Monica Wofford, CSP, is a professional speaker and CEO of Contagious Companies, a training and consulting firm that develops better leaders and trains managers how to become better leaders.

What do you do when that employee doesn’t report to you?

If you’ve spent time this year complaining about the problems with another manager’s employees, it’s time for a fresh approach to this age old problem. It can be tough when a problem employee doesn’t report to you, but addressing the issue is absolutely doable with these three steps.

Involve Their Boss

Out of respect for your colleague, have a conversation with the boss of the employee causing a problem. If the problem has persisted for some time, chances are good their boss hasn’t had time to address it or doesn’t know how to address it and may welcome your assistance. Your conversation with their boss needs not involve commentary on how they might be doing it wrong or neglecting that employee’s development. Instead, focus your communication on an offer to help in an area that you believe is problematic. If they’re interested in and open to the idea, share with them how you might approach the employee and what you plan to say. The best approach in this case is to act as a team and make sure they are aware of your desired actions and perhaps even provided a follow up or documentation of what you’ve done.

Act as a Mentor

There is a substantial difference between the reaction to someone who wants to mentor growth and development and someone who is simply complaining about behavior. And while you may not have direct authority to discipline the employee for the error of their ways, you always have the option to “take them under your wing” and influence their behavior. Many times these relationships happen organically, but if you’re not directly approached by the employee for mentorship, try asking if they have interest in having a mentor or in receiving some guidance based on your experience. If this question is asked from the mindset that you do see potential and do see areas in which your experience or expertise would help them steer clear of troubled waters or even get recognized more readily, it will almost always be positively received and result in the behavior changes you seek.

Set Simple Boundaries

If the neighbor’s kid came over to your house and began breaking things, chances are you’d have no hesitation in helping them understand that this is not how things are done in your home. Most would do this even if they hadn’t met the destructive child’s parents or involved them in any way. Why, as a manager, with no direct reporting relationship to an employee, would you act any differently? If someone from another team is destroying the dynamics of your project team or not following through on their commitment to you, firing them may not be an option, but setting simple boundaries certainly is. This is as easy as saying something like “While you may be able to do that when you are working on something with your boss, in this environment, on this team, that behavior simply won’t fly. What you can do and what I would ask that you do going forward is x.”

The challenges that occur when coaching someone else’s employee or one who reports to a different boss than you, are often a direct result of an unwillingness to be assertive or prior overuse of the power believed to come from your title. Threatening to fire someone or put a document in their file, both actions that only their boss might be able to take, are not your only recourse when another employee is causing you a problem. Even without direct authority, your personal power of setting boundaries, offering to help, and involving their boss will be very effective in changing the bad behavior and managing that employee’s behavior.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!


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