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Being blamed for subordinate mistake
Old 03-30-2013, 12:38 PM   #1
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Being blamed for subordinate mistake

This past week at work I had basically a blowup at one of our VP's. One of my staff who is in a different physical location from me is in charge partly of making sure a function is done at their branch. Long story short they just barely made a deadline and missing said deadline would have been about a 100K hit to the company. Needless to say, since then multiple 'higher ups' have been all over this and me since she reports to me. With this particular task I literally have nothing to do with the completion of it. She was informed of the deadline and when it became clear that she may not be able to handle it, was offered assistance earlier in the week which was declined.

After the third person had a chat with me another VP started talking to me about this. I had reached my breaking point and essentially said I have nothing to do with this problem and walked away. Honestly, it felt good but I know this is inappropriate behavior and I intend to apologize on Monday. I also have no concern over what impact this will have on me as at this time I am pretty in-expendable and generally everyone has got good things to say about me. Lastly I am not FI but I have plenty of "FU money" stashed away if the worst case plays out.

I guess my question is - how to deal with a problem like this where your staff screws something up and you are at best marginally involved with the task? I am starting to get everything in writing with this person to CYA myself. Also, has anyone else blown up at work and then regretted it? Sometimes I feel my cavalier attitude towards work hurts me in that I literally do not care about 99% of the issues at work. I often laugh to myself how worked up everyone gets at work over financial stuff - we are not curing cancer, far from it...relax. But at the same time I think I have crossed over to the literally do not give a crap side of the fence which probably is a sign of something
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:48 PM   #2
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As her boss and the fact that her deadline was your deadline, she should not have been allowed to decline help. JMO.
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:49 PM   #3
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Long story short they just barely made a deadline and missing said deadline would have been about a 100K hit to the company. Needless to say, since then multiple 'higher ups' have been all over this and me since she reports to me. With this particular task I literally have nothing to do with the completion of it. She was informed of the deadline and when it became clear that she may not be able to handle it, was offered assistance earlier in the week which was declined.
....
After the third person had a chat with me another VP started talking to me about this. I had reached my breaking point and essentially said I have nothing to do with this problem and walked away.
....
I guess my question is - how to deal with a problem like this where your staff screws something up and you are at best marginally involved with the task?
Since you asked . . .

If you are the boss, it always has something to do with you. Apparently those above you are of the same opinion.

If you felt your subordinate needed assistance, but declined it, then maybe you should have taken that task away from the subordinate and given it to someone else who would get it done and not cause everyone else to sweat bullets.

$100k is a lot of money to put on the line for a stubborn subordinate!
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:49 PM   #4
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I guess my question is - how to deal with a problem like this where your staff screws something up and you are at best marginally involved with the task?
You probably won't like my response, but you asked.

If the individual who is responsible for this task reports to you, then you are ultimately responsible. Saying you are "marginally involved" sounds to me like an admission you allowed the problem to occur and didn't take ownership of your management responsibility.

The way to deal with it is to "man up" and manage your assigned people and their tasks, or put your FU money to good use by leaving. And leaving would probably do both you and your employer a favor based on your comment here:
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I literally do not care about 99% of the issues at work.... I think I have crossed over to the literally do not give a crap side of the fence which probably is a sign of something.
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:55 PM   #5
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You may not look at yourself as being expendable but your attitude toward this incident and you not wanting to take ownership makes me wonder if you should be in charge of this project/group/department. Everyone under you is your responsibility. Step up and take charge.
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:55 PM   #6
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A manager is responsible for making sure employees are trained and qualified to do their assigned tasks. I have trouble with this:

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. She was informed of the deadline and when it became clear that she may not be able to handle it, was offered assistance earlier in the week which was declined.
As a manager you cannot walk away from this.
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:55 PM   #7
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As long as you are taking the company's $$, you are obligated to care about the company's priorities. It is just that simple, and if you cannot internalize it any more, it is time to stop taking the company's $$. You are a boss, and you have to take steps when a subordinate messes up, or else stop being a boss.

I will never reach the point of not caring about the work I do, but in my job I routinely have to kowtow to people I don't respect, who outrank me. I will continue to pretend to respect them (and grumble about it to close friends/family) as long as I take the taxpayer's dollar. The last day of work, I may take the trouble to remind some of the little tin gods that they now work for ME. Although...I suspect the real sign of not giving a darn any more is that you cannot even bother taking the time to rub it in.

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Sometimes I feel my cavalier attitude towards work hurts me in that I literally do not care about 99% of the issues at work. I often laugh to myself how worked up everyone gets at work over financial stuff - we are not curing cancer, far from it...relax. But at the same time I think I have crossed over to the literally do not give a crap side of the fence which probably is a sign of something
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Old 03-30-2013, 12:58 PM   #8
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In my Navy days, this was known as the burden of command. If the boat ran aground or collided with another ship due to a screw up by one of your officers of the deck, you as the skipper were still going to be relieved of your command. It wouldn't matter if you were sound asleep at the time of the incident. And the same on down the line. If Petty Officer Shmatz screwed up, Lt. Gumby, his division officer, was going to catch hell for it from the Captain. I thought it was a good system then, and I still do; if you're in charge, you're in charge for the good and the bad. Sorry.
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:14 PM   #9
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If the individual who is responsible for this task reports to you, then you are ultimately responsible.
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:22 PM   #10
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It is not only true in business and the military, but in school districts as well. The principal is the chief executive officer of the building and will be held accountable for anything that occurs. If the building is not maintained, it won't be the custodian who takes the hit--it will be the principal. Likewise with teacher screw-ups. The principal is responsible for everything that goes on. Period.
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:32 PM   #11
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I guess my question is - how to deal with a problem like this where your staff screws something up and you are at best marginally involved with the task?

You need to ask to be moved to a position where you are an individual contributor and not involved with the responsibility of managing a team.

If you feel that giving up team leadership altogether is going too far, you could suggest your scope of responsibility be reduced to include only team members on site. Managing and being responsible for team members remotely located is fairly complex and can be frustrating if you're not good at it. And your frustration is showing.
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:36 PM   #12
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Sorry, accounting, but I have to agree with everyone else who has posted. I spent more than 25 years in management roles and would never ever consider abdicating responsibility for something like this.

To answer your other question, yes I have blown up at work and apologized later. Sometimes it went well, other times not so much. One time in particular sticks with me - we were working on a potential acquisition and I was responsible for a specific area to assess value and risk but was excluded from some information and discussions relevant to it until the day before the deadline. When the VP started telling me some of this information (with two colleagues also in the room), I was furious that I was hearing it for the first time and had to redo much of my analysis under extreme time pressure. I stood up, made some loud and pointed comments, and stormed out of the room. I realized later that the VP was under a lot of pressure and probably hadn't realized how important the information was to what I'd been asked to do. I finished the analysis on time and apologized to her and to the other two folks in the room. Although they said it was OK, I think it contributed to me being asked to find a new position about 6 months later when staffing was being cut back for business reasons - even though I had top performance appraisals every year. Moral of the story - once you say it, you can't take it back.
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:42 PM   #13
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If you're the manager, you're responsible. I know, I get blamed for everything and have to write reports and do training everything my staff screws up. I am responsible for their mistakes because I am their manager. Being a manager is no fun.

And don't think you're expendable. After what you did, I think they are plotting to get rid of you.

Our company just had 2 recent employee let go because they thought they were indisposable.

The only people that are indisposable are sales guy that brings in $$$$ revenue to the company. Anyone else, say or do something someone don't like, you're out.
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Old 03-30-2013, 01:48 PM   #14
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Yep, sorry, the buck has an appt to stop at your desk. Assuming you may be a newly-minted manager, it can be eye-opening the range of responsibilities you now shoulder. Without knowing the full history, I'd suggest you take ownership of the situation, have a targeted conversation with the sub, get an agreement on what can be done to avoid anything similar in the future, and document that conversation and agreement for your sub, for you, and that VP that's hounding you. Make lemonade out of the lemons. Good luck!
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Old 03-30-2013, 02:08 PM   #15
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When folks on our team at work do a good job, our manager gets the credit and the kudos - not us. If someone on the team screws up, our manager gets blamed. Seems fair.

BTW, during the 18 years I've worked for the company, we have had a small handful of folks who believed they were invincible and irreplaceable - including several managers.

Some of us still keep in touch with those "irreplaceable" ex-employees.
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Old 03-30-2013, 02:38 PM   #16
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I agree with others that you are responsible for your subordinates.


That said, sometimes they do things that you are totally unaware of - like stealing - and you still have to take the bullet because it happened on your watch. Now that really sucks.
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Old 03-30-2013, 02:49 PM   #17
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Another one that thinks it is YOUR responsibility....

And one who thinks that if I were one of the VPs at a higher level I would be looking for someone to replace you because of your attitude...

You are 100% wrong... and as someone else said, should man up and admit it... and if you will not, as someone else said, take your FU money and go...


As a manager, you are responsible for allocating work to people who can do the work... and making sure they do their work timely... especially if it would cost $100K to fix... anything less... you are not a manager and should not be paid to be one...
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Old 03-30-2013, 03:05 PM   #18
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You are confusing performing of task with completion of the task.

Your staff perform the task; you are accountable for its completion. What you should do is have a specific discussion with this staff on lessons learned, and explain that her barely making the deadline created a lot of unnecessary grief that you both need to avoid in the future. Then explain that her actual deadline is now x days ahead the real one as you need time to review her work and ensure its timely completion. Also try to get to the root of the problem; is she overworked, or just procrastinating? If she simply has too many responsibilities, than either re-assign this task or other tasks that she does. If she is procrastinating, it could be that she lacks the correct training to do the task, does not understand that the expectation is the task would be completed in advance of the deadline, is not effectively managing her own time, or is simply careless. Understanding the cause determines the solution.

If you don't care enough to do this, you should look for a job that does not involve supervising others.
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Old 03-30-2013, 03:25 PM   #19
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Sometimes I feel my cavalier attitude towards work hurts me in that I literally do not care about 99% of the issues at work. I often laugh to myself how worked up everyone gets at work over financial stuff - we are not curing cancer, far from it...relax. But at the same time I think I have crossed over to the literally do not give a crap side of the fence which probably is a sign of something
And just to add, this is probably one big root cause. If this is your attitude your staff probably key in on it even you don't state it explicitly, so it is no surprise that they are also cavalier about issues and deadlines.

My boss is remote and sits over 500 miles away from me, yet we are in constant communication about critical deadlines and what I am working on. If I am time crunched he helps me re-prioritize so the critical tasks get done. He does not tell me how to do things as he knows if I am given the time and know what the priorities are, I will deliver quality work on time, and this makes him look good to his boss.

The fact that your staff is out of sight is no excuse for out of mind.
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Old 03-30-2013, 05:51 PM   #20
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So take that, OP! No softheaded sympathy to be found here, at least not today.

Ha
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