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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
“I see you got a promotion.”
“Not really. I just have a new title. I’m Project Research Coordinator.”
“You mean you are a still project manager?”
If we have not learned the potential positive impact of job titles, we have not been paying attention to the banking industry. Does the title “Lending Manager” have a different meaning than “Loan Officer?” What about “Vice President of Loans?”
Perceptions surrounding job titles do matter. Some companies have replaced “employee” with “associate.” Other organizations call their employees “Individual Contributors.” Certain ones informally refer to Google employees as “Googlers” and new employees as “Nooglers.”
Companies may also use titles to identify outstanding performance. And there is research that suggests a percentage of employees (Don’t count me among this group.) prefer an enhanced title to a modest pay increase.
For a time, engineering departments have used titles like Engineer I, Engineer II, and Engineer III to bestow status and recognition without having to promote excellent engineers into a management positions.
I have had the honor of holding many titles in my career; and while I do not remember pondering on title images, I do recall feeling a sense of pride upon being officially labeled, “Distinguished Professor of Management.”
“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.
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.