Adam was ready to go for his Masters. He had been in his job a year and now was ready to take advantage of the company’s tuition reimbursement plan and go for an MBA. He had talked to the Benefits Manager, understood that he was eligible, and verified that the school and the degree was on the approved list by his company. His manager was on board with this, and he knew the process to begin his work.
He then hit a wall named Anna.
Anna was his manager’s manager, and a direct report of Sarah. Her approval was not needed for the reimbursement request, but Sarah’s was, and Sarah was likely to speak with Anna about Adam’s paperwork. It wasn’t that Anna was against Adam continuing his education. It was that she wanted him to take her choice of education and not his.
For years, Sarah was interested in having her staff look more professional by getting a certain certification. She had it, so it must be good. She had made this ‘request’ of several of her people, including Sam, and always held out the carrot of promotion within the department when the person received the certificate. Unfortunately, it never happened. So, while Sarah made a big announcement to her colleagues that another one of her people has this prestigious certification, they went nowhere in the department. Kind of one sided, don’t you think? Yet, if someone didn’t get the certificate, or failed the examination, Sarah made sure they went nowhere in the department. Sensing a pattern here, aren’t you?
Anna, being a bit intimidated by Sarah, didn’t want to upset her boss. So, she as kindly as possible suggested to Adam that he go for this certificate as well. Implicit in this ‘suggestion’ was the statement that she would not be approving his MBA request, although it would also be of benefit to her department and to the company in general. It was against every principle of the program, but that didn’t matter in Sarah’s department. It was only what would make Sarah happy, and nice, compliant staff was what made her happy. Anna would not disrupt that peace, and her job, for anything.
What’s more important to you as a leader of people — making them happy, or making your boss happy, or making life easier for you? Sometimes is has to be the second in that list, but more often it should be the first in that list. And, if you do the first in that list, it usually leads to the last in that sequence. If your main focus is making life easier for you over the happiness of your employees is paramount for you, you will succeed at your goal, as your employees will never be happy. However, that probably doesn’t matter to you, as you want a smooth ride for yourself. Courage doesn’t factor into it, only preservation does.
And that is an education in itself.