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I had originally typed up a pretty long-winded preface to this question, but decided to nix it and keep this as generic as possible.

Our previous director left few months ago and a new one was hired shortly after that. We're a pretty small IT shop, with three technical staff supporting a Windows corporate environment of ~300 computers (workstations + servers). The previous director worked very closely along side of us in day-to-day operations. We each have our own roles (a tech, DBA and director/network engineer), but we all cross-trained pretty well and picked up knowledge from each other.

That worked really well and we were pretty productive. This new director does not seem to fill that niche the previous director left (and that niche was specifically listed in the job requirements). What's more is the new director has a very limited skill set, to the point of admitting the most IT experience they have is being senior tech for some number of years at a previous agency.

My question is how do we convince management that they made a bad decision? At this point the new director is doing more harm than good (waste of money in these economic times) and the money would be better spent on a dedicated network engineer, or someone who was at least more well rounded who we could then split the duties with. I've talked with our main contact with management and brought up these same points. I've flat out stated that they don't have the skills to perform the job and that alone should be grounds for dismissal. All I've been told in return is "just keep an eye on things and support them with whatever they're doing since that's your job."

It's been two months and, while I still really love my job, I find it hard to keep myself motivated when I'm constantly having to correct them or teach them how to do their job.

I hope this isn't too whiney, I'm just trying to find some support from like-minded IT pros.

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1  
Community Wiki? –  Izzy Nov 16 '09 at 6:10
    
I appreciate everyone's honesty thus far. It sounds like I'm probably being more of a problem in the situation than anything else and need to adjust my attitude. This has definitely helped, thank you. –  maik Nov 16 '09 at 6:24
    
Regarding community wiki, I have no idea. My goal was to make this generic but after re-reading a few times it seems more personal. I suppose I could edit it and clean it up a bit if anyone thinks it's worth it. –  maik Nov 16 '09 at 6:26
    
I hope it works out for you. Just for grins, how about giving us an update in a month or so? –  tomjedrz Nov 18 '09 at 4:57

7 Answers 7

up vote 4 down vote accepted

At my old job, I too once thought as you do. Our old director left to join a family business, and our new one was definitely not as advertised. We were a 3 full-time, 2 part-time employee IT shop with about 25 servers and 250 workstations to support.

At first I grated about the situation. I complained to my other fulltime co-worker, with whom I had been friends for quite some time. We talked about what to do to convince our ultimate superiors that this man had been the wrong choice. Then we finally realized something: we had more technical freedom than ever.

We took this opportunity to push forward with initiatives that we had long talked about implementing but never before had the influence to make happen. Because we were so technically valuable to our new, but under-skilled boss, he was very willing to listen to our ideas and champion our causes. In turn, we helped him increase his skillset dramatically, and by the time I left that job to move cross-country to be closer to family, he had grown into one of the best managers I've ever had.

I'd either try to "take lemons and make lemonade" as we did, or consider another position for yourself. If he's truly as bad as you say, then it will be exposed naturally. Otherwise, you will be painted as a complainer, and you'll help get another man fired who, like you, is trying to make it through these tough times.

Bottom line: give the guy more than two months, be a team player, and find ways to make this situation beneficial for everyone involved, including your new boss. If they wanted your approval, you would have been part of the hiring process.

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Wow, our situations do sound a lot alike. The other guy and I are good friends as well and we have been trying to work out a solution. We certainly aren't hell bent on getting the new person fired. What you guys ended up doing is pretty inspiring and I might just bright that up and see if we can roll with it. Thank you. –  maik Nov 16 '09 at 6:16

You don't mention specifically what the new director is doing to be "more harm than good". You also don't mention whether or not you've even spoken directly to this new director. Could it be that management has hired an I.T. director with little to no I.T. experience? It happens. Is it good for I.T.? It depends.

Perhaps they're filling a much needed business-end function that was missing in your previous director. You probably aren't privy to all the management discussions affecting business. All that you see is what affects you from the I.T. side of things. Maybe this new director is good at translating business needs into technical solutions.

In all honesty, you don't sound like someone I'd like to work with. Two months is not a tremendous amount of time to learn a new job, especially in light of "I find it hard to keep myself motivated when I'm constantly having to correct them or teach them how to do their job." I would venture to guess that part of your job is training new employees.

I'm pretty sure the director isn't hired to satisfy your needs, but the needs of the company in general. The way that you've stated what you've stated is rubbing me the wrong way.

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Sorry, I had written in the first rendition that we have talked with the new director directly. We've asked how they plan to address some of the network gaps now that the old director has left and I was told that since I had expressed interest in it that I should try and figure it out. That was frustrating in itself. I appreciate your honesty and reading these has helped me realize that my complaining isn't helping anything. –  maik Nov 16 '09 at 6:09

How to advance your Career, in Two Short Lessons

  1. Make your boss look good.
  2. Take care of your people.

Anybody who does these two things will have a pleasant and fruitful career. You're about to screw up number 1 big time!

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The short answer to the asked question is .. YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING.

If the new guy is indeed lacking competence, management will figure it out soon enough. If they valued your judgment about this position, they would have asked you before they hired him. They didn't. They certainly aren't interested in your second guessing their decision.

You have no idea why they hired this guy. It could be that he is short of experience but is sharp, and will pick up what he needs to know on the fly. It could be that he has some skill or experience the execs need that isn't on the job description. It could be that he is engaged to the owners daughter, or is sleeping with someone important. But whatever the reason, nothing good can come from badmouthing your boss.

My advice is to leave. Quickly.

The single worst career move a person can make is to undermine their direct supervisor. That you did so advertises that you lack loyalty, and that you can't be relied on to to watch your supervisor's back. Who is going to want to work with you? Your colleagues are wondering what you say about them when they screw up. The new guy will find out that you tried to get him fired, and will shoot back. He probably already knows, so your job is likely in jeopardy. Were I the person you are discussing I would be interviewing for your replacement.

The only chance you have to salvage this situation is to support the new guy, above and beyond the call of duty. Do your best to make him look good, follow his instructions, and do your own job exceptionally well. If you have to clean up after him from time to time, or teach him things that you think he ought to know, do so quietly. If you are asked by others about the new guy, say how you are getting to know him and are adjusting to him. If you get asked about the previous comments, disavow them in the strongest possible way. Beyond that, keep your mouth shut.

"It's better to stay silent and look a fool, rather than speak and remove all doubt." - Mark Twain

Good luck.

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What you said about them not liking us second guessing their decision does make sense. I was hoping we'd be able to reason with them somehow and they would value the opinion of the rest of the IT staff. –  maik Nov 16 '09 at 6:13

Short answer: You're probably screwed.

I'm not going to get into whether you're whining or not - w/out knowing more about how things were before the new IT Director came along and how they are now, it's impossible for us reading this to judge. One way or another, though, things have changed and you have to figure out what you're going to do.

phoebus just posted an example of changing what started as a bad situation, and that sort of thing can be done, but it depends on the personalities: is the new guy willing to support his new team? If he is, then it can be a temporary problem to have a boss you don't think is very good.

On the other hand, if the new IT Dir. is not willing to listen to you and work with your ideas, then you are probably not going to be able to change the situation. Convincing higher-ups that they've made a bad decision because you think it's bad is hard to do. If they thought you should have input into the selection of the new guy, they would've asked you up front. They might have picked someone that they feel they can talk to (maybe a guy w/ an MBA who knows how to talk to CEOs, CFOs, any other Cs...

I've had two similar experiences: the first one wasn't in my department, it was a new CFO who turned out to be a nutcase and the Pres/VPs who picked her realized it and got rid of her. But it took several months. It's not like they stuck their heads in the sand, but having picked her they felt they had to be sure they gave her ever chance to fit in and it wasn't until they'd tried that they dumped her.

More recently, during a merger, I had an IT Director "imposed" on me. He'd been the IT Dir. from one of the merging companies as well as their communications director. He had an MBA and had worked with their IT dept. for a few years. Eventually, he re-organized the merged IT department and I would've been left in a clearly subordinate position, so I took the opportunity to get paid out and left. His style was just too different from what I was used to, but it was re-assuring to upper management to have a guy w/ an MBA to talk to. I wasn't alone in disliking his schmoozy style and a few others left as well.

Sorry, too much rambling...

  1. If you can work with the new guy and he can appreciate your work, you might be able to forge a good working relationship with him.
  2. If you can't work with him, I'd say it's unlikely that you can convince the higher-ups that hiring the guy was a mistake.
  3. If you can't work with him, your choices are to stay and suffer or to leave.
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Well, you don't want to be on management's watch list. And whether you perceive it or not, the IT director is management.

So, you can be certain that when they all sit around talking management talk and sipping their Johnnie Walker Blue Label, they talk about these things. The IT director will mention that you seem to be a bit something-or-other out of sorts, and someone else will mention that oh yeah, maik was in here with this list of complaints, yadda yadda yadda, what are we gonna do about this...

...and BAM!, maik is a complainer, not a team player, constantly questions management's decisions...

...at best, it's a good excuse to not give you a raise one year, at worst, well, President Obama just extended unemployment benefits again...

Seriously, you'll do a lot more for your company, your new IT director, and yourself if you'll make the effort to help the person grow into this new position. It will pay off in the long run. It sounds like the person isn't incompetent, but just lacks certain skills. The skills can be learned, and it sounds like the director is at least trying to do that. Give the person a chance.

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We all know the skills can be learned, but our biggest complaint up to this point is that the skills aren't present. It's frustrating in that they have to try to learn the skills to fulfill they job they were hired for. It feels like we're working backwards after making so much forward progress previously. –  maik Nov 16 '09 at 6:20

First, a story. Sometimes, you're just stuck. That's what happened to me. I worked in an IT department of 20 people. Turnover had been, perhaps, 2 people per year. But everyone enjoyed working there and the director was the kind of person who ASKED his subordinates for their opinions and, in fact, if I had an idea I thought could help the company, I could write up a proposal and bring it to him. If he liked it, he'd try to get the money for it in the next budget year. And helping the others in the department so that we each got some experience in another field - or few other areas - was common.

Then he left. They promoted an internal person... but he stepped down after 6 months. then for another 6 months, the two assistant directors (including the guy who stepped down) ran the department. They finally hired another person who seemed ok... until he was fired (not sure why) about 6 weeks later. Then another six months went by and they hired another guy... On paper, he looked great... in reality, well, we started referring to him as DH. Not just me and a couple of other guys... but the ENTIRE department. Not "designated hitter", but something similar to (but less kind than) "Department Head"... After 18 months I left. I gave 3 weeks notice and once I did, he didn't say a word to me - not a good morning nor a goodnight and never asked me to do anything. Under his watch, half the department left in 2 years. He was finally removed (not sure the exact circumstance - some people say he was given a deadline to leave). But he lasted there 4 years and, in my opinion (and most others who I knew who worked there), destroyed the department.

So... the moral? You have to let him dig his own grave. If it's unbearable, leave. If not, cross your fingers and try to stick it out.

What COULD you do? ANYTHING you do, tread VERY LIGHTLY. I would suggest, if it bothers you as much as the guy I had to work for bothered me (but hopefully, the guy you're working for is less arrogant), you could talk to him. NICELY. "Mr. Smith, I was wondering... is there any plan to hire a more technically skilled person in the near future? I'm concerned because, as you have expressed, your not as technically skilled as our previous director and we're having some difficulty keeping the level of service as strong as it was."

If he is arrogant, then I would suggest you start documenting EVERYTHING... because sometimes, people can get vengeful and documenting every move you make, while a pain and unpleasant, can help you keep your job if something happens later. If nothing else, it helps you formulate your resume later because you can easily recall everything you did.

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