From the Ask Tom mailbag –
Does the Manager-Once-Removed (MOR) have the tendency to undermine the Manager to show that they cannot do their job well?
Sounds like a simple question, but it is actually complicated. Let’s start by laying out this structure visually.
Your question is about undermining. This could be undermining authority, undermining performance, no matter, it is dysfunctional coping behavior. So what could be going on with the MOR? The undermining behavior is not the problem (I mean, it’s a problem, but not THE problem). Simply stopping the undermining behavior will not solve the underlying difficulty.
When I see this kind of dysfunctional behavior, which could present as undermining, micro-managing or just being mean, I always look for structural problems. Most would think we have a personality conflict or that we need a communication seminar, but both are smokescreens for a misalignment in organizational structure.
Most likely we have promoted the MOR to a role for which they are unprepared. I look for one of four underlying causes of the underperformance –
- The MOR lacks the necessary capability
- The MOR lacks the necessary skill
- The MOR does not value the work of an MOR
- We failed to contract for the necessary behavior of an MOR
So, who do I hold accountable for the underperformance of the MOR? It is the MOR’s manager (yes, the MOR has a manager, too) that I hold accountable. It was likely a faulty selection decision to promote this person to the MOR role with insufficient due diligence or testing.