REPOST: Managing: How do I handle an inherited employee who won’t do his job?

Alison Green answers a question from a manager having issues with an inherited employee who wasn’t doing his job. Read this article from and learn how Green formulated solutions:

Each week Alison Green, who also writes the “Ask a Manager” website, answers workplace and management questions from readers.

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Each week Alison Green, who also writes the “Ask a Manager” website, answers workplace and management questions from readers. Please comment or ask your own question by emailing her at
Question 1. Inheriting a longtime employee who isn’t doing his job

I’m a young manager who is having an issue with one of my employees. He has been with the company for 35 years and is over 65. His previous supervisor was a longtime friend of his and basically allowed to him to get away with not doing his job for years and years. Now, as they say, there’s a new sheriff in town and I am having a very hard time getting him to do his job functions.
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There are a number of objective job functions that he simply avoids, but he does the primary job duty well. I’m not sure what to do. I was hoping he’d simply retire, but he told me that he doesn’t want to retire for at least another year. So now I am faced with disciplining someone who’s been poorly managed for years and who has been with the company even longer. I don’t even know how to go about having the initial conversation with him because he thinks he’s performing the job well (due to the previous manager).

How key are the job functions that he doesn’t perform? If they’re relatively minor and if his value to the company is high enough because of the primary work that he does well, it might be reasonable to redefine his role so that the stuff he’s not doing is no longer part of it. That’s not crazy if he’s otherwise a high performer and the work allows for that kind of rejiggering — but only if he brings a ton of value; if he’s not, then you shouldn’t be rearranging things to accommodate that.

If that’s not the case, though, then you need to give him clear and direct feedback. Just be straightforward: “Bob, I’ve noticed that you’re not doing X and Y. They’re important parts of your role and I want to get them back on your radar. Can you make sure you’re doing them weekly (or whatever makes sense here)?” Then if you don’t see it happening, you revisit it: “We talked a couple of weeks ago about the need for you to do X and Y. It hasn’t happened. What’s going on?”

If he points out that he hasn’t been required to do this work in the past, you can say, “I can’t speak to what Jane needed when you were working with her, but what I need from this role is what we discussed. Can you do that?” Then, if you’re still not seeing the work getting done, then you treat it like you would any other serious performance issue — meaning that you escalate the seriousness of the conversation and start imposing consequences. More here.
Question 2. I’m not allowed to know the salaries of the employees I manage

About eight months ago, I was promoted to director at the small company where I work. I now oversee a department that had already existed prior to my promotion. At no time was I informed of any of that department’s salaries. When it came time to do a review for the head of that department, I completed the review form and asked for his salary information so I could figure out what raise would be appropriate.

I was told to give him the review, letting him know that I recommended he be given a raise, and to have him see my boss for details. I have no idea how much of a raise he is getting or if it’s fair. I have no control over it whatsoever. Am I right to feel uncomfortable about this? I’ve been in management over 18 years and have never experienced such a thing.

Yes, this is weird and not at all typical. Managers generally know what the people working for them are earning, and if for some reason they don’t, they can generally find out. Your boss is going to some odd lengths to keep that information from you.

I’d ask about it, saying something like, “I’d like to know what the people working for me are earning so that I can have open discussions with them about raises, retention and so forth. Is there a reason you’d prefer not to share that information with me?”

Tom Wolters is a business leader who has diverse knowledge and skills that helped him lead companies to success. Visit this Facebook page for more tips on management and business.