When Ignorance is Not an Excuse for Bad Behavior


In most workplace environments of any size you will find an employee that just seems to do and say things that the rest of us chock up as bad behavior. Things that can range from mildly offensive, to terminate their employment type of offensives. But what would you do if you found yourself working for a company where everyone on the senior management team seems to be clueless? It’s bad behavior run amok and getting worse each day.

I’ve been wrestling with a situation and company that seems to be infected with foot in their mouth disease. Everything that is said is blindly offensive to a number of what we in the HR world like to call protected classes. I listened to a former employee for over 3 hours who kept detailed notes of his 6 month tenure and was flabbergasted at the level of cluelessness among these players and that they are doing anything wrong. Even when caught, they dig a deeper ditch for themselves trying to explain their previous transgressions as normal.

At the top is a CEO who appears empathetic, and promises to get things worked out, and then does nothing. His leadership style is wait and see, and lacks the will for any kind of confrontation. And in private, he is known as the biggest closet bigot in the company, and he is a minority himself. One lone individual at the C level acts like a well-informed adult with professional behaviors. He sees everything that is going on, but realizes he is only one against the crowd. Rather than affect change, he is seeking new employment.

For those of you that have been reading my blogs for the past several years are probably asking yourself by now where the head of HR is and what are they doing to change things? Sadly, they are grossly incompetent, and often join in the bad behavior. In fact they act as the group leader of the internal gossip club making things worse. While a strong HR Leader would be challenged to turn this management team around, at least a freckle of awareness could be achieved.

This story doesn’t have an ending yet. An attorney has been retained, and an older EEOC complaint that was withdrawn has been reinstated and will be broadened. Things are going to get ugly and costly. I’m perplexed as to whether I should insert myself or stay back and be a spectator.  For those that are thinking that the board should get involved you are correct. In a normal world yes, but this is a puppet board, and every employee is told that management has them wrapped. Say anything to the board and you will get fired. So, now what?


Odd Qualifications for TOO Many Managers These Days


If you have children in their late teens to mid-twenties in the workforce, you may have heard a few dozen horror stories about their managers and thought they were exaggerated. Unfortunately your ears did not deceive you nor did your kid’s experiences get blown out of proportion. The minimum qualifications to become a Shift Lead, Assistant Manager or even the Manager are nonexistent; unless of course you consider the following requirements as standard guidelines these days.


“Managers Wanted For Hire”

We are seeking warm bodies with zero previous supervisory or management experience to lead our retail locations, restaurants, and revolving door enterprises. The following requirements are mandatory unless otherwise stated as preferred:

  • You must have zero knowledge of any Human Resources Policies, Federal or State Employment Laws, and be completely unable to identify Workplace Harassment (even if it happens to you).
  • If your staff members should have the audacity to report your management style to senior members of the company or Human Resources as “Hostile” or “Illegal” you have the assurance that these complaints will be fully ignored until such time as you are able to terminate these staff members.
  • In order to make your sales, service and expense goals, it may be necessary to work staff without paying them regular or overtime wages, skipping meals and breaks, and learning how to trick the time clock.
  • You should understand that your role makes you the superior life form in your location and all staff are considered your subjects and/or slaves and should be treated with very little regard.
  • Giving Directions and Feedback should come from your emotional stability at the time and never from your brain. Ripping an employee’s face off is a sign of a strong manager. If you are referred to as a Witch with a B, consider it a badge of honor and that you are doing things correctly.
  • Experience with Performance Improvement and Team Building is not necessary. If any employee doesn’t perform as expected within the first two days on the job, they should just be fired. You can always hire someone else to replace them.
  • You do need to be a proficient recruiter and interviewer with an emphasis on telling each person what they want to hear so they accept the job. You will not be held accountable for any promises you make as we put nothing in writing. We do not have a written list of prohibitive interview questions either and we discriminate in our hiring process based on each manager’s personal biases.
  • It is vital that you have never received any management or leadership training in previous positions and we make the promise to you never to require any such training nonsense as long as you work for us.


NOTE: While this blog was meant to be humorous in nature, unfortunately it is the sad truth that many employees are working for managers with these skill sets. Your friends and family are being subjected to poor management because these issues are allowed to exist up the food chain. If you ever wondered why a company only wants the younger employee and not older ones, it is because the older employee knows the rule of law and will not put up with this nonsense. They also are quick to report bad behavior and hire attorneys if needed to resolve issues. Parent need to be vigilant in their efforts to educate their children on proper workplace behaviors and rules.


Managers Avoiding Conversations


Instead of talking with employees the old fashion way with your vocal chords, managers are increasing their use of email and texting as the preferred way of communicating with employees. While it may be quicker, it is causing more problems than the time being saved.

I believe the real reason for typing and not talking is not because of the time saving feature, but rather the avoidance of conflict. You have less feedback, both verbal and non-verbal when you type. There is less of an issue in tone, and yet you also lose the ability to add tone at a level it can be understood. Typists will tell you that tone is possible, and I agree, but it can more easily be interpreted incorrectly too in the written word.

When it comes to giving directions or feedback, verbal communication goes a long way in creating clearer understanding. If there are concerns, or uncertainties, verbal communication can afford a quicker resolution too.

But many will ask, what about documentation? Written communication does document feedback. But try documenting after the verbal conversation instead. Try, “as per our conversation today about being on time for work, we agreed………”

And too much documentation can come back to bite you too. You may be a real nag of a manager, so verbal communication can be a blessing for you, when the opposite is 20 emails in 4 days about a single topic.

A balance in the use of verbal and written communication from manager to employee should be used to build rapport, and get feedback. Using written for times you want to document something can be beneficial, but after you have allowed feedback. The best way to assess your current use is to evaluate your issues. The more issues, the more you need to go back to verbal communications.

Just my two cents for the week………………

Why Your Employees are Resigning

If when you resign, your manager’s response is “Great!” you may think at first they are happy for you.  But then it dawns on you that you hadn’t got to the part where you told them why, and where you are headed.  Hum, they are just thrilled that you are leaving.  Upon further reflection, you see the joy in their face and realize this same person who just gave you a good performance rating two weeks ago, is actually happy you are resigning.

As the training guy, I can tell you that there is definitely not a single leadership training program that would encourage a manager to be visibly thrilled when an employee resigns.  It is inappropriate behavior to say the least, unprofessional, and downright sad.  And yet this happened to a friend of mine last week.

She was part of a couple of hundred employees that were part of an acquisition late last year, by a company that seems hell-bent on replacing most if not all of these employees with their choices.  In 4 months, nearly 40% of the managers have resigned.  Not a single one was terminated, they all resigned.  At the current pace they will have lost all of the management team in another 6 months.  One is left to wonder if that is the goal?

But let’s move away from the current conspiracy theory and ask if all of these resignations are not by design, and are actually not desired.  What is this new company doing that is causing so many people to jump ship?  I can answer that question in one word.  Culture.

The culture of this company is cold.  It is not focused on customer needs or employee needs, and thus they make decisions that impact the lives of both of these groups.  They have been made aware of their choices, by customers that are leaving with the same gusto as the employees.  Yet it has had no impact.  The culture says we know better what customers and employees need, and they must change to fit the culture.

I will admit that at times I have been happy when an employee has resigned.  Usually it has been a performance issue causing the disruption and a failure to change the performance.  So when the employee has resigned, I am glad the stress is over.  Yet I have always seconded guessed what I or my team could have done differently to prevent losing this talent.  And yes, even the worst employee has talent that you lose when then resign.

All managers should spend a little time finding out why someone is resigning.  When it is for a better opportunity, then support them and visibly show that support.  Don’t be an arrogant jerk and lash out.  Chances are if it was because the working conditions made them leave it was your fault.  We must always remember that employees go to work for the company, but 9 times out of 10 they resign because of their manager.  Learn from the resignation, and do better next time.

Employee Loyalty

I have found that many senior managers are under the false impression that their employees are loyal simply because they are still working at the company.  Many employees are still with your company simply because they need a paycheck and have not found an alternative source of income.  They are looking, and once they find greener pastures they are out of here.

Although it is sad on one hand, I find it terribly funny to watch senior managers unable to understand why employees are not loyal.  These employees are not loyal to their leaders or the company.  And while most of us accept employment offers because we like the company, we usually always leave because of the relationship with the manager.  I’ve taken jobs before that despite what my gut was telling me about the manager, I really wanted to work for a particular company and/or take on a particular challenge.  In the end, it was the treatment by the manager that had me looking to leave.

Yet sometimes it doesn’t take an Einstein IQ to understand how a series of circumstance can lead to an employee losing their loyalty.  Imagine you have an employee that lives a mile from their work location and has done a great job for you since they became an employee.  In fact, their skills could serve to clean up a real mess in another location that is 15 miles down the road, but due to traffic will increase their 5 minute commute to an hour each way and no pay increase to move.  You explain that the transfer takes place in two days, and if they say no it is insubordination that will be followed by an immediate termination.  Are you surprised they agreed to the transfer?  Are you going to be shell-shocked when they resign for greener pastures?

Thanks to social media these types of conversations are being well documented, and yet the insanity continues to play out in one company after another.  Being the training guy I can see that the lack of management development training has created a generation of foot in mouth leaders.  But that aside, if you are losing staff members, maybe it is time to assess why your employees are no longer loyal to you.

Are You a Stupid Manager?

If asked if you are a stupid manager, could you admit that at times you have been?  I realize that coming to grips with doing stupid things in your role as a manager may be difficult, but it is a fact of life that we all have at one time or another done something like the following.

  • Have you ever called your manager and asked them to approve something you are fully empowered to do on your own?  If you have you are sending a clear signal you are in over your head.
  • Have you ever had questions about processes, decisions, or outcomes and sat silent during staff meetings and not ask a single question?  Enjoy your time in the dark, because you could have turned on the light switch and seen the light.
  • Have you ever talked about the performance of a staff member in front of another staff member?  If you have, this person is now wondering what you are saying about their performance in front of other employees.
  • Have you ever talked one talk, and walked another?  If so, you are sending mixed messages and by modeling, encouraged staff to do what you do, not what you say.
  • Do you lie to employees, and yet want them to be truthful to you?  If so, you are misguided to believe that they will be truthful.
  • Is your picture next to the word “Unethical” in the corporate dictionary?  If so, get it together and get honest.
  • Do you get upset when people miss deadlines, and yet you are the clog in the process that made them miss the deadline?  Often managers fail to see their role in a process, and if employees don’t feel comfortable reminding them everything comes to a stop.
  • Do you have an office snitch that you encourage to rat out their fellow employees?  How do you expect to build respect with staff?
  • Do you play favorites, even have a manager’s pet as one of your employees?  This creates friction with your staff and you, and the staff and this employee.  Thanks for making everyone’s work life a living hell!
  • Do you micro-manage staff and yet hate to be micro-managed?  Have you ever heard of the Golden Rule?

While I could go on for days, I sometimes wonder why so many managers do many of these items and claim to be successful?  It is human nature to slip up once in a while, but it should not be what you are known for.  There is more to managing than making your numbers and goals.  You are a manager because you are able to motivate and obtain optimal performance out of your team.  If you can’t do this, than step aside and give the honor of managing to someone who wants it.

Dysfunctional Government Workers

Like many Americans, I am quite upset with the amount of dysfunction in many of our government entities, and in the individual performances of so many workers.  While I am very tempted to group all of them into one basket and say that they are all dysfunctional, that would be an unfair assessment for the many workers that bust their butts weekly for the American people.

Just like in corporate America, our government employs human beings.  So guess what, the slackers, and the thieves and cheats of the world work in both public and private industry.  While a lot of humans have high work ethics, many will get away with what they can get away with.  In other words, leaders need to step up and start managing.

I’ve often day dreamed about my first day as President of the United States.  There would be a very clear message sent that if you want to lie, cheat and steal then leave now.  If you do anything to screw with the trust the country has placed in you to perform your job well, I will make sure your employment is terminated.  If anyone tries to cover up a mistakes, all those involved will lose their jobs.  We work for the American people, not the other way around.  I would then make it perfectly clear, that I expect the same management style from everyone on the team, or they too will be looking for a new job.

I am flabbergasted at how many challenges are going on in our Federal, State and local governments.  I fault the leaders from the top down to the offending employee.  Where the hell is management?  Why are things so out of control?  Why are we growing the dysfunction rather than weeding it out?  Because there are no consequences for screwing up!

The CEO for the United States is the President, and yet I dare anyone to find me a company where the CEO is dealing with this much dysfunction and still has their job.  In any corporate function, the CEO would lose their job for any of these activities, and would be taking a lot of people with them on their way out the door.

Corporations are required to make money, while government is in place to spend money.  See the difference in the motivators here?  If government required each function to make a profit, or reduce expenses while improving productivity, we could turn things around.  Yet until we learn to start terminating the dysfunctional employees, no amount of positive changes will make a difference.  If I want my garden to grow healthy vegetables, I must constantly remove the weeds.