Do You Create a Jekyll and Hyde Issue at Work?


Lucius said, “My new manager is very friendly.  He’s always asking about my kids and he likes to talk golf.  I thought we had a good relationship.”

Lucius continued, “Yesterday, the boss got upset because he thought I had not done enough to help to a younger employee.  I tried to help the new guy but he ignored my advice.”

To Lucius, the manager was unpredictable because he seemed to turn from “nice guy friend” to “jerk boss.”  Author Bruce Tulgan calls this the “Jekyll and Hyde” problem.

The Jekyll and Hyde issue emerges when managers build relationships based on sharing personal matters at work.  Eventually, a manager will need to have an awkward conversation about a work problem.  Employees are surprised because they see the relationship flipping from boss-friend to corrective-parent.

Managers, Tulgan believes, should save most of their personal talk for after work, social events and other encounters.  At work, the boss’s role is to keep people laser-focused on quality, deadlines, customers, safety.  This requires constant work talk.

Effective leaders strive to create trust and rapport with employees by mature discussions about what is going well and what needs improving.  For most, there would not even be a relationship were no for the work.

 

Do Not Feel Like a Failure if Some Employees Fail to Respond to Your Coaching


Jeffery whines constantly.

Eric puts off assignments and rushes to complete them at the last minute.

Shirley cannot seem to avoid gossiping about her coworkers.

Ethel does good work most of the time but is prone to silly mistakes.

Horace’s work space is always a wreck.

What to do with employees who behave like this? Coach them up, of course. But how much coaching does it take to cure these missteps?

Here is a reality check—you are more likely to win the lottery than you are to turn these flawed performers into reliable, go-to team players.

By the time you hire employees, most of their behaviors are hard wired. They have heard your lectures from previous employers, former teachers and their friends. You can also bet their parents gave them their best shot.

Who you hire is who you have. You cannot turn iron into gold and you will not likely perfect these prickly behaviors. You may be a good coach but you are not that good.

If problematic employees sabotage your team’s performance, work with human resources to professionally remove them. Perhaps they can find a better fit in another organization.  But if the irritating behaviors hover around the nuisance category, get over it. As the comedian Ron White said, “You just can’t fix stupid.”

 

General Managers Who Default to Specialists do so at their Own Risks


“I think we can use a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software program to track our marketing efforts,” the Marketing Vice President said.

The Information Technology (IT) manager disagreed, “I’ve examined several vendor programs and I’ve not found any that fit our unique needs.”

“Can we modify a commercial program and make it work for us?”

“We can but I don’t think we will be satisfied. With a minor investment, my department can design software that will work better.”

After further discussion, some of which became quite passionate, the Marketing VP defaulted to the IT Manager.

Many design evolutions later, and weeks behind schedule, IT proudly pronounced the program ready. Of course, implementation went sideways. Staff complained about missing data, poorly formatted reports, excessive options and more.

“I should have insisted on COTS software,” lamented the Marketing VP. “But how did I know? I’m not the software expert.”

When dealing with specialists, I think it is the manager’s responsibility to bone up on the subject matter.  Question vendors, seek coaching from other experts, explore YouTube videos—do what you must do to prepare yourself to ask intelligent questions and confidently evaluate options.

 

Don’t Reward Uncooperative Employees While Punishing Cooperative Employees


During the discussion of a serious design wreck, it quickly became apparent that only Juan and Hershel had the specialized talent to restore the project’s schedule.

When Hershel accurately perceived the project’s need for extra work, he spoke up. “I have family obligations the next couple of months and will not be able to work weekends.”

Although the manager was aware that Juan had been putting in a lot of hours on another project he said, “Juan, I hate to ask but do you think you can bail us out?”

Juan nodded and said, “I think I can be of help.”

The much-relieved manager accepted Juan’s offer. Although the manager may not have been aware, Juan also had upcoming personal obligations; but he was not the type to let personal issues impact his work.

Perhaps unintentionally, the manager’s decision had the effect of rewarding uncooperative behavior (Hershel) while punishing cooperative behavior (Juan).

Some would say that Juan should not have agreed if he thought the manager’s request was unfair. But I say it is the leader’s responsibility to avoid stacking work on cooperative team players while allowing self-serving, whiners to skate by with less effort.

 

Do You Practice Seagull Management?


VP Roberto surprised Julia with a request.  “I need a plan that will reduce headcount in your department by ten percent.”

Several times, Julia approached Roberto to discuss options.  Each time Roberto responded with something like, “I’m pretty busy.  Give me your best plan and I’ll look at it.”

After considerable thought, Julia produced a plan for ten percent reduction.

Roberto responded, “We have too many supervisors.  You need to lose some supervisors.  I don’t want all of the shrinkage from employees.”

Julia responded, “I will be relying heavily on my experienced supervisors.  There is going to be a lot of confusion when we start realigning duties.  And I can’t just demote a supervisor and expect to get the commitment we need.”

“I can’t accept the plan,” Roberto said.  “I’ll take it from here.”

Roberto’s eventual decision had no resemblance to Julia’s plan.  Of course, the department was confused and disheartened.  Turmoil continued for many months.

Roberto could have eased some of the confusion had he stayed more engaged with Julia.  But Roberto chose to exemplify Ken Blanchard’s seagull management—he flew in, made a lot of noise, dumped on everyone and then flew out.

Why Waste Time Writing Job Descriptions?


Ambrose’s manager asked him to complete an analysis for a customer by a certain date.

Ambrose responded, “I don’t think that is in my job description.”

I do not remember referring to job descriptions when making decisions.  Nor have I seen other managers dig out job descriptions to justify decisions.  Many companies, perhaps wisely so, do not even have written descriptions.

I am aware that job descriptions may become evidence when someone questions an employment practice.  However, I’m not sure descriptions sufficiently clarify issues.

Although he recommends written descriptions, attorney Jonathan Sigel, says that federal law does NOT require them.

Here are a few problems created by written job descriptions:

  • Too general and too out-of-date to be meaningful
  • Good applicants do not apply because they do not meet ALL requirements
  • They become tools for laggards who wish to avoid tasks
  • Too much time and cost for writing, revising, and updating
  • Brief, written summaries cannot describe ALL aspects of a job

I would guess there have been job descriptions on file for every position that I have held.  But I have never referred to the file to determine what I should do.  Have you?

Can We Just Eliminate Performance Improvement Plans (PIP’s)?


“I was put on a performance improvement plan,” an employee reported.  “My manager thought that I should have higher satisfaction ratings from my current accounts.  He gave me a detailed checklist of what I should do, and I had to report my results daily.”

The employee said he became discouraged and the entire team (You cannot keep these things secret.) worried and fretted excessively.  The employee eventually quit and moved to another company where he had a successful career.

From my observations, more than eighty percent of employees on PIP’s earn a termination notice or they quit.  Less than one in ten improve performance.

Here is the dirty little secret about PIP’s.  Managers use PIP’s almost exclusively for sub-par performers.   The intent is to create a lawsuit-proof paper trail to justify termination.  I understand this need; but you can document bad performance without creating paper-stacked, time-eating PIP’s.

If you are disappointed with an employee’s performance, tell the person what disappoints you and what you expect.  Suggest ways to improve. Root for the employee’s success.  Make a note with time, date and items discussed.  Copy your boss and the employee.  In less than five minutes, you have begun your paper trail.