Skip to comments.managerial situation: what did I do wrong?
Posted on 08/12/2009 6:18:37 PM PDT by franksolich
A friend from a long time ago--just before the turn of the century--came up here to the Sandhills of Nebraska today, and we spent a long time reminiscencing about the Good Old Days of Reagan, Bush, Gingrich, and Bush, and speculating about when the 0bamareich's going to come crashing down.
He reminded me of something I long ago had forgotten, and having been reminded of it, an old question recrudesces to the surface. Where did I go wrong?
Back then, just before the turn of the century, I was records supervisor for a private contractor to Immigration & Naturalization, in Lincoln. There were usually 12-24 file clerks under my direction, sometimes a few more, but as they knew what they were doing, and going a great job, I mostly ignored them and "file searches" for persons of "interest" to Immigration & Naturalization, the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whatnot.
And so it took a while--a few months--before I was aware that a guy working under my supervision was openly and profligately mocking me behind my back.
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You should have challenged him to a duel.
The “reason” this was the “wrong resolution” is because your boss ended up having to get involved.
From their viewpoint the only “correct” behavior is that which requires no involvement on their part.
Time to move on, Frank. Why dwell on the past when there are bigger fish to fry these days.
Time to move on, Frank. Why dwell on the past when there are bigger fish to fry these days.
A) Fired him.
B) Bashed his face in.
This is because whether you know it or not all of you employees had lost all respect for you. This is why they went behind your back to your boss. Had I been your boss I probably would have given you a week to resolve the issue to my satisfaction and if you didn't I would have fired you.
I would have said something to him like.
“Look, it doesn’t really bother me that you are mocking my voice behind my back. You could do it to my face, it doesn’t matter. The only problem is that it is p*ssing off other members in the office and creating unneeded strife and stress of our team. What is your real motivation for doing it? Can you find some other less obnoxious way to amuse yourself?”
The reason this was the wrong resolution is because your boss ended up having to get involved. From their viewpoint the only correct behavior is that which requires no involvement on their part.”
Agreed, but without the tongue in cheek. As his manager, you probably should have canned him for some reason, real or manufactured - he was obviously a loon and not a team player - and he should have been given the boot, if not because he was “mocking” you, but screwing up morale and putting tension on the menu every day - assuming, of course, that yours was the “middle management” position, it was your job to manage him. Middle management is Chief of the Boat...you are supposed to keep the boneheads off the boat, while the Skipper manages operations.
You don’t mention the size of the company, the relationship to management, etc., but this is my best guess. A lot of middle managers would have done what you did...call it a question of style...but, in the scenario you describe in a small to medium size business, I think your boss might have felt let down by your not taking this nutcase out for a walk and dropping him off somewhere.
Time frame tells me there was no HR and no endless warnings required...all he needed was a Laurel and Hearty Handshake.
But I’ll tell you what, if this is the “big mistake” that you regret so much later, God bless you, you did a hell of a job...and I mean that!
I’ve quit jobs because I couldn’t stand the people I was working with. They gave me agita. The best jobs were the ones where everyone did their work and got along with each other. Eight hours a day should be spent not only working but laughing too.
I would have voted him off the island.
Open contempt or ridicule must be dealt with directly and severely. You should have hauled this clown into a private office or conference room, told him you were aware of what he was doing, and that he would be fired if it ever happened again.
Problem solved (possibly) or groundwork laid for his later removal. Other employees would have taken note that you are not a fool and will not put up with this kind of crap. This would have made you seem aware and effective; these are good things.
I have been counseling supervisors and managers for 27 years, and I have heard this scenario many times before. My approach has worked every time, as far as I know.
1st time...make an obvious face-to-face acknowledgment. (If the guy’s having a bad day and isn’t a complete fool, this is usually sufficient for a “mea culpa” and cessation.)
2nd time...documented “come to Jesus” sit down. (Even the truly dense usually “get it” at this point that YOU are the boss and they are not)
3rd time...public ballistics and send him kicking stones pending future exit interview. (At this point, he’s no longer your problem, and just in case anyone else was thinking of “dissing the boss” without reprisals, the mold has been cast.)
...and confirm with HR that if asked by their next potential employer, “Would you rehire them?” the answer is an unequivocal NO, even if not otherwise prohibited by policy.
You did what you thought was best at the time and survived. Some days, that’s the best outcome possible. :)
Sounds like you were in a position that you weren’t really qualified for. You couldn’t manage your employees.
Progressive discipline would probably have been:
informal verbal warning
written warning with signed acknowlegement
Your supervisor got to step 1 with you. You got lucky before she had to take the next steps.
When an employee is creating a disruptive or hostile work place, the employee needs to be (1) informed of the infraction in writing, (2) given definite parameters within which the issue is to be remedied (also in writing), and (3) have the parameters enforced within a specified time frame.
In this case, by ignoring the intransigence (which obviously was disruptive and hostile to your subordinates), you gave a tacit approval to the behavior.
Now, when rating the guy, you should have fairly rated the work he performed (as you said you did), but also noted the behavioral issue. Documenting the problem is a must, especially when an better-than-average-quality worker has a personality or behavior problem.
One more thought. I know it is sometimes tempting to say that mocking the boss is different than mocking co-workers. In some ways, it is. But a personal mockery of a boss (as opposed to questioning the boss’ policies or decisions - which can still cross the line) is simply antithetical to the maintenance of a positive workplace.
Just my $.02, of course.
In my post 15, I missed one step (the verbal warning). But I think you missed one too (the remedial plan).
Remedials on behavior issues tend to be pretty back-and-white, but are still generally necessary due to lawsuit-avoidance-syndrome on the part of HR.
Just my opinion, of course.
Your “cold silence” was the wrong approach.
You were the leader and you needed to lead. This individual undermined your authority as a leader. You should have had a meeting with your manager where you explained the situation, and laid out what you were going to do to remediate it. Then implemented this. TO allow a disruptive individual mock you, then they would be comfortable mocking or harassing others, as you said that they had done.
Sorry, but the cold silence, or kill them with kindness works in the short term but is not a long term solution.
Yes, I think you tagged it better than I did.
Good solid advice!
I want to add to it mine own and then tell a story I had.
The manager wasn’t working for himself, he was a agent managing on behalf of an employer. The disrespect he allowed by ignoring it because it was to him, but it was also to his company, and even to his crew as a whole. I would say he had an obligation to his employer to mention the circumstance to his boss early on so that the employer had the opportunity to assent to a loss of respect for the sake of not provoking a greater discomfort or losing a worker who was otherwise productive.
Had, however the employer had said it was unimportant — the manager would still have the discretion to protect his own interest in it, his own tolerable boundary of respect, and rebuke the employee.
* * *
I hired a man with a severe speech impediment and a breathing problem — he would wheeze and sputter all day long. He was very good technically and and hard-worker with self-initiative. Initially he started in a room with another tech, who complained about the noise. I moved him into my office, which was quite large and otherwise empty. I grew up in a large family next to a kennel and a train station — noises I can tune out easily. We worked together very well.
But other workers in the company began to whisper and complain about his handicap. Even though he would rarely be in their area, just his passing through bothered them. A VP came to me and told me I should “let him go”. I said “No way! He’s a hard worker and he’s no in earshot of anyone most of the day. I understand the complaints, but the guy is a good worker. There’s no way I would ever think of firing him.”
A few weeks later he asked me again about it. Then a month later we both were called into the President’s office, one at a time and fired.
I told him I thought he had a good case to sue, but it was a matter of personal embarrassment to him and he was used to rejection for his handicap. Here, when I hired him he thought his world had finally changed for the better! He was so proud of the job. His father was able to take him in as a lower paid tech, his father’s business small small and sporadic.
I had failed to protect him. I let him down. To see him so happy, and then see his hopes thrown down off a cliff I placed him on ... and now to him, it was as if he had taken me with him ... that was the worst of all of it.
The truth is I was fired because I had my own problems there, at least I hadn’t earned enough attaboys and such to be able to deflect those who complained about him.
Truth is, that company failed and bankrupted about two years later, and employee morale turned incredibly bitter and destructive for a good part of that time after we left so we both didn’t sink on that ship, or take on greater wounds, but still ...
What should I have done?
Being someone who is hearing impaired herself and working in cube world, I can tell you that you did the right thing as a hearing impaired person, but the wrong thing for those who can hear.
I have had the same issue, altho I am not in management. People know I can't hear and they do nothing to adjust to my hearing problem. I am ridiculed by people, and I know it, but I take the high ground and just ignore the jerks.
BUT! as a caveat, when I hear it over and over again, I get pissed and let them know that they are being an ass.
So, speaking as someone who know both sides, I would have called the jerk in, informed him how unprofessional he was being and if the behavior continues, you will take it to the next level.
Having said this, since it appears to have happened sometime in the past, let it go. Ain't no use worrying over those who don't care.