My boss went behind my back


Dear Evil HR Lady,

I am the manager of a department within a small company. I manage groups of outside consultants and have one direct report who works for the company. Our company is growing rapidly, and as a result my report and I putting in a lot of overtime. I have spoken to my directors a couple of times about getting another report and the importance of downtime.

After a couple of "no, we don't have the budget" answers over the last few months, I was told today that I would be getting a new report. Good news, right? Yes, however, this new report has been interviewed and offered the job without me having a chance to meet him. I had been involved in all other interview processes when hiring past reports. I suspect this employee is a friend of one of the directors.

One of my concerns is that our personalities will not be a fit (I know, I'll just have to deal with this either way). My biggest concern is that after many years of being involved in the process of hiring, I was left in the dark.

I have two big concerns with this scenario. The first is,  as you said. that your boss and company directors made a conscious decision to keep you out of the hiring loop. My second big concern is that you will take that out on the new hire, if only subconsciously.

Let's address the first issue. This is truly unacceptable behavior on the part of the directors. Yes, it's their company and, yes, they can certainly override your decisions. That's fair. The higher up you are, the more power and influence you should have. But to have the direct supervisor completely ignored and not even be given the chance to meet a new direct report is unacceptable.

By contrast, it's worth noting, this can happen in companies where there are supervisors who manage day-to-day activities, but who lack hiring and firing authority. And in that case it's permissible, although I still don't recommend it. But this is not one of those cases.

Unfortunately, declaring it unacceptable doesn't undo what has been done. And, in fact, it would be a mistake to call this person and revoke the offer. This person has likely done nothing wrong and doesn't deserve to be poorly treated over the situation. This is true even if one of the directors is her BFF.

But you do need to take up the issue with your boss and anyone else who had input into the hiring. First, ask a very direct question: "Why was I not consulted on this new hire?"

The answer will likely be something lame like, "She was so fabulous that we just went ahead and made an offer," but that will be false. It's fun to make them lie, though. (You might also get, "We knew you wouldn't like this person, but she's the director's childhood friend who just came out of rehab and can really use a job." To which you respond, "Thank you for letting me know. In the future, I need to be involved in the hiring of all my employees. I can certainly take extenuating circumstances into consideration.")

At this point you need to say, "Will I be directly managing this person? Will I be responsible for performance management, training, development and, if necessary, discipline? What will happen if she doesn't work out? Will I need permission from the board to terminate?"

They haven't thought about this aspect, I'm sure. But you need to know where you stand. If you aren't going to be allowed to manage this person, then you need to request that she be assigned to another department. It absolutely does not work to have an employee who knows he or she can go over your head at any moment.

Now, assuming that this person will continue reporting to you, my other big concern comes up -- your anger over the situation. Even if the new employee does not deserve the job, she did not make the hiring decision. You need to be careful that you treat her fairly. Make an honest effort to judge her work based on her actual work and not perceptions about how she got the job or if her personality doesn't mesh well with your department. This is critical for the success of your department.

Also critical is that you keep all conversations about this behind closed doors and only with your boss and the other directors. If your other direct report and the contractors find out, not only will it color their opinion of the new hire, but it will color their opinion of you. And while you have to fight this battle with your superiors, it is critical that your underlings not know about it.

Depending on the personality of the new hire, this may or may not be possible. But arrange to meet her before her first day. Be completely positive, even if it kills you. Make sure you have clear guidelines and goals set up for the new hire from day one. Give lots of feedback. Make it clear, in a nice way, that you are the boss.

No doubt this will be a difficult transition. If you're lucky, your superiors will apologize for going behind your back and the new hire will work out great.

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