Ooopsie!

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“Is it posted yet?!”, was the plaintive cry of Joanne.  She was asking this of John, who had already called in several favors to make sure that the process for reviewing and posting web content was expedited.  This was on top of the favors he had called in to get the form created that was necessary to stay in compliance with the state regulations.  Joanne was so frantic because the company was already out of compliance with the regulation, having missed the deadline for posting by over a week.   Joanne offered any help she could to get this task done, but there really wasn’t anything anyone could do.  Happily, the form was posted, and there were no regulatory fines assessed for not making the deadline.

The saddest thing in all of this was it didn’t have to be this way.  It wasn’t Joanne’s fault, nor was it John’s.  It was actually Valerie’s fault.  Valerie, who received the notice from the state several weeks ago, had let the notice languish on her desk.  When she finally got around to reviewing her mail, she saw her mistake.  Once she had realized the error, she sprang into action…and handed the letter off to Joanne, claiming it was her department’s responsibility, and then happily trotted back to her office where she could ignore more mail. She offered no assistance, no apologies, or took any responsibility for this debacle.  It was now someone else’s issue, and she was happy to have it off her desk.

This was not the first time Valerie had accomplished this particular feat.  When she changed jobs, instead of following company policy that stated she needed to do both jobs until someone new was hired, she took her work off her desk, went to a former subordinate, and informed the subordinate that she was now responsible for this work.  And, you guessed it, walked away.

The most ironic thing about this whole situation? Valerie is the person in the company who is in charge of recommending remedial action for employees when they are deemed not doing their work to their manager’s satisfaction.

Want a sure way of making sure your employees look out only for themselves?  Do it yourself.  Don’t hold yourself accountable for anything more than you have to.  Don’t apologize when you make an error.  Dump work on someone else and make sure the only feeling you have is relief that you don’t have to do it.   You are teaching them the lessons of the workplace.

Oh, but make sure you register surprise when they act on these lessons.  After all, you can do this, but they must be held accountable.

 

Following Up? What’s That?

It was the move that Employee Relations had told every employee they needed to do.  If there was an issue, the employee needed to report it to Employee Relations so something could be done about it.  Little heed was given to the comment by many employees that, if ER did not do its job well, the employee might be subject to some kind of retaliation.  While this issue was brought up many times, it never was properly addressed by Employee Relations.  The following story illustrates just this concern.

Two employees from a department had the same complaint about their supervisor.  The supervisor wasn’t doing her job.  Since this job affected the welfare of the company, it was a big concern for the employees.  Since the employees worked diligently, and often past their usual hours, to get the data into the system that was needed by the company, they were understandably upset that the supervisor never reviewed or approved the data transfer when it needed to be done.  Instead, she would just tell one of the employees to approve the data, without review, and let it go at that.  The employees, who would then be responsible if the data was incorrect, were reluctant to do this.  The supervisor didn’t care.  She didn’t want to do her job.

The employees brought their complaint to the employee relations department of their company.   The ER department, to its credit, handled the complaint with professionalism and courtesy to the employees.  The supervisor’s manager was contacted, provided the details, and together they worked out an action plan for this supervisor to do the job she was being paid to do.  The employees were thanked.  ER checked this off of their collective To Do list and moved on.

Except, there was one problem.  The supervisor didn’t follow this plan of rectification.  The supervisor’s manager didn’t put the plan into place.  The problem persisted until one day when it truly did cause a major problem for the company.  THEN something happened.

There are many areas to ask questions here.  Why didn’t the supervisor’s manager implement the plan, or keep a better eye on the supervisor?  Why wasn’t the plan followed?  Most prominently, why didn’t ER do any follow up?

Here, we have a case where employees did the right thing, endangering themselves so they could put forth a complaint.  Didn’t it deserve a one month, six week, or eight week follow-up to see how the solution was working?  If ER had done this, they would have found out nothing had been done and the supervisor continued her errant ways.  Moreover, if they had followed up, maybe an embarrassment for the company might have been averted.  Now, with a certain organic substance hitting the fan, what once was a small problem is now coming to the attention of people higher up on the organization chart.

Fortunately, these two employees were not subjected to retaliation by their supervisor, and didn’t endure any additional stress beyond having to deal with this supervisor’s actions, or lack of them.  However, that can’t always be said to be the outcome.  How can employees trust their ER department when the ER department itself can’t even do the most basic of follow-up with the employees?  A simple phone call would have ascertained that nothing had changed, which could have prompted actions, which could have prevented a major issue down the road.   If the ER department wants the trust of their employees, then then have to prove they are worthy of that trust.

Or, more simply put, you want employees to trust Employee Relations enough to report incidents that will keep the company out of trouble, then those same employees deserve more than to be abandoned by ER for sticking out their necks.

The Pink Tie Addendum

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Remember the Pink Tie Matter?  The situation where a male was constantly the target by remarks from his female co-workers in what was a majority female department?  There’s an addendum to the story.

Shortly after Serena’s meeting, the entire department gathered for its monthly staff meeting.  In reporting that the department had snagged a very well known book author to address its latest leadership conference, the following was said.

“Not only will he inspire our leaders, but he is so damn good looking”

and

“I think we should be able to expense our makeup and hair styling so we can look our best when we meet him”

Needless to say, Mitch and Vernon were not amused.  However, this time, Mitch spoke up saying, “If I had said such a thing about a woman’s looks, I would have been called a sexist pig and had every woman in this meeting yelling at me for being so inappropriate”.

Were the women in the meeting silenced into shame?  Was there a pause to contemplate what Mitch had said?  No and no.  Instead, he was told he was too sensitive and that he should just get over it.

On the way out, Vernon thanked Mitch for saying what needed to be said.  They both agreed that it would not matter at all, but still, he had spoken up against what he perceived as rank hypocrisy.

Too bad none of his management bothered to see it that way.

The Pink Tie Matter

In The Crowning Glory, we discussed the concept of employee privacy and how one leader in a department decided to approve an idea of discarding employee privacy for a few laughs.  The prize for the ‘best’ story would be a crown.  This particular choice of prize brought up another interesting issue, one that had been around under this leader for years.

It was a department of around 20 people.  Of those 20 people, 16 were female, 4 were male.  Of those 4 men, only 2 of them were permanent employees — Vernon and Mitch.  The other two males, a temp and an intern, would soon be gone.  Vernon and Mitch were used to this.  Mitch had been the last male hired in the department, and all subsequent hires had been female, with all but one of the hiring managers being female.  They never saw anything wrong with this, though Vernon and Mitch shared the thought that, if males had tried this, there would have been many complaints of sexism in the hiring process.

Over the years, the unit leader had often mocked Mitch and Vernon, making uncomfortable comments about them, passing it off as a joke.  This particular situation was typical of most.  At the beginning of the meeting, the unit leader, Serena, decided she had to make a comment about the pink tie that Vernon was wearing.  She mentioned that how ‘unVernon’ it was and how it was probably his wife that had picked it out.  She had commented many times regarding the clothes that Vernon especially had worn, but nothing ever mentioned about the dress of any of the female employees.  All the females laughed at this.

Later on, when the crown had been decided as the prize for the ‘best’ story, Vernon and Mitch looked at each other.  Serena, having seen this, asked inquisitively, was there a problem with this?  As usual, Mitch and Vernon said nothing, knowing it would not change anything in Serena’s mind, save for branding Vernon and Mitch as never wanting to have any fun.

Later on, walking back from the meeting, another female manager said with a smile, “I look forward to seeing the crown on one of your heads!”  Vernon and Mitch smiled, with Mitch making a comment to Vernon that the female manager could go do something anatomically impossible.

Years ago, I worked in a building that was very old.  So old, as a matter of fact, that they only had men’s rooms on each floor, as women were not expected to be in the workforce.  It was a very pointed reminder of how the workforce has changed, and changed for the better.  Diverse views and different perspectives help enrich the workforce experience, allowing new ideas to flourish.

Yes, many things have changed, but one thing that doesn’t seem to have changed, at least with some managers, is inappropriate behavior towards the opposite sex.  Years ago, it was women’s complaints against their male bosses.  Today it still is true that some male bosses act in inappropriate fashion, with the mayor of San Diego is a prime example.  However, we can now add in women bosses and their inappropriate comments and actions towards their male employees.  No matter the sex, it is laughed off and dismissed by the superior.  What makes it ironic is that women fought so long to be treated as equals, and now a minority of them are acting the way their foremothers fought so hard to correct.

No matter which side of the gender divide they happen to fall on, a good manager knows what to say and what not to say.  Yes, there are cases where something they may utter is misconstrued or should not have been said.  At those points, a good manager knows when to own up to those comments and apologize.   By repeatedly singling out someone of the opposite sex, and a minority in the department as well, managers open themselves up to disrespect, accusations, and possibly even lawsuits.  Sensitivity training is not a male or female issue, it is a manager and employee issue.  Stories like the one related show that it is still in sore need today.

Let’s elevate the workplace humor to more mundane topics and get it out of the clique mentality.  Male or female, it is simply good business.

My Kid’s Better Than Your Kid

It could best be described as an open secret.  During Sylvia’s first year with the company, she took more than her share of the company’s ‘medical time’ because of her child.  Now, when I say she took more of her share of medical time, that is a literal statement.  She took more than her share of the company’s medical time.

The medical time concept was pretty unique for companies.  It allowed you to take hours or a day to be used for things such as doctor’s visits, taking relatives to the doctors, or preventative exams.  Of course, it could also be used as genuine sick time, but it was very flexible.   This was a good thing for Sylvia.  Having had to come back to work shortly after her child was born, she needed to place him in daycare.  Daycare being daycare, the boy got more than his share of colds and other germs.  Sylvia would often get a call that her child needed to be taken home from daycare because of some illness or other.

To accommodate this, Sylvia would user her medical leave time.  After all, that is what it was there for, wasn’t it?  However, as the year progressed, more and more people noticed that she had reached and even exceeded her limit of medical leave time allowed for an average employee.  It was a running joke that she was on her 18th day of her 12 day allotment.  Nobody brought this up because they realized she was not taking it frivolously, but rather so she could help her child during a very rough first year.

Chief among the defenders of Sylvia was Marvin, one of her employees.   While not a parent himself, he saw the need for Sylvia to be with her sick child, and often held down the department while Sylvia had to leave.  He never complained about this, and never mentioned that she had well surpassed her medical leave days by the middle of the year.

I mentioned that Marvin was not a parent.  This is strictly true, but for anyone who knew Marvin, his dogs were his children.  While he tried to not go overboard and become ‘one of those dog people’, his colleagues knew how devoted he was to the three dogs that shared his life.  It would have surprised no one to know that when one of the dogs was diagnosed with a possible cancer, Marvin would do what he needed to help his ‘child’.

To that end, he talked with Sylvia and indicated he would like to take some medical leave when he had to take his dog to possible cancer treatments.  Sylvia, being the fair and compassionate manager she was, told him absolutely not.  Medical leave was to be used strictly for humans and not for dogs, so Marvin could not use it.  Rules had to be followed, after all.

Marvin’s world, and his opinion of Sylvia, changed in that instant.  Sylvia wanted to play by the rules, then play by the rules they would.  While he could not begin counting Sylvia’s multiple days off during her first year and still hope to keep his job, he could follow Sylvia’s lead.  The rules stated he did not have to tell her the reason for taking one medical leave day, so he didn’t.  She had destroyed the open relationship he had tried to cultivate.  So, if there was a vet visit, he had a medical leave day, and nobody was allowed to ask why.  When someone in the department would ask, he would smile politely and say it was a private matter.

In the past, Marvin would drag himself in on a day he wasn’t feeling well.  Now, he began using his sick time.  Again, using one or two was a private matter, with three being the magic number for a doctor’s note.  Marvin was never sick more than two days.  He worked his hours, and that was it.  He took his vacation days, where previously he would give some back to the company.   In other words, he became a conspicuous rule follower, using the rules to his own benefit.

In other words, in the 5 seconds Sylvia indicated that while she could bend the rules with wild abandon and Marvin couldn’t, she lost a good employee and gained a rule follower and a clock watcher.  Five seconds to destroy trust and turn an employee from engaged to disengaged. It might have been a world record.

There is an old saying that rules are meant to be broken.  While that may be a bit extreme, in certain circumstances, they can be bent.  A compassionate workplace is one that recognizes this and allows bending of the rules.  It is part of what makes a workplace more than just a workplace, but a location where people may not enjoy going, but certainly don’t mind.  That compassion has to be spread equally around, and not reserved for just a privileged few.

When someone who has seen the rules bent for them suddenly decides that the rules must be strictly adhered to by someone else, the spell is broken.   If it is a manager who does this to an employee, the damage they have caused can be irreparable.  Why?  Because, the manager is creating a two tiered system.  They can flout rules when it is of benefit to them, but will apply them strictly when they gain no benefit from it…except for the good will of their employee.

How much is that good will worth?  How much in extra hours worked, extra effort employed, and going the extra mile?  How much long term benefit can bending a rule for someone else in the short term create?  How much damage do you cause when your compassion stops at the tip of your nose.  You may have kept the rules, but lost a good employee.  How much have you lost in the long term?

A good manager is one who is compassionate.  He or she knows that by showing compassion, they will get it back, and in most instances, get it back multi-fold.  They look past their own self-interest to see the wider world and the bigger picture.

For those that can’t, they lose more than they can ever imagine, if they could imagine past their own viewpoint.

The Rush Job

It was a fairly simple process in and of itself.  Before you could get a promotion, you had to have your job reviewed by the compensation analyst.  She would review your job duties, review the metrics, look at what the competitive data was, and let you know what level this job was supposed to be.  People protested at times.  They wanted the job to be at a higher or lower level based on where they thought the job fit in their organization, or according to their own whims.  The analyst was firm, and was backed up by her department and its management.   So, when this process needed to be applied to her own department, you would think that there would be no problem.  You would think wrongly.

You may recall the story of the departmental manager who was temporarily promoted to lead the department when the executive who was its leader was temporarily incapacitated.   You can read about that situation, in part, here and here.   When it was found out by the temporary leader that the executive was coming back, she arranged to have another group in the department report to her, though the executive had rejected the idea previously.  Now, since the executive wasn’t there to protest, the manager worked overtime in getting this change in the structure of the department done.  Time was of the essence, if for no other reason that it would mean a promotion for the manager.  Oh, it was not as high as the executive was, but it would be a bump in status and pay.  So, hastily, job descriptions were written, justifications written, and the right people spoken to.  All that had to be done was have the compensation analyst give her blessing.

Usually, as others would attest, this could be a time-consuming protest.  The analyst was a busy person.  She had many requests.  This would not do.  So, when the file for the promotion for the manager was put on her desk, a note was attached to it.  “Approve this”.  In other words, there would need to be no review.  There would need to be no analysis.   There would need to be no research.  Just enter it into the official system as the new role and level, enter the generous new salary, and that was it.  No protest was allowed.  While everyone else could wait, this manager could not…no…should not.  Once again she had proved that there was a set of rules for everyone else, and a different set for her.

We all have read about the politicians who raid the public treasury for their own good.  We have heard of the corporate executives who have used the funds of the company for their own personal gains, whether it be lavish spending on themselves while they are in the position, or an extraordinary retirement or severance package.  We may shake our heads at it or decry it loudly, depending on the level of ire we have for the sheer nerve of the actor.

We get upset because it should be the other way.  The person should be working for the benefit of the company, not the other way around.  If an employee or average person had tried to do this, they would be reprimanded, fired, or have legal action taken against them.  No, the employee is told to sacrifice for the company each and every time, and if they are hurt in the process, oh well, that’s too bad.

No matter where you are in the company, the rules should be the same.  They are not bent because you are a certain level, or have a certain power over someone.  Something should not be rushed through simply because it can’t stand the light of day, or an honest and thorough investigation by a person with integrity.  This becomes especially crucial when others in the department have been denied the privilege of moving up, stopped by you for reasons professional or personal.

You can’t have the moral authority to tell others to act in the company’s or department’s best interest when you are flouting the rules at every turn.  If you do, you will be promoted to a new, informal title — hypocrite.

Showing Up Is More Than Half the Battle

There is an old saying that goes, ‘Showing up is half the battle’.  In most cases that is true.  In the following story, showing up is more than half the battle…it is pretty much everything.

The note left no vague notions of what the department head wanted.  She wanted the department to attend the latest ceremony celebrating employee anniversaries with the company.  It was held every quarter, but representation from the department which held the ceremony, her department, had dwindled in recent quarters, and she wanted to put on a good show for upper management.   She ‘strongly urged’ people to attend.

Flashback to four years ago.  The newly promoted manager had taken on a new project.  Let’s improve the recognition for the service anniversaries at the company.  She tasked her newly formed group to do just that.  They all did their part, gave her the proposal, which she accepted and told them to implement.  She made it explicitly clear that every member of her department was to show up for this first ceremony.  Schedules would be changed.  Appointments shuffled.  Telecommuting days rescheduled or abandoned for that week.  This was going to be her first big splash and she wanted to make it count.  While not said outright, if you did not show up, you would be in serious trouble.  They would have been brought to the Employee Relations Manager and been chewed out.

Flash forward to the current employee anniversary celebration.  As the employees of the department surveyed the crowd, they noticed some conspicuous absences.  Among those absences?  The original manager who had mandated that everyone be there for her debut, and the Employee Relations Manager.  The department knew there was now some bad blood between the leader and this manager, and took it as a sign that the manager deliberately snubbed the affair.  The ER Manager reported to that manager, so saw no need to attend either.

More than just the not-so-behind-the-scenes bickering, however, this illustrated what was wrong in the department.  The manager wanted everyone to attend her ceremony, but now that the department head was running things, she saw no reason to change her plans and attend.  In other words, it was one thing for the manager to demand obedience, but not to show the same respect to the department head.  What message did this send to the department?  “Do what I say, but not what I do”.

It’s very difficult to follow someone who doesn’t walk their talk.  Your actions tell more of your character than your words, and when your words and your actions contradict each other, then it is very difficult for people to respect you.  When the basis of your power should be...should be…the respect you engender from your staff, you cannot expect much respect when your words and your actions only have a passing familiarity with each other.  What is the only other resort?  What the department head hinted at and the manager said more plainly…punishment.

You can manage based on respect, or you can manage based on fear.  Want to manage based on respect?  Start by showing up.

Publicizing Your Prejudice — A Sarah Story

A couple of weeks ago I told the story of ‘Sarah’, who reveled in finding the cloud in every silver lining for employees she personally didn’t want to deal with or didn’t like.   I wanted to record a few of these to illustrate my point.

Emily knew she was on Sarah’s list.  No matter what she did, she could not please Sarah, who seemed to delight in picking her work apart, looking for the bad among the good, magnifying that bad, and writing her up with yet ‘another example’ of how right Sarah was to have the opinion she did of Emily.   It was under this pall that Emily and her manager, Bob, went into Sarah’s office to discuss the preparations for a big company event that Emily was tasked with.  While they were both prepared for anything, they didn’t expect the conversation to come down to the difference between 3 and 5.

Emily had done remarkable work, with Bob’s help.  All the vendors were accounted for, the internal facilities arrangements were made, help from the department was garnered, and the food had been bought or arranged for.  It would be a fantastic event, one which Emily had worked very hard to accomplish.  Sarah looked at all this and nodded, giving grudging assent to all the work done.  Her eyes looked over the arrangement and a smile crossed her face.  Bob and Emily knew this was not a good thing.

“I see”, Sarah started, “that you advertised and marketed this three different ways.  We have five ways we can market an event.  Why didn’t you do all five?”  Emily mentioned that one additional way was going to be done in the next day or so, to keep the advertising fresh. The last one she didn’t see the value in, so didn’t do it.

That was all Sarah needed.  This was ‘unacceptable’.  There should have been five marketing avenues for this.  It was just another way that Emily was incompetent and that the whole event would collapse because the one way not being used would be the linchpin.  The one way not currently used should have been done earlier, and Emily should have known this.   All Emily’s good work was to be ignored, and two marketing avenues would be magnified to unrealistic proportions in order to prove a point.

The event itself was a rousing success, attracting hundreds of employees and garnering praise from the vendors attending.  When Bob did a wrap up of this for Sarah, indicating that, with the four avenues employed, they had record attendance.  Sarah didn’t seem to care, saying the success of the event didn’t matter.  What mattered only was that Emily couldn’t be trusted to run an event like this.

An old joke goes that a woman and her child were walking along the beach.  A huge wave sweeps the child out to sea.  The woman is highly distraught, praying for her son to return.  Another wave comes and safely deposits the child back on the beach, alive and unharmed.  The woman looks at her son, looks heavenward, and says, “He had a hat…’

A good manager looks past his or her own prejudices and focuses on the facts.  They go beyond their own biases and looks objectively at what is being done.  That manager may even have their mind changed.  They allow the facts to bend them, not the other way around.

When a manager has made up their mind and then twists each situation to fit that preconception, no matter what the facts are, then anyone working for that manager who is not on the A list is doomed from the start.  It is unfair to the employee, and demoralizing to the rest of the department.  Who’s next?  Who gets the preconception leveled on them next?

No matter if a manager likes or dislikes someone, they have a duty to look at each of their employees objectively.  When they don’t, and just find the bad instead of the good and bad, they do a disservice to themselves and their employees.

In that case, 3 out of 5 really is bad.

Fix It!

Editor’s Note:  This is the second of a series highlighting opportunities that managers have missed to help an employee who was reaching out to them with a problem.

In a previous blog, I spoke of Max, who worked for Sarah.  In that blog, I discussed that Max had run the department after Sarah had received a promotion.  For this, Max received very little in terms of compensation, and even when some of that compensation was taken away, he was still expected to run the department until the new manager came.  Sarah had made it plain that the manager would not be him.

The point of that blog was that, when Sarah had an opportunity to provide Max with some assistance, she instead chose to take a very easy and callous way out, telling him that he should quit.  She did not offer any help.  She did not offer any advice.  She did not offer any sympathy.  She just wanted him gone.

Delving a little deeper into the story, we see that this was not Sarah’s first time in slapping Max back instead of giving him a hand up.

The position of manager of the department had to be posted, as per Human Resources rules.  Max saw the posting and had applied to it, though he knew it would be a rough go, based on his relationship with Sarah.  Still, he would not be accused of not being interested in the job, and having that as a reason why he was not offered the position.  He sighed, applied, and shook his head that he had to think in such strategic ways for a job he was already doing.

As expected, Max was called into Sarah’s office and informed that he was not being considered for the job.  That was not surprising.  What was surprising was the reason Sarah gave to him.  The reason? “I don’t think you can manage anything”.  There ended the discussion.  Sarah would explain no further, except to say he was not being considered for the job.

This struck Max hard, but not for the reason of being turned down.  It was the reason he was turned down.  If Sarah felt he could not ‘manage anything’, why was he managing the department?  Why wasn’t it taken away from him?  Was it simply that Sarah did not want to get her hands dirty with such details, so anyone, as long as it wasn’t her, was handed the job, even someone she didn’t think could manage?  If that was the case, Max was ready to nominate Sarah for the Hypocrite of the Year Award, as she was talking out of both sides of her mouth.

What also struck Max was the finality of Sarah’s remarks, but looking at Sarah’s actions in the past, it was no real surprise.  Sarah’s last word was that she didn’t think he could manage anything.  Other managers that Max had, when they saw a deficiency, would work with Max to get skills, experience, or training in that area so he would improve.  Not Sarah.  She seemed content in criticizing and rebuking and then shipping the person off.   Max knew he was not the only one in this boat.  Sarah was famous for her criticism and her shiny trinkets of gifts that she considered the end all and be all of development.  She would not actually work on someone else’s development, as that would not help her.  Once again, she didn’t want to sully her hands.

A manager’s job is more than just pointing out what is wrong.  It is helping the person do what is right.  If something is seen as lacking, a good manager works with the person to understand the gap and bridge it.  That is what development is all about.   It is taking the time to say that something is wrong, and let’s work to make it right.

A lazy manager will do the first — tell that there is a problem, but not the second — help solve the problem.  No, the lazy manager sees his or her job as pointing out the problem and shouting, “Fix it!”, but offering no assistance beyond that.  That would take work.  That would mean effort.

That would mean your employees see that you actually care about them.  That one sentence is the crux of good management.  The lazy manager doesn’t care.  They look at the short term…less work for them, and not the long term…greater engagement and satisfaction.

Well, that’s not exactly true.  Sarah was engaged and satisfied…she got something off her chest, and gave an insult to Max.  In her mind, that was all that mattered.  Then she could turn her attention to why nobody in the department seemed to like working there.

The Petulant Manager Strikes Again

Recently, I wrote about a leader in an organization who was acting more like a petulant child than someone who is supposed to be the example setter for the group.  As she didn’t get to keep a temporary job where she realized her dream of leading an organization, but did get a promotion and a big, fat raise out of the deal, she decided to act as if she would take her ball and go home from the playground.  It seems that this manager wasn’t through having a temper tantrum.

One of the people in the department she used to supervise came to her with a question.  It was within the scope of her knowledge, and she had trumpeted her knowledge of the subject to many.  The manager could have done two things and still stayed professional:

  • Answered the question, but suggest that the employee go see the head of the department about her view on the subject, as the head of the department was the person this employee now reported to, or
  • Politely referred the employee to the head of the department, indicating that she would not want to contradict what the employee’s manager would say

Unfortunately, neither of those happened.  Instead, the manager snapped at the employee, saying, “I’m no longer your boss, go talk to the person who is”.  The employee, feeling her head bitten off, slowly backed away and spoke to her own manager, who answered the question and settled the matter.

I am reminded of a story from several years ago.  A first level vice president at a company was speaking to me about how there seems to be no teamwork anymore.  The reason for this discussion was that an employee had informed him that she could not handle an assignment that he wanted to give to her.  On the surface, it would seem the v.p. had a point.  If one knew the department, however, one would have seen that the v.p. was shedding crocodile tears, as he rarely did anything that didn’t benefit himself first and foremost, and this was one of those situations.  He was trying to pawn work off on this employee, and when he didn’t get his way, was couching it in terms of teamwork and not helping each other.

The leader could have politely dealt with the employee, acting in a professional manner and guiding her to where she should have asked the question.  No, she was still stewing in her own bitterness of not getting what she wanted and lashing out at people she knew could not inform her that this was unacceptable behavior.  This behavior, which she would have called anyone else on the carpet about, didn’t have to happen, and added another count to why the department wasn’t exactly fond of this leader.  Apparently, she didn’t care about being a role model.  She only wanted to take her ball and go home.

Part of leadership is learning to lose gracefully and putting the best interests of the department ahead of your own.  A good manager or leader does this, knowing they still have to put on the professional face when dealing with their people.  Want to stomp and fume?  Walk out of your building and find the nearest playground.  There you will find those who act in such a way, and they won’t care how important you think you are.