worry/anxiety).

    2. NW Mossy*

      In my organization, normally the manager of the underperforming employee will inform their management chain (boss/grandboss), as well as their peer managers in their department. Occasionally managers will consult their peers across departments if the employee in jeopardy provides critical inputs/outputs to another department or a manager wants input from a peer who’s grappled with something similar.

      Outside of extremely extenuating circumstances, the affected employee’s teammates/level peers generally would not be told unless the employee volunteered that info to them.

      1. jnsunique*

        Thanks! I’ve only told my direct supervisor and dotted-line supervisor. I haven’t yet decided if I want to tell the R&D Manager – I’m the Process Engineering Manager, and he’s the closest thing I have to a peer (though he’s at a higher level in a different branch of the org chart). My other 2 direct reports are unhappy with him, but I’ve resolved to only tell them that I’m coaching him. It’s really hard to hide my frustration though when I run into mistakes that he made while I’m training someone else. I can’t imagine that he’d volunteer the information, unless he wants to vent about how unfair I am. He’s very reserved.

  21. Observer*

    I haven’t read all of the responses yet, but I just wanted to highlight something. On the second issue that Allison discussed, you want to document what you have been doing and why. If someone decides that you fired Fergus for some inappropriate reason, you may want or need to refute that. Or your manager may need to refute that. Good records, especially ones that are made at the time events happen, are your friend here.

    And, yes, keep your manager in the loop. That’s crucial. You never want your manager to be blindsided by something if you had the possibility of preventing that.

    1. Argh!*

      I second that, and the documentation has to show what was done to help the person improve. Merely keeping a list of grievances or errors won’t satisfy a judge.

    2. BBL*

      Observer, thank you, yes I have been doing both. Which interestingly make me feel like a nit picking, mean spirited ‘teacher’ marking a students work and documenting everything that they are doing ‘wrong’. I’m super uncomfortable with it. I’ve not been in this situation before and as you can see, am struggling to handle it well!

  22. MCMonkeyBean*

    “Outwardly his documents look polished, but nobody but me is aware of just how much of a struggle it is to get to that point.”

    Well, presumably *he* is also aware of how much you are putting into it. It sounds like your biggest concern is that your employee doesn’t get the wrong idea about his own work. But it seems likely that he is aware that he’s not doing enough to contribute to it. He knows his name is on the finished product and that that is what people are praising. But he also knows how much of the finished product is his own work.

      1. BBL*

        I can’t tell which it is with him. I think he MUST know…but he certainly doesn’t seem overly thankful for the coaching. I think he is surprised that he isn’t excelling in the role but doesn’t want to openly say that.

    1. Snark*

      Oooh yeah, not necessarily. He could be under the impression that this workflow is just fine and how things get done.

          1. M-C*

            Lucky you, Snark, if you’ve never had anyone think that you were micromanaging because you had to address a level of detail that really should have been handled by the person themselves.. that really should never have reached the manager’s level. Which is not to say that micromanaging is not heinous, and usually counter-productive. But yes, I have to admit that I too wonder how much actual writing the OP is doing, and that it’d be easy to confuse her editing with micro-managing.

          2. Tuesday Next*

            “He could be under the impression that this workflow is just fine and how things get done”, or he could be under the impression that “his manager is making unnecessary changes and micromanaging him”.

            I didn’t say that OP is micromanaging.

            And I haven’t mentioned micromanaging before, do you have me confused with another poster?

        1. Argh!*

          This. If the “corrections” are changing one synonym for another or rewriting a sentence, without explaining why they are better and not merely a matter of opinion, they won’t get through.

    2. Troutwaxer*

      Keep a PAPER record of the documents as he turns them into you, and per each revision. Also print out any emails you send regarding the documents and keep them with your record. That way if you need to explain to your management why he’s been fired you’ll have all the evidence right there

    3. Jesmlet*

      I could see someone thinking, “Everyone is praising me, maybe I don’t need so much help after all” or “maybe they would’ve thought my original was perfectly fine if they’re this happy about the one with my manager’s help”. You never want to assume a rational thought process in anyone else

  23. designbot*

    Maybe one step you could take is making sure to praise other people who contributed to these projects/reports? If you don’t feel he deserves the credit, there are probably others (other than yourself) who you feel *are* deserving of some credit here. Make sure they are praised as highly as your problem employee, and this can have the effect of putting the nice deliverables into perspective as a team effort, which you can point to later if this comes up.

  24. Hiring Mgr*

    Yes this is how I was thinking of it too and should show a general awareness/intelligence (or not). If the employee is honestly thinking the praise is justified and that the OP is way off for having him on a PIP, well that says almost as much as the nature of the work itself..

  25. Tuesday Next*

    Although OP can’t send allow a shoddy final product to be sent out, perhaps she can include more people during the review process. It may be helpful for Kermit to get similar feedback from different people (both from a communication style perspective and to validate OP’s feedback, if that it necessary). It would also make the situation more visible to a broader group.

    The other thing that strikes me is that Kermit doesn’t sound ready to have ownership of his own projects. It might make sense to have him working with / supervised by a more competent colleague. This should probably have happened since day one, but perhaps Kermit interviewed well and came across as capable of working independently?

  26. Snark*

    “Although OP can’t send allow a shoddy final product to be sent out, perhaps she can include more people during the review process.”

    It sounds like a major problem of OP’s is that too many people are involved with the review process, tying people up giving advice and suggestions and input Kermit should really be able to come up with on their own.

    1. Tuesday Next*

      It sounds to me more as though the OP is doing all the reviewing of the initial work and that only the final product is being seen by a broader group?

      1. BBL*

        Hi Tuesday Next, this is correct. I definitely need to find a way to ‘expose’ this more widely at draft stage. Thank you!

    2. BBL*

      Hi Snark, nobody is involved in the review process except myself. I’m now seeing that this is an issue and am working on how I can change this!

  27. Hello patriarchy*

    Bet $$$ the less than mediocre employee is a white guy these higher ups feel comfortable about having a beer with after work. He’s shitty and they can’t see it. Best wishes OP, hope you find a less-shitty workplace.

  28. Nellie*

    One way of fixing the problem of whose work is being viewed as so stellar is instead of allowing the OP to send the product out as final, the OP should do it instead. I many times drafted documents for my boss and if he was the last one to have an eye on it he would be the one to send it out with a note of “thanks to Nellie for her first draft” or other note on my work, especially if it was excellent or included a particularly helpful contribution. These were mostly done internally so it would be clear to other teams/upper management that my boss did in fact review it, and generally he would be seen as the producer/main author if that was in fact the case. Also, then if there were any questions or feedback they would go to the boss. He was a good boss in that if the feedback happened to be negative he would get to address it rather than me, but if it were positive he could note again what kind of input I had.

    Maybe there are functional reasons why this wouldn’t work in the OP’s particular case, but she could certainly make it a temporary part of his PIP. I know that for some external functions of my oldjob it would not have made sense for boss to be distributing final written documents rather than me (at least to some external recipients it would have seemed odd), but he certainly could have pulled that rank if he had the same concern as the OP. If the OP doesn’t want to seem overly territorial/punitive, she could characterize it as wanting to be sure the recipients of the document can direct any questions/feedback to her, as she was the one who made X, Y and Z changes that are now a substantive part of the document, which is an inverse of what her concern actually is.

      1. Nellie*

        You can certainly also adjust as necessary: “Please see attached the new marketing strategy. Thanks so much to Fergus for his insight on the new teapot design that will really appeal to our clients.”

        “Please see attached the new marketing strategy. Kudos are due to Fergus for an excellent first draft!”

        “Please see attached the new marketing strategy. Thanks to Fergus for getting the ball rolling on the document.”

        Etc etc. May be hard to backtrack if people already think he’s a rock star, but you can damn with faint praise.

  29. Inquisitive Mommy*

    OP, I had the same exact situation at my job with an employee who was the training facilitator. Although the employee didn’t manage anyone, she was responsible for co-ordinate all training and developing personalized training plans for each person in the IT department (17 people total). This employee has been on a PIP for the entire 2 years that I worked there. I would urge you not to let the final product be released by this employee!!! Mention him as a contributor (draft) and who ever finalized the plans should get credit.
    In my experience with the above employee it did not end well for the company. A sub-contractor had to be hired to complete the work not getting done. The company allowed the employee to sit in on all training and put her name on all documentation given to/presented to non-IT employees, outside clients, and exec/directors. It gave the appearance that the employee was creating, delivering and managing the training program to the outside eyes. The employee also used this as fodder in the PIP meetings correlating all improvements that occurred and arguing that the employee was being singled out and picked on.
    The employee then went to HR and presented all the “finalized” training material to HR who concluded that the PIP and work presented didn’t match. HR then interviewed the non-IT/Execs/directors who gave a glowing review of the new training and a further investigation ensued. This entire process was a 6-month ordeal, in all 5-people ended up resigning due to resentment of the employee. Basically, they gave the employee backpay and a raise that was withheld while the employee was on a PIP. Then a title change to manager of training with a pay bump.
    Even with all the deficient performance issues the employee had documented HR didn’t correlate it to work being “performed”. Two weeks ago, she put in her resignation and told everyone that she got a senior training manager position and used the “finalized” training in her presentation portfolio and how all the training projects she worked on really helped.

Comments are closed.