“I am getting a service from our accounting department for my project. It’s a big enough project that it has its own budget, so I talked to the accounting manager to see if they could provide five hours a week in project accounting for me,” Roger announced.
“And?” I asked.
“So they assigned Nancy, a junior accountant to do the work. But, the transaction volume in the project is double what we thought, so I really need ten hours per week. I told Nancy and she said she had other work that had to get completed and she could only spend five hours. I told her that was unacceptable.”
“Why was that unacceptable?”
“Well, I am her manager for this project. Isn’t she supposed to do what I tell her?” Roger complained.
“Are you her manager?”
“For this project, yes. She has two managers, her accounting manager for her other work and I am her manager on this project,” he flatly stated.
“And, what if there is a priority conflict in her work between the two of you?”
“She will just have to work a little longer to get it all done. Not my problem.”
“Just to be clear, you expect a junior accountant to make a decision to work overtime, or if she can’t work overtime, to leave some work undone, while she finishes your work?”
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“What do you mean, she doesn’t know she is accountable? It’s very clear to me,” Megan complained. “She has a very clear dotted line to that area of responsibility. I know it’s not her highest priority, but still, she is responsible.”
“So, there is a conflict in her priorities?” I asked.
“Not a conflict, really, she has to get it all done. Just because it’s a dotted line doesn’t mean she can ignore it. Besides, at the bottom of her job description, it says, -and all other duties assigned.- That should cover it.”
“As her manager, what do you observe about the way she handles the conflict in her priorities?” I pressed.
Megan thought. “I think it’s an attitude problem. It’s almost as if she doesn’t care about one part of her job.”
“I thought it was just a dotted line?” I smiled.
Megan stopped cold. “You think the problem is the dotted line?”
“Dotted lines create ambiguity. Ambiguity kills accountability. What do you think?”