Mira Hogs All the Big Projects
This case study feature provides expert advice on management and workplace issues. Examples are hypothetical or names have been changed.
Mira, who works for a big translation agency, is very good at her work and she likes to take on all of the high profile projects. The agency’s managers generally let her have this front and centre role at the expense of the other translators.
The rest of the staff doesn’t like it. Mira’s colleagues feel that in many cases they could do the projects equally well, but they don’t get a chance to stretch their wings. They argue the managers don’t even realise they are capable of doing most of these jobs. If staff members say anything to Mira, she responds with rude email messages. How should this situation be handled?
Maureen Geddes, president of CANGRAM International Inc., a corporate culture and diversity management services company with offices in Toronto and Chatham, Ont.:
“If most high profile projects continue to go to Mira, the agency could find that clients are not satisfied unless they work with her”, Ms Geddes says.
The difference between her abilities and those of the other translators will become more pronounced. This would not serve the long term interests of the company.
Yes, managers should reward excellence – Mira’s undisputed skill. But it is equally important that they avoid a win-lose situation where one team member is developed at the expense of the others.
The other staff members must speak up to let managers know that they are ready for more challenging assignments. One approach would be to get together, give some thought to how projects are currently assigned and come up with suggestions that will develop everyone’s skills.
One of the translators could then approach a trusted manager, outline the issue and the group’s initial ideas and request a group meeting to discuss solutions.
To avoid a sour grapes impression, employees should be very clear that they respect Mira’s talent. Perhaps they could suggest ways for the team to share what learn they learn with Mira taking the lead.
Sharyn Salzberg-Ezrin, a psychologist and executive coach in Toronto:
The managers have to be more explicit about why they delegate projects to certain people. Dr Salzberg-Ezrin says. They could use a staff meeting to outline their criteria, perhaps by alluding to an actual situation without naming people.
Some workers are better than other at juggling several tasks. Managers may be picking Mira because her work won’t suffer from taking new assignments.
But Dr. Salzberg-Ezrin hopes managers also know their staff well enough that their delegation of tasks will be seen as a competitive issue.
They could say that they sometimes give a project to a certain staff member because the person has demonstrated strength under pressure and they are familiar with the work and managers don’t have the time to supervise. It won’t necessarily relieve tensions, but at least workers will know why they are being chosen.
“I run into a lot of managers who decide to put effort into some people they see as having potential while they only have a maintenance role with others.” Dr. Salzberg-Ezrin says.
If staff members want to bring the issue up, the most productive way is not to complain to Mira but to say they would like to learn from the managers.
Don’t ask for help — that could sound like a whine.
As for the rude e-mail, the other translators shouldn’t bother doing anything about it. Mira will self destruct eventually. They are better off seeking the support of the manager.
In some ways, Mira is setting up a competitive environment among her peers, which is very unhealthy in any organization.
In today’s work environment, you really need people to support one another. They don’t have to be buddies, but if they don’t collaborate, they will miss opportunities to benefit from what someone else knows.
Credit: On the Job By Margot Gibb-Clark
The Globe and Mail
Author: Margot Gibb-Clark
Originally Published: Tuesday, February 24, 1998