{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "A junior requested to be reassigned from my project because I let them know they were under performing and delayed a project deadline due to inaction. They've let me know that I've made them feel pretty bad and does not think I'm a good manager. However it has been a consistent issue with this individual (lack of initiative, motivation, sloppy deliverables, and does not ask questions when they are unclear on an ask). I have tried to make space for them to ask questions and take initiative (cont)", "post_id": "6100e4490b4941002a6f8ec8", "reply_count": 42, "vote_count": 21, "bowl_id": "59e88be7e2808e00149b0443", "bowl_name": "Women In Consulting" }

A junior requested to be reassigned from my project because I let them know they were under performing and delayed a project deadline due to inaction. They've let me know that I've made them feel pretty bad and does not think I'm a good manager. However it has been a consistent issue with this individual (lack of initiative, motivation, sloppy deliverables, and does not ask questions when they are unclear on an ask). I have tried to make space for them to ask questions and take initiative (cont)

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How you’re reacting to everyone’s feedback makes me think you are pretty good at communication and empathy. I think sometimes we try to take blame when maybe it’s as simple as you just don’t work well with that person. And to your last point, yes, I do absolutely think that women can say something exactly as a man would say it and we come across as harsh while the man would be considered straightforward. I had this issue with a consultant I was managing and it was very difficult to navigate. He consistently didn’t perform but just didn’t want my feedback. I was kind in my reviews, but he had a female manager on his next project and was essentially counseled out because of how he responded to her. Regardless of the reason, I’d communicate with the partner the timeline (the steps you took to try and remedy the situation over the course of the project) and agree that he should be rolled off. This doesn’t sound like a helpful situation for either of you. Then stop blaming yourself. Address any issues that you personally truly believe you need to improve on, and move on to continue being a great manager for the next person.

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Couple of things that stood out to me in your written post. You noted “a junior” a couple of times either in your original post or in subsequent comments. The choice of term was notable. This is a person. This is someone that reports to you, you are helping to develop. Perhaps viewing this person as someone, a teammate, you are helping to develop rather “a junior” would shift your mindset/approach some. The second thing that made me pause was “I don’t think I need to take a coddling approach and soften my language”. There is something here that you recognize within yourself that could be rising to the top. Perhaps a softer touch is what this person needs, but you (potentially) internally think of that approach negatively (speculating here). If one’s intent was to help a teammate improve, would one take the opportunity to describe their approach as a desire to not “coddle” or no “need to soften the language used”? My hunch is, if I was aiming to sincerely help someone these wouldn’t even be thoughts much less an issue I’d describe. As requested, my intent was to give some (hopefully) helpful feedback.

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Have you provided feedback / documentation of the poor work over the course of the project and clear ways for remediation / detailed expectations? If not maybe that was a surprise to the resource. Also stern and professional may not be as helpful as direct and professional. I don’t see a reason to be stern, unless you’ve reiterated multiple times where they are falling short, how to improve, and where there are issues for remediation. Providing tools I think is key, and if they still underperform based on set expectations then totally fair.

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Ok, so first....people are people, not resources. Second....sometimes people don’t know the questions they need to ask because they think they are clear on the task. You could ask them: “OK, given our conversation and these notes, what are your next steps?” This person could also be struggling for some reason - let them know you want to help, you’re going to need psychological safety to get to the root.

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This probably isn’t super helpful but I strongly believe that not everyone can work together, simple as that. I had a similar situation where I had a junior report that I just couldn’t get through to - I coddled, I was stern, I micromanaged, I was hands off, yet nothing worked. After a few months of this I rolled him off the project and he told me it was a terrible experience for him and that I was a terrible manager. I have never felt as bad about myself as I did after that conversation, I questioned everything about myself as a manager. He has now gone on to be successful on other projects, which sometimes reinforces the negative thoughts I have about my managerial skills, but I also have never had issues like that with the 20+ other ppl I have managed. For whatever reason we just couldn’t work together and I have moved on, I believe I did everything I could in the situation so that’s that.

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This probably sounds a little obnoxious but I don’t think I need to change my management style lol. We didn’t mesh well and it’s fine. Obviously communication is huge, I probably could have done a better job communicating along the way which is something I do try to focus on now.

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How long has this person been on your team? Have you made an effort to bond with them at all beyond the bounds of work? I hear some of your complaints and I first think of depression and trauma from covid stress. It can’t be understated. I think I would have approached it with that lens internally and while setting expectations, highlight the risks associated with not checking in Everyone “grew up” in consulting differently. Some of your personal basics may not be the same across the board I genuinely don’t think there’s any reason to be stern in the workplace… everything can be communicated more effectively without trying to play into outdated corporate tactics. Taking this past 19 months into account, I just think the biggest skill managers can have is their emotional intelligence. Compassion when someone messes up can *dramatically* improve performance. Scolding dramatically increases anxiety and overwhelm.

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If someone was already asking you to mentor him it sounds like there were known issues. It may have been primarily a communication style issue but you can’t be expected to make him better. At 3 years he should be hitting his stride but it depends on how many other projects he was on as well. Being in the same position for 2 1/2 years isn’t quite the same as being on 3 or 4 different projects.

I personally don’t think a stern tone is the best approach. I think the best approach is to try to understand their situation, why they are underperforming, have an empathetic approach to providing actionable improvement plan / helpful suggestions. I find this lacking in BCG. And simply pointing out peoples underperformance doesn’t fix the problem if they do t know what good looks like and how to get there

likesmarthelpful

Just want to agree and add that I’ve found approaching with “why didn’t you meet this deadline? Or “Is there something going on that caused you to fall behind?” has been effective for me. They either acknowledge and tell you whats preventing them (“I’ve been having trouble focusing, I can’t follow the project bc I don’t understand, I feel isolated” are all responses I’ve gotten) OR they lie / get defensive and you then you can follow the stern approach. Obviously not one size fits all but in remote teams I’ve found straight up feedback to not work as well. Also, no I don’t think a male colleague would have gotten the same response as OP but a male colleague likely wouldn’t feel as bad as OP and me so thats how I justify adapting my approach.

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However I want to understand how I could have approached this issue better. I think I took the right approach in letting them know where they came in short, and don't think I should need to take a coddling approach and soften my language (I used a professional but stern tone). But I want to hear from other PMs on how I can be delicate about these situations where underperformance was chronic. I also wonder too, if they would have had the same reaction to a male PM, but I might be reaching. To add context this is not a new consultant, they have been here for 3 years. I also welcome any suggestions on how I can broach this with the lead partner involved.

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@D6 I'm an integrator looollll 😅

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I know this may sound ridiculous but I am absurdly sensitive, obviously unfortunate for the workplace. Every time my boss pushes back on me I feel crumpled and depressed the rest of the day. Usually belly flop my bed in disarray. Sometimes, I wish she could be more gentle with me. Again, not the real world and if I want to move up, it’s only going to get harder. But the point I’m trying to make is everyone receives feedback and is motivated differently. I wonder if you figured out how to communicate with them the way they needed it, things could’ve panned out differently. If I had a boss being stern with me I would go into flight for fight mode and probably screw up because of deep anxiety/ nerves.

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I love how juniors can simply underdeliver and managers are still the ones to blame. In the same boat right now and can’t believe the answer is to have nice language cause their feelings are hurt and take even more time to send the minutes of meetings and then document feedback too, because they can’t take their own notes properly. How about they just pay attention and do their job better?

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Any insight on how I can also update the partner on the situation? It's hard not letting my emotions get the best of me right now, anger, sadness, guilt, anxiety, fear.

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I have no patience for coddling. It’s a job.

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When there are no real consequences for poor performance, no one takes the time to look critically at themselves and as a result, they don’t improve. Let’s start by calling “feedback” what it really is — CRITICISM. Everyone needs to learn how to handle criticism from above and below them on the chain. It’s possible that you’re being too picky and it’s also possible that your report is sloppy and lazy. Both can be true at the same time, and it doesn’t make either of you incompetent or poor performers overall. I personally don’t believe in sugarcoating criticism, but it’s not that hard to be direct and honest without getting personal or demeaning. The same rules apply to employees that apply to your SO. Don’t say things like “you always” or “you never,” address the specific behavior, not the person, and clearly explain the negative outcomes from the behavior that impact you and the team. Allow the person time to absorb your criticism before responding, and don’t get defensive. You’re delivering information, not providing therapy. People are supposed to learn from mistakes but that’s hard to do if you deliver criticism in a way that makes it seem like their mistakes are no big deal and don’t affect anyone else. When that’s not the case, you need to be clear and direct - but remember that you’re not a parent or a friend, you’re their manager. How they “feel” about being criticized is less important than making sure they get the message and correct the behavior. They’ll get the message better if you’re direct, honest, impersonal, and clear about consequences if they fail to change.

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One thing I have found particularly effective is making sure I am talking about the specific observed actions/ outputs and not about the person. I also give them space to tell me why they took that approach so that we can together identify where there are differences in expectation or missed communication/interpretation. It’s really important to be clear about where someone’s visible performance is below expectation but it’s equally important to make clear what good looks like in your mind and ensure that they have clear steps they can take to make progress. It does not work 100% of the time, but it has worked many many times for me. Hope this helps.

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Eh idk. I’ve had really impactful and honest feedback given that helped me improve. But the one time I had a manager who used a “stern” tone when giving feedback, I responded with anxiety, drop in enthusiasm, and general feelings of PTSD where even today when I see their name pop up, I get a little breathless. All this to say, I wish I had asked to be reassigned when working with that manager.

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I’m a consultant with 3 YOE. To me, it sounds like you took the right steps and approach, at least based on what you’ve shared. I think it’s odd their reaction to your feedback was to immediately request reassignment. I agree with another commenter that perhaps some people just aren’t meant to work together. I’ve had teammates complain about managers that I loved and it was just a result of them not having the same working style or of having very different thought processes that meant they were never on the same page. Wouldn’t beat yourself up too much about it.

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100% agree with this. OP, you sound like you’ve tried a number of tactics to address before giving well deserved feedback, and I wouldn’t overcalibrate your response here. You sound like a thoughtful and level headed manager, who gave a number of chances and continued to receive problematic work and interactions.

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Sending you praise for reflecting and wanting to learn from the experience. That’s the kind manager I hope to work with.

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I was in the same boat a few projects ago. The guy actually lied to me about doing something he didn’t do - my YE feedback was that I needed to “meet those I deemed incompetent halfway”. The fact that the firm did nothing given his performance is laughable - I’d tread carefully

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I had a similar experience when I was a new senior accountant . The person lied to me and faked their work papers and I called them on it . I was given negative feedback that I had issues with managing staff . I heard two years later that this person was caught by someone else (a more senior man) and this person was let go. I definitely felt that I was being treated a certain way because I was a woman. At the time the staff accountant felt that he could get away with lying to me and being difficult . Honestly though I’ve found when people behave this way that their actions catch up with them. The cream always rises to the top and those who lie or are lazy always sink to the bottom.

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I wish I had a lead like you when I was at Deloitte.

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Am wondering if we have ever been sloppy delivery person who could give negative feedback to their bosses, and still have a job. it’s amazing that growing up we had to put up with super stern and abusive bosses and in just a decade things have changed so much that for someone who is clearly incapable OP is being asked to change their behavior/management style bla bla. This is no different than how school teachers feel with the kids nowadays.

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If you’re worried about talking to leadership on it then I would spin it and explain what the actionable feedback it was you gave and then ask them if the junior staff gave any additional details on your actions or say when you tried to address it you weren’t given specifics (other than they didn’t like hearing constructive feedback). It’s likely they just said I can’t work with them which should be telling to your leader on who has the more valid position. But that’s my personal opinion.

Also can I just add how I feel like I did this all wrong. I had no idea as a junior staff I could just roll off a project because I didn’t like someone of their style. Honestly even if they are an under performer, I do admire that boldness and taking their career in their own hands.

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