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Inefficient Supervisor

Inefficient Supervisor

Inefficient Supervisor

Recently I joined a State Transportation.  I am accustomed to working in the private sector where time is money and time not well spent equals a demotion, pay cut, or firing.

My boss is a stereotypical government worker that really does not grasp the urgency of anything.  In contrast when something lands on my desk I work fervently to remove it from my desk, and as complete and correct as possible.

Problem is that when I submit things to my Supervisor for approval or review it takes weeks to get any response.  I usually have to send several emails and come in to his office to remind him of deadlines.

Now, I consider myself a stand up guy and try to keep a good reputation.  When we have meetings with our client or our 'boss' and they ask us why we have not done our work I am forced to sit in the same room while taking the blame.

Any tips on how to solve this issue?

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

Is it possible to send the draft for review to all parties?
It will then be apparent where the hold-up is.

This won't necessarily improve relations between you and your supervisor!

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

... Whereas your supervisor does not wish to remove everything from his desk, as an empty desk would signify that he is not needed.  This is not an innate personality flaw; it is the result of decades of conditioning.

You might wish to slightly modify your own practice, to clear your desk asap of everything... except for one particulary interesting or well funded or politically important project.  It doesn't really matter what the project is; the point is that you don't want to ever be caught with _nothing_ to do.

Make sure that _all_ communication with your supervisor is conducted, or copied, or confirmed, in writing.  Email may be adequate as a second choice, but be sure to maintain complete paper files (one set offsite, at _your_ site).


Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

apsix, I have actually tried to do this.  I worked on a very important chart and I wanted to submit to supervisor as well as cc our manager.  I did mention that first and I was quickly told not to bother our manager, and that he would bring work to the manager's attention after his approval.

Mike, the concept of keeping a project on hand for the sake of looking busy is foreign to me.  My brain just does not work that way.  I feel that if I had to do that I would be one step closer being assimilated and being like him.  

My previous job I was on salary and if my work was done I would just go play golf or something.  Anyways I understand your point I just don't like it.

I have been keeping a log.  This one item, for example, has gone on for months now and the client will soon file a claim soon.  If anyone will get burnt I prevent it by mass emailing the log and find another more suitable job.     

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

Disx, you have my sympathy, you seem stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As I see it you have three options, you work in his way and at his speed, more or less take him on or find a new job.

The first is possibly the easiest but I am sure will leave you unhappy at work and time will drag.

The second is the most risky, bring things to a head at meetings, suggest at a meeting where your ultimate boss and the customer are present that you will do a weekly update and copy both in. It is unlikely they will say no to this, but your supervisor will hate you for it. That will almost certainly mean one of you will be shown the door, it may well be you.

The third is like looking for hen's teeth. Good luck whichever route you choose.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

Government work has long been likened to suicide.  Learn to love the living dead or get out and get on with your life.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

I worked at an A/E for 20 years before moving to a government agency 5 years ago.  It was definitely rough at first.  I think you need to find some workarounds.  If something does not absolutely need your boss' approval, send it to him FYI after the fact.  If he has previously requested to review something, send it with a note saying you will consider it ok if he doesn't comment within a some time period - like a week.

If something does need his official written approval, copy the client when you transmit the info.  Include a memo that reiterates the schedule, and then forget about it.  If he does not review and approve in a timely manner - it is his and the client's problem.  Not yours.

Before I started here, a former government engineer advised me not to be afraid to take responsibility.  This was great advice.  So many people just can't make decisions.  If I am sure I know enough to make a decision - I just do it.  Remember:  it is always easier to get forgiveness than permission.

Another piece of advice I got from "CSI Las Vegas."  Grissom once said that sometimes the fastest way to do something is to go slow.  At those times when I have to review someone else's design, I go slow because it's really embarrassing when I overlook something important.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

It's not just in government work Disx, my current boss is sometimes bad for that, though he wouldn't blame me in front of someone else.

Sometimes I think he gets so much on his plate he just loses track but other times I'm not sure what the reason is.

Sometimes I go around him, however once or twice I've been dinged for this because I didn't get the proverbial memo that we were backtracking on something because of political reasons.  I've actually been told not to send anything out of the department without his review by him after such incidents.  So then everything goes back to him being the log jam for a few weeks untill the waters settle and I'm allowed to talk to other people again.winky smile

I've become an email addict in part due to this kind of thing, it means I have a record of it being sent.  If it's important I'll follow up verbally with a 'did you see my email'.

Somtimes I'll harass him but other times I'll figure, if it's important he'll get to it.

My most frustrating one is when I do something, send it to him/let him know, and then he forgets and has someone else do the same thing, usually poorly.

So you have my sympathy.  You can try and manage him like I try with my boss, but it doesn't always work, though maybe that's my fault.  If I can just do something and send it out I will and just CC him or equivalent, but occasionally I do misjudge it.


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RE: Inefficient Supervisor

I interned with a state department before graduating.  I can see where you are coming from but as an intern I didn't have much responsiblity.

As far as your supervisor blaming you, I don't see a good solution without knowing him.  If you're looking for a change then I would suggest testing the waters by bringing up less critical occurances to him/others and see the response.  If the situation doesn't improve (or maybe more importantly, gets worse) you might just have to stick it out until you are established enough to go without his review/approval.  Is this a job of necessity or one you where hoping to stick around for a while?

I found out that to be productive/successful in a state job (definition of those words vary) you have to be very self motivated/reliant.  If I ended up with nothing to do I would open a book and dive into some topic that I was interested in or didn't fully understand, make a few spreadsheets, run some examples.  You look like you are doing something, you are learning and improving, although billing that time can be a little tricky...  

I would imagine the more time you spend there you will have more tasks and responsiblity and less reliance on the big cheese.  Might be worth it to stay low and keep good relations with him if you are planning to stick around.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

State DOT's are interesting beasts.  Many moons ago I worked for a certain large West Coast (U.S. West Coast, that is) DOT as my first job out of school.  I quickly realized several things:

1)  Overall, this organization deserves every "lazy state worker" joke that has ever been uttered.

2)  This organization employs both the smartest and the most worthless people I've ever met.

3)  "Merit" raises are always based on time-served rather than actual performance, and that will never change.

4)  This job will be whatever I make it to be.

I was very happy with the work I was doing and the Division I was in, so #4 and the first part of #2 were enough for me.  I imagine #4 will hold true for you as well.  You can go pretty far in this type of organization.  Most people will let you assume all the responsibility you want, and my experience is that most supervisors will be happy to let you do some of their work.  Just concentrate on making him look good and forget about trying to call him out.  Remember, he's probably been there a long time and will know how to play the game.

You will have to learn to accept the negative aspects you mention.  The trick will be whether #4 can compensate for this.


RE: Inefficient Supervisor

I am required to review everything my subordinates do.  Some of them provide very good notes, marked up drawings, and whatever other information I need to review their work, and it is neatly organized and easy to follow.  Others give me a pile of disorganized drawings and paperwork and expect me to dig up whatever other information I need to adequately review their work.  If both types were given an identical project, it would take me 3-4 times as long to review the work of the second type as it would the first type.  Depending on my mood, I often dig through my pile and pull out the neatly organized work to review ahead of the sloppy disorganized work.

Explain to your boss that you are concerned that is takes him so long to review your work, and ask what you need to do differently to make his job easier and keep things moving.  There is probably room for improvement by both of you.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

Thank you for all your advice everyone.  I did use your advice and decided to implement the following:

1)  Put work in His inbox and follow up with an email (with electronic copy if possible).  I then completly forget about it - no stress at all.

2)  I have made a very detailed chart showing all work items and the status of those items.  At a meeting on Monday I presented these charts to our client, my supervisor, and my supervisor's boss.  This chart showed all my work completed and that all items were on my supervisor's desk waiting for his review.  Some of those items are months old even.

I know this is a bold move and could end up costing me...but life is too short to stress out over things that are not in my control.  

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

That was tactful... did you staple it to his forehead too?

I suspect you may find some level or other of petty revenge coming, at pay-off time or salary review time, which ever arrives first. However I can't argue with the logic and I would probably have done much the same, so good luck. smile

If we learn from our mistakes I'm getting a great education!

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

"This chart showed all my work completed and that all items were on my supervisor's desk waiting for his review.  Some of those items are months old even."

One thing to keep in mind is that, even in the corporate world, things like this generally just make your whole organization / company / department look bad to the client.

The best way to approach this would be to present to the client the list, showing these items are in the review stage, then when client is not around, make sure your boss knows they are on his desk.  Pointing fingers when in front of a client is a bad thing to do in any organization.

What you have done is to make your boss look bad to the client - and that reflects badly on him, on you, and on your department.  It comes off as a very unprofessional thing to do.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

While a big part of me wants to say "way to show 'em" Scotty & TenPenny may have a point.

What exactly did you label the "on my supervisors desk" category.  If you labelled it "In review" or similar then fair enough but if you labelled it "With Inefficient Supervisor" or similar, there will probably be some kind of consequence.  Even if you were a bit tactfull, your supervisor and possibly his boss may well get the point and there could be repurcussions.

Still, right on!


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RE: Inefficient Supervisor

TenPenny, I see your opinion, however - and as shallow as this sounds - I put myself before this company.  If my professional standards are not being met then I will correct that first, before tossing myself over the corporate hand grenade.

I agree from the client's perspective that the chart would make us look very bad - but again, I put myself before 'us' or 'we'.  If how I feel about myself and what I am a part of is good I will then look out for the company.  I would think this holds true for all work no matter what one's career might be.

About the pointing of fingers, our client has been pointing finger for months now at us.  I am tired of being in the group that is being pointed at - especially since I have done nothing to award that.  I have pleaded with my supervisor many times now to change this situation.

As an example, one item I initiated back in December - it was not responded to until February, and was not finalized until April.  Consequently the client has filed a claim against us.  Our head boss then reprimands the department I work in - and my supervisor let us all take the blame.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

Actually, KENAT, it just say, "Waiting on supervisor's review".  I thought that was mildy harmless.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

Have you looked into the reasons for your supervisor is this way?
Is it that he dosen't understand, or dosen't care? Or maybe because he is absent. Or maybe he is taking on to much.
It is possible to help him become better, but the approch depends on the problem.

In techinical areas it is common that supervisors don't know everything you know. It is possible you supervisor is approching retirement and dosen't want to rock the boat, or just isen't interested in what he is doing. Or maybe golf is more important.
I don't know.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

As the old adage goes:

"Part of your job is to keep your boss's boss off of your boss's back."

If your boss is not catching flack (that you know of) about the items from his boss, then it must not be that big of a deal.  Perhaps showing the status charts in the meeting was not keeping your boss's boss off your boss's back.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

"TenPenny, I see your opinion, however - and as shallow as this sounds - I put myself before this company.  If my professional standards are not being met then I will correct that first, before tossing myself over the corporate hand grenade.

I agree from the client's perspective that the chart would make us look very bad - but again, I put myself before 'us' or 'we'.  If how I feel about myself and what I am a part of is good I will then look out for the company.  I would think this holds true for all work no matter what one's career might be."

Bravo, Bravo I say.  I am standing on my desk clapping right now.  I now work in a situation very close to what you are dealing with except that we do not directly interact with the customer, for us our assembly department is our first customer.  My boss has things on his desk for over a year that he has not even looked at.  He simply tackles the easy tasks and never looks at the hard ones.  Anyway this is not about my situation.  You are doing what lets you sleep at night and allows you to move forward each day.  

One day your boss will be gone and you will be in charge, maybe not at this place, maybe another, but always keep this attitude and realize that your thought pattern is not shared by many.  Threat not only people that are not preforming like this but also treat the ones that are.  No hard worker ever cares if you track his daily tasks as long as you track everyone's.  The best thing about metrics is that you can easily find out the people that care from the ones that do not.    

SW 2007 SP 5.0

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

Airimac, not to sound rude, but that is an old adage.  Defending a person, whoever that person of any rank might be, when that person is performing sub-par or is doing things utterly wrong...is wrong.  Not to mention I would think there is some ethical implications here.  I can think of many examples why this should not be a rule or even a notable saying.

Now, you should know that supervisors and subordinates get shuffled around from project to project where I work.  I know what a good supervisor is - this one isn't.

RE: Inefficient Supervisor

As engineers, part of our job is communicate with and develop other professionals.
If you can you should make your boss look good, and he should reward you for that.

The old adage "It better to have an ******* as a friend, then as an enemy".

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