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THE QUESTION

I manage a small group of three people; they report to me, and I report to a manager above me. My boss has a real favourite in my group. He put her into the job, even though she's short on qualifications. She struggles with the job and I spend a lot of time showing her things, doing her work for her, and giving some of her work to the others in my group.

The problem is, my boss won't hear a word against her, thinks she is great, sweet, and loyal. She is, but not really up to the job. There have already been misunderstandings between my boss and I because she communicates directly with him, and I am always seen in the wrong. This is frustrating given how much time and energy I put into her. It's so stressful that I am thinking of quitting. Any advice?

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THE FIRST ANSWER

Heather Faire

Human resources executive, Atlanta

So your boss thinks "Miss Favourite" is great and you don't. Why is that?

Perhaps you are the answer you are looking for. Stop doing "Miss Favourite's" job for her and hiding her poor performance. Instead of giving her work to the other two employees, build their leadership skills by having them peer mentor Miss Favourite. Provide training so she is can acquire the skills you believe she lacks.

Less work on your plate and a more reasonably distributed workload across your team will lead to less stress and a more pleasant environment.

Mentoring and training may improve Miss Favourite's performance and increase productivity. Or it may not. Either way your boss will begin to see what you see and make more informed decisions.

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THE SECOND ANSWER

Billy Anderson

Founder of The Courage Crusade, Toronto

The best solution in any relationship is one that 1) keeps everyone looking good (people hate looking bad), and 2) presents the issue as an opportunity for something better. Bosses want you to bring them opportunities, not problems. It's the difference between sounding like a team player versus a Whiny Wendy.

So, ask yourself, "What is the opportunity with this challenge?" If this employee was better able to fulfill her responsibilities, how would you all benefit? Might you have more time for the bigger projects that can make your boss's job easier?

If she stopped communicating directly to your boss, would it provide you with a better chance to address your team's challenges? Would you be able to make more effective use of everyone's time? These are opportunities your boss may love to hear.

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Separately, why do you feel the need to cover up for her? The simplest way to reveal her lack of performance is to stop doing her work. This may seem harsh – it kind of throws her under the bus – but maybe that would be a good thing for her long-term development.

Often, our challenges at work mirror our challenges outside of work. Do you find yourself "filling in" or "covering up" for people in your personal life too? Kids, romance, friends? It's something to consider.

Lastly, try not to hold all this against the favoured employee, as it may not be her fault. She may be uncomfortable with it too.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Your confidentiality is ensured.

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