An LYS reader sent in the following question:
“My concern is not my boss, she is great and I share her vision for our school. I have a problem with my so called administrative partner. He is inefficient and his teachers rely on me or others to get the job done rather than on him. How can a person like this be allowed to continue what they are doing year after year? He is not a leader at all and never takes responsibilities for his teams. It’s to the point where I am considering leaving because working with him is unbearable.
Your issue is not uncommon. Part of your success in dealing with the frustration of this situation will be based on your understanding that on many levels a career is like a big tournament. When you start out there are a lot of participants but there are also lots of positions. You work hard and catch a few breaks and you move up to the next bracket. As long as you continue to work hard and apply yourself you have chance to keep advancing. The problem is that at any time, one can opt out of the “tournament,” and in education, they get to stay in their terminal bracket without adding any value for a long time.
So why is slacker allowed to survive? And even more frustrating, why do even excellent bosses and leaders tolerate this?
As they saying goes, there are a million ways to do something wrong, but only a few ways to do it right. Since you indicate that you have an able boss, I’m going to focus on why the good leader tolerates the slacker. From my own experience and observation, I think there are four primary reasons.
1. The leader isn’t aware of the magnitude of the incompetence. As you move up, your span of observation increases. With that increase, the little details often get overlooked. If things are working like they should, from a leadership standpoint, there is no problem. If there is no problem, leadership attention is focused elsewhere.
2. The leader is aware of the magnitude of the incompetence, but in the overall scheme of things, this is a “B” or “C” priority.
3. The leader is aware of the magnitude of the incompetence, and is making you deal with it. There is incompetence everywhere. Learning how to deal with it and overcome it is a valuable skill set that can be purposefully honed.
4. The leader is just avoiding a fight.
I presented all of above so I could better answer your question. How you handle this situation is (of course) completely up to you. First of all, I advise you to put aside the concept of “fair.” There is no “fair,” there just “is.” If you accept the concept of “is” over “fair,” in the long run you will be able to out-work and out-think the slackers, whether they are below, beside or above you.
You also need to work to figure out how your boss sizes up the situation. If it is due to Scenario 1, make your boss aware that the slacker is subtracting value from the organization.
If it is due to Scenario 2, let the slacker fail. A couple of inopportune failures and the boss’ “C” priority quickly becomes an “A” priority.
If it is due to Scenario 3, take advantage of the opportunity. Brezina was a master at setting up Scenario 3. Do know that I cussed him daily when I was living through it, but now I thank him everyday. Anybody can achieve success with the willing and competent. Learn how to achieve success with the unwilling and incompetent and you move from the ranks of a commodity to an asset. In fact I was recently mentoring two up and coming assistant principals who were having to work with marginal team mates. They knew it and I knew it. I explained to both that they were being purposefully tested. One rose to the challenge and is now a principal. One hunkered down and pouted and won’t become a principal anytime soon.
If it is due to Scenario 4, you have to make the case for the boss to take action. But that case had best be student focused. If it is just to make your job easier, cowboy up.
I hope this helps. If I missed the boat or if you want to discuss this in greater detail, e-mail me your phone number.
Think. Work. Achieve.