I had a conversation with a gentleman reader, which started this way: “Hey Rosa, I have a 4th management sin for you…” prefacing this, published last week:
The 3 Sins of Management — and the Cure for all 3.
He suggested the 4th sin was ‘insensitivity.’ After hearing his story, I have a stronger word for it: Stupidity. Stupidity we, as Alaka‘i Managers, must refuse to tolerate.
His story is a downer for me; it’s one of those all-too-common reasons the profession of management gets such a bad reputation, and deservedly so in these instances. We’re better than this!
“You have to fill out this form.”
This gentleman is an employee of a large corporation, and he has been dealing with what he considers to be a manager’s incompetency and lack of communicative skill for over a year now. After several conversations with his direct supervisor and the manager concerned, all which have been fruitless (see quote below) he went to the HR Director for help in a state of pretty extreme frustration and stress due to the ripple effect this year-long situation has had on his entire work team.
“There aren’t even short-term results Rosa, just constant excuses and half-cooked justifications. What he does now, is avoid me altogether.”
I could not believe the response he got in that visit to the HR office.
He was given a Complaint Form to fill out, one that would document the most recent single ‘event’ of the manager’s transgression, and require that manager to have a meeting with him within 6 days time. (This must be required in writing?) After the meeting, they each are to complete another section of the form which will report their degree of satisfaction (or dissatisfaction). If both are dissatisfied, the form triggers his union’s grievance procedure (which will do what, I do not know. At this point, it is not even relevant).
He was told, “You have to fill out this form.”
Not asked if he would like to, or would be willing to.
Not asked how he felt HR could otherwise help him, at least in the meantime.
Not asked, “Would you like me to have a conversation with all of you together?” especially since he has already had several frustrating meetings with the manager concerned.
Not given any impression an investigation or less formal conversation would ensue otherwise.
He was not given any coaching on how to fill out the form, nor was he told why it was important or necessary that he do so.
Are you kidding me? This, from a HR Director? I could barely contain the shock, indignation and rage bubbling up inside me.
Thou Shalt Investigate.
You are not expected to have all the answers. You are, however, expected to look for them, intent on finding them.
Anything quicker, or more impulsive, will usually be wrong.
I had to ask him several questions beforehand, to get the entire story which triggered his visit to HR, and his relevant job performance over recent months. Along the way, I learned that his direct supervisor shared in his frustration, and had encouraged him to take this next step, feeling something had to be done, and that his own hands were tied. As for the form, he sat down that same evening to fill it out at home, asking his wife to proofread it for him. He turned it in the following day.
“Did your HR Director have similar questions for you, asking about these details as I have?”
“No, not as much as you have. But she may already have known some of it. It was a very quick meeting.”
A Reputation of Ineffectiveness …and what it means
Okay. Well, it’s not okay, but moving on… I can guarantee you that 90 to 99% of most employees will not see it through in a situation like this: They won’t take the risk of becoming a whistle blower (you know those stories) and putting their pain in writing. Most fear their pain will just be seen as an attitude problem, and that retribution will follow in some sort from the manager(s) involved. Most don’t even want to get their own union involved.
I asked him, “I commend you for seeing this through. Tell me, why are you willing to fill out the form and go through the process?”
“I’ve had enough. It’s the only way something will get done.”
Yeah. Apparently so.
I fear it may also be the only way the manager concerned gets the help he needs too. Pain like this is rarely contained in the workplace. It spreads like the cancer it is.
This is a locally situated story for me, and it took every ounce of self-restraint I have to not get in my car and barrel into this HR office myself. For now, I respect my gentleman reader’s intentions, for he said, “Don’t worry Rosa, I will see this through. I have a good union rep, but this is my problem to handle, not his.”
Let’s get the ‘Yeah, but…’s out of the way:
I know this form is the result of this company’s
partnership forced association with the union in place. My problem with it, is that an ‘insensitive’ form is forcing a dysfunction in management that only deals with worst case scenario or chronic, yet long-unsolved problem avoidance (the villain of our 3 Sins of Management). Stupid.
I know the HR Director has her side of the story to tell, but whatever it is, a form or no resolution for this situation? Really? What happens if the form is refused or rejected? Surely that wouldn’t be permission to look away!
I know the manager involved has his side of the story to tell, but more than that, I sense that he needs some help.
Not to mention, again, but I will, that this workplace unhappiness has been playing out for over a year before this HR office visit ever happened.
This entire situation makes me wild.
Before you “Yeah, but…” me with, ‘Rosa is being overly dramatic about this, and making a point as a management coach,’ consider this: I’m incensed as an outside observer. Imagine how helpless and frustrated the employees are, who as company insiders and stakeholders, must put up with this kind of dysfunction, shortcut-taking, and complete lack of ALOHA, MĀLAMA and HO‘OHANOHANO.
Imagine how many employees (most) will never bother going to the HR office at all: The Acid Test of a Healthy Workplace Culture.
Imagine the effect on product and service delivery at the hands and disheartened spirits of those employees.
Imagine the mediocrity, complacency and apathy that is SURELY passed on to the customer in some way.
We’re better than this. Let’s BE better.
Often, competence is not the real issue: Dysfunction is.
Dysfunction can be fixed: People Who Do Good Work.
If you are putting up with dysfunctional managers in your workplace, offer them your help —
even if especially if they’re in HR!
Ignore departmental or divisional boundaries, and be a workplace partner. Offer to be a mentor.
If they refuse your help, and do not commit to improving, root them out. I mean it.
Communicative effectiveness is the result of communication skills which CAN be learned. The prerequisite, is that a manager WANTS to learn these skills, and WILL use them — daily, and with consistency.
All managers need help. I was in some way ‘incompetent’ as a manager, by my staff definitions of that competency, for a good 2/3 of my own management career, at least — competency resets to zero each time you go through a job change, position reassignment, or team shift, whereas incompetency skyrockets. What saved me, and what saves all managers, is when we create ALOHA relationships and partnerships with our people — they are the ones who will then teach us what we need to know, and help us learn it. With ALOHA in place, their patience with us will be generous, and will seem extremely patient.
ALOHA trumps and overcomes incompetency every time. Every single time.
And those forms? For goodness sake, and for the sake of better, get rid of them. I cannot think of a single instance in which they will be necessary. Lawyers might [think they] need them, but managers do not.
Key 4. THE ROLE OF THE MANAGER RECONSTRUCTED:
Managers must own workplace engagement and be comfortable with facilitating change, creative innovation, and development of the human asset. The “reconstruction” we require in Managing with Aloha is so this expectation of the Alaka‘i Manager is both reasonable and possible, and so they can channel human energies as our most important resource, they themselves having the time, energy, and support needed in doing so. Convention may work against us, where historically, people have become managers for reasons other than the right one: Managing is their calling. A new role for managers must be explicitly valued by the entire organization as critically important to their better success: Managers can then have ‘personal bandwidth’ for assuming a newly reinvented role, one which delivers better results both personally and professionally, and in their stewardship of the workplace culture.
Don’t wait for the perfect role, and perfect placement to be handed to you, for it probably won’t! Ho‘o — make it happen:
Role Reconstruction: Design your Sweet Spot as Manager
Read more: The 9 Key Concepts of Managing with Aloha