Tag Archives: recognition

The Project: Bonus Behavior

bonus

This is the third in a series of articles detailing some of the management behaviors that took place while a certain department was working on a very labor-intensive project.  This won’t be detailing the project specifically, but how management handled the stresses on the department resulting from the project.

It was in one of the team’s staff meetings that Sarah announced that Ilene, for all her hard work on the project, was to receive a bonus.  With great fanfare, she presented Ilene with the bonus, thanking her for all her hard work.

The staff clapped for Ilene, for not to do so would have attracted Sarah’s attention, and nobody wanted that.  It wasn’t that Ilene didn’t deserve the bonus. She did.  She had worked many hours as the primary person on the project.  Always known for her good cheer, she was popular with her peers, and was always ready to pitch in to help one of her fellow co-workers.  No, it wasn’t that Ilene was either disliked or didn’t deserve the award that caused the undercurrent of tension in the conference room applause.

Then what was it?  It was the face that Ilene alone was being singled out for a bonus for her work.  Many of the staff felt that the only way Ilene was able to head this project was that many of her duties had been temporarily shuttled to other people in the department.  Thus, while Ilene had her hands full with the project, the other staff members, already burdened with the work in their job, now were faced with additional responsibilities that they were accountable for.  This led to extra hours, staying late, working night and weekends, and some very stressed and tired people.

Even this would have been overlooked by the staff if they had also received some recognition for their efforts.  They hadn’t, and that bothered them.  If you just walked in and heard Sarah, everything was done by Ilene and she managed to do everything related with the project without any assistance whatsoever.

The staff didn’t even look to monetary rewards, though that would have been nice.  They were reasonable people, and being such, recognized that the department didn’t have the financial resources to hand out checks to everyone from the department who helped out in some way.  The management and leadership, though, didn’t even offer a hearty handshake to them to thank them for their efforts.  Instead, they were just given more work to do and the expectation was set that it had to get done.

What could have management and leadership done?  How about each area head take their group out to lunch on the company to thank the staff?  How about giving one half day off to each member who took on some of Ilene’s work during the project?  How about an ice cream social for the teams as a thank you, and then announcing they had the rest of the day off, and management would cover the office for the rest of the day?

No, none of that was done.  Management had made one person, Ilene, very happy, and made the rest of the staff feel as if they didn’t matter whatsoever.  Morale would sink ever lower, people would get frustrated and leave, and management would shake their head and wonder why.  After all, didn’t they just give Ilene a bonus to show their gratitude?  They would continue with their blinders, confident that they were managing things well.

As for the staff?  Well, they probably would be told that they didn’t appreciate anything management did for them, even when management didn’t do squat.

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Never Put It In Writing

obscene phone call

No one knew who exactly told Kate about this particular management technique, but for those who reported to her, there was a general wish that she had not listened that particular day.  She was driving all of them to distraction with her schizophrenic style of feedback.

If Kate had a compliment for you, she would fire up her e-mail and send out a letter of compliment to your inbox.  It was a happy thing, of course, and one where you could be proud of your achievements.

However, if Kate had something other than a compliment for you, she would not put it in writing.  Instead, she would give you a call, and usually wait until you where there to speak with her.  At that point, she would, as the vernacular states, tear you a new one.  Once the phone call was done, you would shake your head and wonder how in one minute you could do something that warranted a complimentary e-mail, and the next minute saw you be verbally eviscerated because of some minor infraction.

Why did Kate do this?  One thought is that she was pulled aside one day and told that, if something isn’t in writing, you can’t be held accountable for it.  So, the good stuff she would be able to take credit for.  If someone called her on the bad stuff?  You could always deny it ever happened or say that your intentions were misinterpreted.

The unfortunate side effect of this is that your staff is driven to the edge of paranoia.  Your compliments are disregarded as fast as they can hit the ‘delete’ button, and every time your name shows up on the caller ID, you can assured of a shudder, an eye roll, or long, exasperated sigh.  Nobody is going to believe a word you say, and, in many cases, you will be covertly despised by your people for your ludicrous behavior.

You are a leader of people.  Don’t you think it is time you stopped making obscene phone calls?  Isn’t it time you begin to face your people as a leader, and not as a strategist, looking only at how you can get away with your petty ranting?  If there is a legitimate issue with someone, talk with them, face to face, professionally, and insist on a record of the conversation.  While you are at it, pause before you talk to that person and think if you are the one who may need to change your ways or attitude.

Your employees, everyone’s employees, deserve better than the equivalent of heaving breathing on the receiver.

The Too Long Goodbye

fish and houseguests

A few weeks ago I wrote about the retirement party for Maxine.  The party, typically, was a gathering in the cafeteria, with some presents, some speeches, and a sheet cake.  Maxine’s party, though sparsely attended, followed this pattern well.  The one exception was the gushing speech, complete with tears, from Sarah, her supervisor, on how valuable Maxine was and how she was irreplaceable.  While many of Maxine’s co-workers disagreed with this assessment, they smiled politely, had some cake, and left.

After the party had ended, the staff of Sarah’s department went back to the department and found a new e-mail in their boxes.  It was an invitation from Sarah, indicating that there was going to be a lunch for Maxine in a few weeks.  Maxine would not have to return to the office for this, as her retirement was going to be gradual, with her coming in as a ‘consultant’ for several months.  The staff began to refer to Maxine’s retirement as the Farewell Tour, wondering how long this would be dragged out.

The lunch itself even had a precedent.  For many retiring employees, their friends would hold some type of gathering for them.  The difference was that it was off company time, and paid for by the employees themselves.  The employees invited had the ability to attend or not attend, based on their feelings for the employee.  This lunch was different.  First, it was being held on company time.  Because of that, you were expected to attend, whether you wanted to or not.  If an employee pressed the issue, they would be allowed to stay behind, but would then face the wrath of Sarah in many small and ongoing ways.  No, this was a mandate to attend, or to face the consequences.

Additionally, this lunch, held at a rather expensive restaurant, was to be paid for by the department.  No other employee had ever received this type of treatment, and it made the staff wonder why Maxine received it, when others had left the department and had nothing done for them save for a cake and a card.  Was this going to be a precursor of Sarah’s tenure in the department, where some were treated differently, and better, than others?

Appreciating your team is something every leader should do.  A staff that is appreciated is a staff who will work harder, work longer, and provide more quality work.  However, that appreciation has to be uniform.  Everyone has to be be appreciated in some way or form, and the staff has to see no favoritism in this treatment.

When there is favoritism, the concept of appreciation takes a dark turn.  A manager who shows appreciation for one person’s work, but not another person’s, creates an atmosphere of distrust, disengagement, and disappointment.  For the haves, there is no real impact.  For the have-nots, it breeds a ‘why bother’ attitude, as nothing they will do can get recognition.

A good leader knows how to appreciate, but also how to do it justly.  They don’t let bad policies overstay their welcome.

Made It By That Much

maxwell smartIf you are of a certain age, or know where to find the reruns, you know the image above.  It is of Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 of CONTROL in the classic television series, “Get Smart”.  You might also recognize his gesture.  It preludes Max saying to someone, “Missed it by THAT much”.  It is a funny running gag in the series.  Is it so funny when used on a performance review?

Marilyn sat in Julia’s office, awaiting what her performance rating would be for last year.  It was a serious consideration, as the rating determined her raise and bonus.  Heavens knows she had done her share of work last year for Julia.  There was always a new project, a new assignment, and a new request.  Plus, for a quarter of the year, her department had been short staffed, but Marilyn and her team never missed a deadline.  Still, this was the year that Marilyn also got to know Julia’s darker side — capricious, quick to criticize, and blunt when it came to criticism.  She wasn’t sure what to expect.

When Julia finally delivered the news, it wasn’t so bad.  She had given Marilyn an above average rating, 4 out of a possible 5, and determined that she had met her stretch goals.  Marilyn let out a silent sigh, grateful that this meeting had gone so well.  She might have held that sigh for just a bit longer.

No sooner had Julia delivered this news, she followed on with this remark:  “You know you only made the 4 instead of the 3 by this much”, she said while pinching her finger and thumb together to indicate how slim the margin had been.  The comment seemed to indicate that, though Marilyn had practically killed herself with work in the past year, it was just a hair above acceptable to Julia.  Marilyn was later heard to observe that people could only guess what that did for her engagement and enthusiasm.  Apparently the criteria for excellent work, according to Julia, was dying in the office while working on all the assignments she gave to the person.  Even then, there would have been some negative comment about not having the professionalism to die in the parking lot.

All Julia had to do was to stop.  Stop where she said that Marilyn had done work worthy of a 4 out of 5 rating and that was it.  She could have said she expected the same caliber of work for the coming year, thanked Marilyn for her efforts, and had a happy and engaged employee for the next 12 months.  No, because Julia believed in the theory that giving criticism was the best way to get someone to work harder, she had to continue.  She had not seen that, based on past failures with this policy, that she had a dispirited department who looked to the clock to see when they could go home, not to a beacon of leadership coming from Julia’s office.

The theory that criticism only encourages people to do better is about as valid as the theory that a leader who screams all the time gets better work out of his or her employees.  The only person it validates is the person giving the criticism, making them feel better about themselves and their ‘management skills’.  It also illustrates that they have not read a management theory book in the last 40 years.

Want to encourage your employees to do better?  Then encourage them.  You don’t have to offer them false praise or congratulate them for showing up.  You do have to pounce on their doing good work, and praise them for doing great work.  You recognize what they did right more than what they did wrong.  And, if you catch them being wrong, work with them on making it right, not hold it over their head like a swinging blade.

Do that, and you will truly be the one who is Smart.

The Definition of ‘We’

The open house event was over and the members of the department slowly made their way to clean up the decorations and the food.  The event had been a success.  Hundreds of people from the company came to visit and comment on the look of the department.  Feedback was gathered, prizes offered, and there was lots of conversation.  More importantly, the department leadership was pleased.

One member of the leadership made sure she walked around and told people how well they did and how pleased she was with their work.  Another took a slightly different tack.  She was pleased with what had transpired, but said it this way.  “We did a wonderful job.”

We?

To the members of the committee who were tasked with planning this, the only participation they remembered the executive having was to assign it to them and to receive updates.  She would nod assent and then let them go on their way.  There wasn’t much lifting and carrying involved with giving a nod and approving a budget.  She did make sure, however, to be there for the event, happily accepting compliments for doing such a wonderful job.

To members of the department who had seen her meteoric rise up the ranks, her comment was not a surprise.  She had the reputation of incorporating anything good anyone did into her own portfolio.  Nobody would be surprised if she had a throw down with Al Gore over who invented the internet.  To those who had helped her, saw her rise, and saw her leave them unceremoniously behind with more work and no promotion, the behavior was typical.  Was it any wonder that, short of being outright ordered to do something, nobody in the department wanted to give their best effort and just did what they had to in order not to be fired?   They were tired of helping her career when she didn’t reciprocate.

The executive in this story once said to her department, “Your development is your own responsibility”.  To a point, I will agree with that statement.  However, you cannot move up without the help of those above you.  They have to be willing to give you that opportunity to rise to the next level, and reward you with that promotion (and raise…I have seen too many so called ‘promotions’ where cheap companies give no raises) based on your performance.   That manager sets up a duality.  They are willing to trumpet their accomplishments, even if they had no part in them whatsoever, but want to keep you out of the spotlight entirely.  When this happens, no amount of work their people do, no amount of effort their people expend, will ever be enough.  The manager needs their people where they are because the manager wants to grab the glory of what their people have done.  Without their worker bees, they are nothing.  Sadly, the bad manage realizes this and has no trouble adjusting their conscience to keeping their down.

Part of what makes a good manager a good manger is the fact that they want to see their people succeed.  They don’t look to share credit when it isn’t due, but rather give credit wholeheartedly to their people.  The good manager knows their reward is that they will be recognized as having a highly motivated team who always delivers their best.  Wise company executives will want this person and their gifts motivating larger and larger teams. The good manager doesn’t have to steal the credit.  They earn it legitimately by enhancing their own people.

The good manager knows that they don’t have to expand or contort the definition of the word ‘we’.  They know that they will be told time and time again, “I couldn’t have done it without you”.

Hijacked!

Nelson knew that, as presentations went, this one was nothing special.  Still, when the head of the department asks for you to give a presentation on how a piece of technology might be able to help you reach your customer base better, you give the presentation.  The time frame given to him to prepare was short, but he made the most of his time and was ready when the time came.

The presentation started out pretty much like Nelson had expected.  Then, about 1/4 of the way in, his manager, Harriet, whispered to him to mention a certain feature of the program.   Nelson gave some quick, but silent thought on this request.  Harriet had been there when the department head had requested Nelson present, so she knew what the department head wanted to learn.  Why then would Harriet ask Nelson to discuss something that was completely off the topic?  Regardless, Harriet was his manager, so he dutifully discussed the item and then veered back towards his presentation.

Until she once again asked him to discuss another feature of the product.  Again, it was completely off topic and cut into Nelson’s time, but he discussed it and once again veered back to the topic at hand.  Realizing his time constraint, and that he had other topics to present, he judiciously cut what he was going to say.

The third time Harriet interrupted, she didn’t ask for him to discuss something, but for him to cede control to her so she could present the topic herself.  Wanting to avoid any unpleasantness, he did as she asked, and then silently fumed as she went along happily discussing what she wanted to discuss, burning up his allotted time with her topics.  Even the head of the department weighed in on Nelson’s side, indicating that Nelson had other items to present and that time was growing short.  Nelson politely asked to take control of the presentation back, hurriedly finished the other topics, and packed up.

As he was packing up, some of his colleagues stopped by to either ask him what Harriet was thinking or to offer him sympathy.  This was not the first time that Harriet had hijacked a presentation that was someone else’s.  She had a long history of taking over, uninvited, a presentation, a meeting, or gathering that was clearly the property of someone else, merrily careening along while the other person sat and steamed.  She, most of the time, was perfectly oblivious to this, thinking she was helping the person.  In truth, she was alienating a lot of folks in the department.

For Nelson, this presentation was certainly not a make or break situation.  Still, the fact that the head of the department, in full view of Harriet, had asked him to make this presentation meant that he had some stake in this issue.  Harriet, by hijacking it, had cut into not only his time, but his demonstrating his ability to run part of a meeting seamlessly and with authority.

Maybe you think you are only ‘helping’, or that you simply want to contribute to the conversation.  What you are being perceived as, however, is someone who cannot have the spotlight fall on someone else.  You must get into the action and make the audience know that you are there and a force to be reckoned with.  When this happens to someone you manage, you send out an even more dire message — I don’t trust you to do this alone and am going to ‘save’ you from yourself.

You don’t have to be the kid who was in the greatest number of yearbook photos in order to impress your management.  You don’t need to diminish someone else’s worth because you think you need to enhance your own.  People need to succeed or fail on their own.  A good manager knows when to let go of the bicycle and allow their employees or colleagues to ride solo.  They will run along side of the person, be ready to help if they think the person is going to fall, but knows how to step back and just be a participant.

A good manager knows when to stand just outside of the spotlight and simply applaud.

Faking One For The Team

It was a frustrating call for Carolyn.  She was trying to be professional with her boss, Marjorie, but it was becoming more and more difficult to do so.  She knew the situation. Marjorie was the type that never saw a piece of work that she didn’t want to offload onto someone else.  Carolyn was convinced that was why she became a manager in the first place…so she could do less work than ever.  Now that she had a team, it seemed that every day was Passover — the work passed over her and directly into the hands of someone who worked for her.

This time was no different, but Carolyn was really at her breaking point, work-wise.  Simply put, she had too much on her plate, and she needed this assignment to go to someone else.  Her bandwidth had not only been met, but had been exceeded, and she needed Marjorie to either assign this task to someone else or take it on herself.  She had explained this to Marjorie as calmly and rationally as she could, doing everything the advice given to her had indicated — stating each assignment she had, how much time it was taking, how it exceeded her working hours, and how she was working extra already to be able to get the work done.  None of it was persuading Marjorie, who had one thing on her mind — she personally didn’t want to do this work and didn’t really care what the situation of the person who worked for her was, as long as that person took the assignment.

So, in response to Carolyn’s well-reasoned explanation of why she couldn’t take on the assignment, Marjorie replied: “I’m sorry to hear you don’t want to be a team player.”  Desperately clinging to her self-control, Carolyn responded, “I am a team player, Marjorie, it’s just that my workload is rather high right now and I don’t have any room in which to take on another assignment.”  Marjorie was unpersuaded.  She repeated that it was a shame that Carolyn didn’t want to be a good team player, she would still have to do the assignment, and this conversation would be noted in her personal file.

One of the purposes of management is to make sure that your people are working at their capacity.  One of the purposes of really wise management is to continue to increase that capacity so more work can get done in the same amount of time.  To get that, however, you have to look at the long game, look for efficiencies, and create an atmosphere where your people really want to get involved, do their best, and go beyond any set limits.  You do that, partly, by showing your people that you are also willing to work at your capacity, unafraid to be right in there doing that needs to get done.  It is management by example, and it allows your people to see you are as willing to do what you are asking them to do.

When your greatest work is seeing how you can get out of work by handing it off, don’t expect a lot of respect.  Not only are you putting a greater burden on your people, you are illustrating to them that you believe you are better than them.  You don’t have to work as hard because you have ‘people’ to do those things.

When you take it to the point where your people are crying, ‘Enough!’ and letting you know they are at their breaking point, and all you do it spout platitudes at them about not being a ‘team player’, you have shown your true colors.  Not only are you, as a manager, unwilling to help take a burden from your team, you are unwilling to help them bear the excess capacity, give them coping strategies, or look for alternatives.  No, even that is too much work.  Just spout platitudes that mean nothing while getting ready to shovel another load on them.  That’s all you really have the energy for, isn’t it?

Being a manager means being there for your people.  It means helping them manage their workload and work life.  It means if they come to you, you help them.  By selfishly giving them work you could do, but are too lazy, and then making them feel like they are the ones who are at fault, you are showing the only person you care for is yourself.

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 Disposable Employee

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

It had been a rough year for Max.  Not only had he been working at his own job, he was expected, without compensation, to run the department while his boss, Sarah, searched for a new manager.  Max had applied for the position, but had been told in very specific terms that he was good enough for the interim, but he would not be considered for the post permanently.  He would be rated on how he kept the department running, but Sarah would not be giving him any compensation or bonus for keeping the department running while Sarah found her next direct report.  Max half expected Sarah to either fire him when the search was done, or have as an unspoken requirement that the new manager fire Max, as Sarah did not get along with him.

The new manager had been found, and Sarah, believing that it would be a good opportunity for everyone to get to know the new manager, held a small teambuilder.  Max, along with his other co-workers, dutifully attended.

In one of the exercises, the leader of the teambuilder had certain areas marked out.  Each held an adjective to describe how they were feeling at the moment…energized, ready, tired, etc.  Max went over to the area entitled tired, and found himself standing next to Sarah and his new manager, who was in a ‘topic box’ next to him.  The teambuilding leader then asked people to explain to either someone else in that area, or someone in an adjacent area, to explain why they were in that particular area.

Sarah and the manager went first, explaining why they felt energized, the area that they had stood in.  Then Max’s new manager asked him why he was in the box he was.  Max explained he was feeling burned out.  It had been a tough year, filled with lots of challenges, and if he were going to be honest, he felt tired.  The new manager listed with concern and let Max know that she believed in him and that she looked forward to working with him.  Sarah then spoke up, saying one sentence.  “If you feel you are that tired, why don’t you just quit?”  Max and his new manager treated that remark with silence.

A manager, or a leader, has a primary duty to their people.  Above all, they are there to support their people, to help them, to guide them, and to coach them.  True, in some cases, it isn’t possible.  The person may be a poor performer, refuse the help, or try as they might, not be able to do the job.  These realizations come after the leader has tried everything with the employee to get them to their potential.

If the only answer you give is, “Why don’t you leave so you are not my problem anymore”, or words to that effect, then you are not a leader.  You are indicating that you only want the easy and not the tough work.  In the case above, where Sarah was directly responsible for the extra workload she gave Max, and gave no thanks or reward to him for carrying an extra burden for a long time, the response she gave is petty and spiteful.

Looking at it another way, what does the new manager think when her boss, the leader of this group, is so flagrantly dismissing an employee’s concerns by suggesting he go become unemployed.  Is this an organization that she would want to work in?

Is it one you would?