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Drill sergeant escalating to boss (you're not doing my drill fast enough!!)

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Hey everyone,

Hoping this one would make a nice case study for us as its got a lot of common work moves and counters and it applies some of what I've learnt here.  I'll start with the email I wrote for my g/f, give the background and what effect I was aiming for.  Then we can tear it apart and build it again.  (As usual, names changed to protect the guilty).  Bonus is you get to save Princess Buttercup from a couple of nasty players.

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Hi All

Thought I'd drop you a quick note, so we all have a memory jogger for our chat yesterday.

Paragraph 1

The context of the discussion is that we returned all the marking for the wounds unit within a month well before the students go on placement so they can discuss with their teachers.  Sally (Drill sergeant) thought that we could achieve faster turnaround.  Our email discussion is attached for reference.  Sally had been very busy and although the marking was all finished and she hadn't had a chance to talk to me, it's great that we spent a little time to get on the same page.

Paragraph 2

Although we've had some resourcing challenges lately and all the teachers have been helping out with extra fill-in sessions, Jane's (manager) expectation is that we should still be working towards 2-3 weeks turnaround.

Paragraph 3

Jane mentioned that Sally and I job share the coordinator role and marking equally.  Sally's obviously faster marking being an experienced teacher and she's been kindly taking some time to share views on marking with me so Jane's direction on dividing up the tasks will work nicely 🙂

Paragraph 4

Jane (manager), you're obviously very busy now so I really appreciate you taking the time to talk through such a small matter.

Love and piklets

Princess Buttercup

Background of the Players (gathered over 6 months of observation)

Nursing teachers at a higher education organisation.

Sally Drill Sergeant is known to be very precious about her teaching unit and difficult to get along with. She's also big with CYA so probably Drill sergeant/Stickler for the rules combination.  Sally is very stand-offish and doesn't make any effort to be a good herd member.

Jane Manager is a typical crowd pleasing weak manager.  She tries to keep everyone happy, really only cares about how she looks to the higher ups.  Will throw her team under the bus to cover herself.  Instead of managing her people issues, she buddies up the good teachers with the known lazy and/or difficult ones to make her life easier.

My g/f: Hannah - good teacher but new to teaching, hardworking, knows the teaching content, liked by students, classic doer.   Weaknesses: doesn't like confrontation, often taken advantage of by taskers.

What I was aiming for:

Paragraph 1:  Main ideas:

  1. point out it was a small matter (low impact and already solved)
  2. call-out that Sally hadn't talked it out first - gone straight to boss (why?)
  3. attached emails (that I wrote) show aggressive 'do it now' tone from Sally Drill sergeant - friendly collaborative lets work it out as a team tone from Princess Buttercup

Paragraph 2: Main ideas

  1. Get Jane Manager's expectation down in writing (as she flips all the time)
  2. Gently point out there hasn't been much time to do marking (as Jane manager hasn't filled positions - i.e. juicing the staff to save on her budget to look good upstairs but of course still wanting to set unrealistic marking deadline - none of the other teachers have finished their marking)

Paragraph 3: Main ideas

  1. Sally Drill Sergeant had pushed most of the marking to Princess BC, setting herself up as as supervisor.  Boss said 'nah - even split' - got this on record
  2. "..she's been kindly taking some time to share views on marking with me.." Sally Drill Sergeant is very academic (good student has just made a complaint about her crazy high marking standards)  Wanted to point her way of marking out as opinion rather than some great standard to be followed
  3. Pointed out the division of the marking tasks is fair and agree with boss

Paragraph 4: Main idea

  1. Get the manager thinking (hey the marking's finished in time, its a small thing, why doesn't Sally Drill Sergeant talk to Princess PB instead of wasting my time?)

Overall goals

  1. Put the boot into Sally Drill Sergeant (message is if you start a fight expect a few bruises)
    1. attack themes (you make drama, you're not my boss, you waste Manager's time, you're not one of us)
  2. Make it clear (by language used and length of email) that Princess BC has an ally who is well aware of workplace power plays, norms and employee rights (message is - this girl is friendly but she knows the game/better to be friends).  We've cultivated a short, chatty friendly style for previous emails.
  3. Make sure Jane Manager doesn't use this against Princess BC in her performance review.  (As she's known to try and find fault to deny pay rises and then pocket the budget saving)
  4. Don't fuck with a PU graduate (for Lucio ) - admittedly I'm not a PU grad yet coz I've cherry picked but I will be.

To me this case study is all about calibration and setting up for a long campaign.  As usual tough love guys - any feedback is good feedback.  Did I make PM proud or reply to a firecracker with a nuke?  If this is too long guys - let me know what bits you're interested in discussing and we can chop it down.

Love and pikelets

Transitioned (Political Advisor to her highness Princess Buttercup)

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Hello T.,

I like a lot the strategic thinking behind this, sounds like really high-level (positive) Machiavellianism -which is good, you need Machiavellianism to deal with Machiavellians-.

A few things I'd note:

  • Writing is more politically risky than talking: it's usually best to keep the bigger power moves at the verbal level, and keep email communication cleaner. But in this case, it seems well-crafted and professional
  • The "attached for reference" might not be read: the idea behind it is very good. Keep in mind the worst-case scenario though: Jane the manager won't read it because she's busy, but the email might be forwarded or mentioned to Sally, who now sees that move as a "ratting out", and might consider your GF an enemy in the team

And this part here:

you're obviously very busy now so I really appreciate you taking the time to talk through such a small matter.

Consider changing it to something like:

"I can imagine you're busy, so for smaller things like this one, please feel free to just stop by and talk and I'll always make time for you".

The slight difference is that "you're obviously very busy" can come across as you dictating their reality to a boss. Some of the more power-craving bosses can find it annoying -plus, you might always be wrong and they might not be crazy busy-.
And "I really appreciate you... " can come across as insincere, since you didn't really want her disturbed for such a small thing.

With the second option you always tell her she can talk, so you actively protect her time, and take the opportunity to frame your GF as a supportive lady who always makes time for her boss -bosses love that- (plus, you're also indirectly saying that Sally the drill sergeant should speak up to her, rather than going to her boss).

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks Lucio I ll  post back once I ve thought through your advice in detail.  Should have  mentioned email was copied to Jane and Sally as meeting notes.

The situation that led to my email  was that Sally didn't talk to Princess BC she just dragged her in front of the manager.

Postscript: Jane Manager spoke to princess BC today saying Sally Drill Sergeant has a few issues.

And nobody came back on email so that email becomes reality now.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano
Quote from Transitioned on March 18, 2021, 12:53 pm

Postscript: Jane Manager spoke to princess BC today saying Sally Drill Sergeant has a few issues.

That's big: sounds like your girlfriend is in a very good place then :).

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I think so and it sounds like Jane Manager thinks Princess BC wrote that email herself by nursie standards that makes her a political operator.

Jane said that  PBC should take the initiative talking to Sally DS as Sally isn't "communicative".

G/f  also said also looks like Sally Drill Sergeant lost some confidence.

We re both peaceful people.  We want to train this lady to behave better not destroy her.  She s a single mom with 2 kids.  She can have her Lebensraum as long as she stops attacking.

 

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

And of course big thanks to PM.  I was always aware of politics but had no idea what to do about it until I found PM.  Long long way to go but at least I know I m on the right path.

 

 

 

 

 

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Lucio a couple of questions on your improvements. And it might have changed since you didn't know that the email had gone to all 3 people.

1. The attaching emails for ref was to get it all on the record so Jane could see Princess BC had been positively handling the conflict and it was Sally DS who had cracked it and come crying to the manager. Would that part be better handled by a chat with the manager?

2.  When say to the manager:

"I can imagine you're busy, so for smaller things like this one, please feel free to just stop by and talk and I'll always make time for you"

Since the email has gone to Sally DS too could that  read like your trying to cut her out of the loop?

Quote from Transitioned on March 18, 2021, 8:44 pm

We re both peaceful people.  We want to train this lady to behave better not destroy her.  She s a single mom with 2 kids.  She can have her Lebensraum as long as she stops attacking.

Thumbs up to that, it's a good mindset.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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