Imagine your company was preparing to hire a new employee and used this job description:
“Candidates must be eager to come to work, look busy and appear engaged at all times. It is vital that they are willing to accept a paycheck every two weeks in exchange for accomplishing nothing we need done. Superior candidates should be unable to send or reply to emails, or make or return phone calls as this is both a hallmark and our secret to everyone’s ability to create and live in chaos. If you can over promise and under deliver on everything we need you to do, then you will have exceeded our expectations. No one will every set goals or deadlines because it might force our hand to manage performance. In fact we allow employees to rate their own performance and merit increases no matter what is accomplished. If you think you can avoid work, but enjoy getting paid a salary, please apply whenever you can! No rush, or we might have to process the application”
Holding employees accountable. What a concept huh? Actually it is only a concept in practice in the very best of companies, the most successful and profitable. In too many organizations it is just lip service from the top down, with few employees actually earning their paychecks. Now while companies would never set out to hire this level of performance, what does it say if employees are allowed to get paid and not get much done?
In reality, if someone is this bad they are not apt to stay employed long. But what happens when your sales people promise follow-up and then don’t follow-up with the customer? What happens when we promise a co-worker to get them a report, and then just flake out and forget? What happens when a week goes by and the project you are working on is no further along than last week?
Most accountability experts will tell you that the first person we need to hold accountable is ourselves. We must do as we say, return calls and emails quickly, live up to our obligations and not blame others. And yet if we are managers, basic management development 101 screams out that we are required to manage our staff’s performance. We must set goals, and follow-up and hold accountable people who miss deadlines.
I have a couple of clients right now that for an assortment of reasons have not been able to move projects along as quickly as they had hoped for. And yet, they both do something that makes me hang in there with them. They communicate often and let me know what is going on. One person in particular has been honest too. That might sound like a little thing, but what it tells me is that she trusts me and her willingness to tell me the truth instead of some half-baked excuse is that she is holding herself accountable.
Have you ever hired a friend to work for you? Even though they were a skilled professional and knew how to do their job, managing performance issues requires a finesse not taught in your typical management development training course.
While I have always hired attitude first, followed by competencies second, I have on occasions hired people that I’ve worked with as a peer in the past. It has required a different set of skills to manage friends, because you don’t know until after they are on staff if they will try and take advantage of their inside relationship with you.
I’ve personally had both success and failures with hiring friends. Some have been mature enough to not ask for anything different in our working relationship than what any staff member would expect. While others have crossed the line assuming that our friendship would protect them from accountability.
The key to managing, friends or strangers is to treat everyone the same. Require the same level of productivity, behaviors and communications. Your access to staff should be no different than you would grant to anyone else. In other words, everyone is on the same playing field.
I would also suggest that friendships remain outside the work environment. Because although you and they may be working well together, other staff will attribute actions and inactions simply as a result of the friendship. And no matter what you do or don’t do, if people think that you are playing favorites, you will never change their minds.
In the end, I have hired friends before that I would hire again. I have also hired friends that because of our previous friendship left us no longer friends or working associates. Yet, the best advice I can give any manager is to hire attitude first, competencies second, and leave friendship out of the equation altogether.
Whether it is on the world stage or in our local companies, the sad reality is that Bully Leaders win sometimes. Especially when they go up against more passive leaders. So does this mean we should all learn how to be bullies so we will win? It all comes down to company culture and your ability to adapt your leadership style.
I have worked for a few bully leaders, and to be honest they have won and I have lost because I didn’t know what hit me. Experience has taught me how to deal with bully leaders, and I doubt my losing streak would continue if I am unlucky enough to work for one of these gems again. It is all about figuring out what makes them a bully.
One manager comes to mind on this topic, and reminds me of the day I finally resigned. He said he didn’t want me to leave, but was clueless as to why I couldn’t endure him any longer. While I was the productivity star on his team of managers, I was his most ethical manager too, which conflicted with his and the company’s culture. Yes I am a Boy Scout, Eagle Scout actually, and my ethics are pretty entrenched. He used to bluster and yell at me, called me every name in the book, all to get me to ease up on what is right and wrong. He met his match in me, and yet I was the one who resigned because he finally wore me down.
This guy was the kind of manager you wanted if there was a ton of work to get done. He could orchestrate all the components and people necessary to move mountains, and yet his tank like methods often left a lot of bodies in his path. It happened to me and it really happened to my staff after I left. Many of them understood what I had gone through protecting them from the abuse after I left and their shield was gone.
My mistake, what I have since learned, is that bully leaders exist because we let them exist. We let them yell at us, push us around and get away with abusive behavior. I know now that I allowed this bully leader to win, and he is still winning today because no one else is stopping the behaviors either. The learning point is we sometimes lose to bully leaders, but it is because we did nothing to slow them down let alone stop them.
Do you work for a bully leader? What have you done to rein them in? What can we do to help you?