People Complaining to You about Another Manager? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I’m one of two managers at a small company.

Recently, a couple of the other manager’s employees shared some feedback with me—in confidence—that their manager is micromanaging them and doing other things that make their jobs more stressful and less enjoyable. 

None of them are willing to bring this to their manager and they want me to..

I’m uncomfortable bringing it to her because I don’t think it would be well received. And I don’t want to go to my boss because I’ve said negative things about her before and I don’t want to seem like I’m competitive or have a vendetta. At this point I’m planning on doing nothing, but I know that’s not what’s best for the organization. Help! 

-Good Intentions

Dear Good Intentions,

I recently heard the expression “Not my circus, not my monkey.” It made me laugh out loud. You need to make this expression your mantra right now.

I love your plan. It is an excellent plan. Do nothing is exactly what you should do.

You are dead right on almost every count. It would not be well received for you to give the offending manager the feedback. Even if he or she were your best friend in the world, it would be impossible.

I disagree that your going to upper management with the feedback would be what’s best for the organization. In my opinion, what would be best for the organization is for employees to be able to give feedback to their boss or, worst case, their boss’s boss. The kind of workaround you are suggesting would just set the stage for more gossip and whining.

Ultimately, there is simply no upside for you to take on this monkey. However, here is what you can do: encourage the complainers to complain to someone who can do something about the problem. It is incumbent upon them to share the feedback with their manager—and the next time they come to you, you must tell them that. You need to draw a boundary and not allow them to complain to you about anything but you or your people. If they continue to wuss out, tell them they should go to their boss’s boss. If they refuse to do that, they are on their own. They can continue to be victims of their own cowardice and suffer in silence. Plenty of people do it.

If I were your coach, I would ask you a few challenging questions:

  • What are you doing that makes another manager’s employees think it is okay to talk to you instead of their own manager?
  • How are you implicitly condoning the behavior of these employees?
  • Are there other areas of your life where you take on problems that aren’t really yours to solve? If the answer is yes, what does it get you other than more headaches?

As you may have heard, no good deed goes unpunished. Heroics from you at this point will probably not help anyone or anything to get better—and will probably hurt you. Stay focused on your own circus and your own monkeys, and let the chips fall where they may.

Good luck.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

2 thoughts on “People Complaining to You about Another Manager? Ask Madeleine

  1. Pingback: Employee Stealing? Ask Madeleine | Blanchard LeaderChat

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