Meddlesome Co-Manager

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about interruption by a manager from another department:

I manage the call center of a company that is comprised of a staff of 10 people. We strive to keep our hold time down to 45 seconds and for the most part, reach that goal daily. Recently, due to a medical leave, a vacation and a recent termination, we are extremely short handed and our hold time is suffering. We are aware of the issue, but encourage our CSR’s to process their calls, concentrating on giving each customer the best service possible, and let the hold time be secondary. We do not want them short-cutting quality for quantity.

Today, a manager from another department in my company called our customer line to -see how long he had to hold! When my CSR answered, he said, “Just checking to see if my hold time was under 45 seconds” I was livid!!!! Not only did this phone call ADD to our calls holding, it was really none of his business. I do not report to him, nor does my manager or even his manager. He has no direct interest in my department. He has departmental issues of his own that need to be addressed and needs to focus on them rather than complicating mine.I felt like running into his office and asking him if he was so concerned with the hold time, why didn’t he come fill in for the missing CSR’s?! Thankfully common sense took over and I decided to ask you instead. How do I address this issue, tactfully? I feel he needs to know that this intrusion was unnecessary and added to our problem.

Signed, Managing On My Own

Dear Managing On My Own:

How irritating for you! You certainly want to handle this professionally. But, I’m not certain that tactful–as in gentle–needs to be a requirement. Let me share some thoughts and you can see if they might help you develop a plan of action.

1. I think your manager should certainly be made aware of what happened, if you haven’t already talked about it. This situation goes past being frustrating mainly to you. Think of how the CSR felt when her or she answered the phone! And you can bet that person mentioned it to someone else. That is the kind of thing that leaves employees feeling the company doesn’t really care how they feel or think, but is only anxious to check up on them. And, the other manager represents the company just as much as you do. So, I think the other manager’s actions were not only insensitive to the hassles that were already present in the call center, but sent a bad message about his role in the company.

2. When you talk to your manager you may want to ensure that this was not part of a test directed by someone higher. I wouldn’t think that would be the case, but it would be worth checking.

3. If you don’t want to talk to your own manager about it, you should consider communicating with the other manager via email if possible, rather than by phone or in person–to ensure that you have your question and his response on the record.

4. If you talk in person it will likely be best to keep in brief and civil: “Joe, I understand you called yesterday and told the CSR that you were checking hold time. What was that all about?”If he doesn’t have a work related reason, based on being told to do it, you could then say, “Well, all that did was add one more call to the queue, which delayed other calls, and frustrated the CSR and me. Don’t do that again.” Then you simply wait for his response. If he apologizes and says he won’t do it again, you’ve accomplished your goal. If he makes excuses and acts as though he doesn’t care about your request, then you will certainly have a reason to ask your manager to contact his manager about it, to direct him not to do it again. It isn’t a major issue, comparatively, but certainly one you don’t want to have happen again. It isn’t fair to the CSRs, nor to you. And, it sends the message that you aren’t the one in charge of productivity–he is. or WILL still be working with and around this manager, in the future. So, I can see why it is important to handle this clearly and professionally. But, you want to ensure that he knows, without a doubt, that he is to never do it again.

You might want to consider suggesting to the other manager that since the CSR DID answer the phone in a short amount of time, the manager might like to write a positive message of recognition to that person, if the CSR was courteous, or to your entire section. If he balks at that, consider writing one yourself, as a way to get something good out of the situation.I hope this doesn’t happen again–but also that your staffing situation improves!Whatever you decide to do, you will be leading by example when you show how to handle frustrations appropriately.Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.