Older Employees May Feel Uncomfortable Working for Young Managers


Two employees from different departments were talking about their new managers.

“I know our new manager is smart and knows computers, but he is very young and pretty green.  He has a lot to learn.”

The friend responded, “Our new manager looks young enough to be my grandson but he has fit in really well.  Even our long-time employees respect him.”

When managing employees who are older, it is safe to assume that some of the old timers may be resentful and skeptical.

The manager in the first example made an early assessment of changes he wanted to make and he got management’s support.  However, when he presented his ideas to his team, many become doubtful and reluctant—he came across as insensitive and impulsive.

The second manager interviewed all his employees and got to know them as individuals.  He let his team know that his top priority was to ensure their success and well-being.  He asked many questions and when good suggestions emerged, the manager gave proper credit.  The youthful manger often used phrases like “What do you think?” and “How can I help with that?”

While young leaders cannot outrace time, they must earn their team’s respect.

There is No Substitute for Face-to-Face


“Some of my team members work in the office and some are in the field,” explained Tillford.  “People in the field seem to have difficulty understanding my expectations.  I often have to send documents back for corrections and updates.”

Tillford further explained that the office and field members were well-trained and, thanks to robust electronic media, he used the same format for communicating to both groups.

I asked, “Do field staff every come to the office?  Do you visit them in the field?”

“Field people come in every quarter for our all-hands meetings but I don’t get much one-on-one time with them.”

I said to Tillford that perhaps he should make time for more face-to-face contact, either by periodically visiting field offices or by asking field staff to travel to his office.  Because of the cost and inconvenience, Tillford had resisted doing this in the past.  However, because he was so frustrated with current performances, he agreed to try it.

Six months later, Tillford reported, “I can’t believe how much our communication has improved.  After just a few field visits, our understanding improved dramatically and field team members are performing just as well, maybe even better, than their office counterparts.”

Sexual Harassment: Who is Responsible?


As a peer described Rob, “He’s always kidding around and usually has a joke handy.”

A friend, passing Rob’s work station, noticed that Rob had a 1960’s Playboy-type photo of a model on his computer screen. “I don’t think you should have that photo on your screen,” the friend commented.

“Aah, it just popped up,” Rob said.  “I don’t always know where these things come from.”

Others had also noticed questionable images on Rob’s screen but no one spoke about it. A young female employee, who recently joined the team, said to her friend.  “I was talking to Rob and I was shocked at the image I saw on his computer.”

Eventually, someone reported Rob to Human Resources.  When questioned, Rob’s supervisor said, “I guess I was aware of it, but I didn’t pay much attention.  It’s hard to control everything that appears on someone’s computer.”

After investigating, the company found both Rob and his supervisor to be in violation of its sexual harassment policy.  “Why discipline me?” the supervisor asked.  “I didn’t do anything.”

Supervisors need to know that they may be held accountable for “contributing to a hostile work environment” even if they did not commit the questionable acts.

 

How to Handle Career Blockage


career blockage 19“I feel like I’m stuck in my job,” Janice explained.  “I do my job well.  My boss has been good to me, but I’ve been in the same position for almost ten years.  I’m still pretty young in my career and I’d like to be considered for higher-level positions.”

“Have you mentioned this to your boss?” I asked.

“Yes.  He supports me but he is still pretty new.  The company is growing but I get overlooked when new positions open up.”

According to Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric Company and Fortune magazine’s Manager of the Century, it is not enough to meet expectations.  You must over deliver.

Mary’s boss asked her to find out more about a particular training vendor.  Mary over delivered by investigating the vendor plus two others.  Mary also contacted professionals in other companies who had used their services and prepared a summary of each vendor’s strengths and weaknesses, along with estimated costs

You can also over deliver by formulating suggestions for improvements.  Research your industry.  Ask questions.  Learn.  Then speak out.  In meetings, challenge others’ ideas.  Offer options. Tell people what you think.  Back up your ideas with data.  Show up and speak up.

How to Communicate with a Difficult Boss


“My vice-president is hard to work with,” a manager said to me.

“Do others feel the same way?” I asked.

“Yes, there is general frustration.”

“Exactly, what does the vice president do that causes stress?”

“His meetings last way too long and we still do not agree on what we need to do. He sometimes gives different messages to our staff members than to us.  When someone brings up an issue, he listens.  Then he joins others in identifying why it is an issue, but we do not identify a solution.”

When experiencing noisome relations with someone (including your boss), it is necessary to communicate honestly with the person.  But communication with another about a troubling behavior is akin to walking on tacks.

Pick one, and only one, issue and avoid any mention of what you think the boss may be doing wrong.  Rather, begin with something like, “I think we may be missing some opportunities here.  During our meetings, how about I list the options being discussed?  At some point, I can summarize the ideas and see if we can get support for one of them.”

Don’t expect an immediate miracle turnaround.  Be patient, stay the course, and look for small improvements.

 

Are Flexible Work Arrangements a Fad or a Trend?


What if there were no set work hours for employees or no specific places they had to be to do their work?  Would the result be extra “vacation time” for many employees?

Perhaps not.  Bill Gates said that the most important perk companies could give their employees is flexible work arrangements.

Bill Murphy, Jr., columnist for Inc.com, reports on several studies were productivity and efficiency actually increased when employees were allowed to work anywhere.   And there could be a savings in costly office space as well.

Many companies (Dell, Apple, Jet Blue, American Express, Amazon and others) currently allow some of their employees to work from anywhere at any time.

Still, I do not believe the work-from-anywhere option will spread like wildfire throughout the workforce.  Employees who work in factories, retail establishments, transportation, food service and the like have to be at specific places at specific times to do their jobs.

Further, even with our robust technical tools, teams that require collaboration may need to work in close proximity.  Reliable, individual performance metrics also help.

I’m sure many employees prefer flexible work arrangements–count me in this group–and I think we will see more companies embracing this practice.

Are You a Balcony Leader or a Basement Leader?


Employees in Department A described their manager with comments such as:

“She sincerely cares about us.”

“A very good listener; that’s how I would describe her.”

“A good cheerleader, realistic but upbeat.”

“When she comes into the room, the energy level goes way up.”

Employees in Department B, when describing their leader, said things like.

“It seems that she thinks our work is never quite good enough.”

“I may not see her for days, but if I do make an error, I hear back immediately.”

“She may want the team to succeed but she will see negatives in everything.

“She has high turnover.  No one wants to work with her.”

Joyce Heatherly in her book, BALCONY PEOPLE, explained the differences between these two leaders.

Balcony leaders (Department A) are encouraging, helpful, considerate and joyful.  They seek ways to grow and develop staff members and ensure their successes.  They are diligent, compassionate and quick to forgive.  Balcony leaders strive to develop staff members to be the best they can be.

By contract basement leaders (Department B) are very critical and hold grudges.  They have long memories and put their individual desires above all others.  Basement leaders belittle, discourage and take energy out of the team members.