Ah, the majestic old days of management when we could rule with an iron fist. Don’t care about your employees just their productivity. Tell them what to do and where to go if they don’t like it, my way or the highway. If it made them upset, not our problem.
Unfortunately, back in my days with Wells Fargo, that’s what we were told to tell them. If I was asked a question by an officer as to why they didn’t get a raise or something was changed, my answer, coming from the corporate line, I was a good corporate minion, was just that. “If you don’t like it then leave, we’ll find someone to replace you at the minimum wage”.
It took me a while to see the light, but I began to change my management style. From one of being a bureaucratic corporate toadie to one that was liked and respected by my officers. And what did I do differently to change? I became an employee’s manager. With this change I didn’t exactly engender myself to the company because I was an employee’ advocate, which got me in trouble more than once.
I changed my style of management by doing only three things…listening, empathizing, and putting myself in their shoes. I listened to them and what their concerns were and attempted to do what would be best for them, the company, & the client. Sometimes it didn’t work out so well for 1, 2, or all 3, but I did try to strike that balance. I usually came away with 1, 2, or all 3 mad, or ecstatic at what I did.
The innumerable incidents of workplace violence are plagued with stories of people who weren’t listened to or taken seriously with their grievances, real or perceived. They then subsequently brought a weapon to the office, or used something already there, and injured someone, thousands since the 80s. A good example…
At General Dynamics in the early 90s an employee returned from a leave of absence after burying his 6-year-old son who had died of leukemia. It was obvious that his work performance was suffering because of his grief. A meeting was held to discuss terminating him. The next meeting was to be where he was actually terminated but instead he terminated the HR manager and the union rep. Unfortunately, there are innumerable news stories like this, maybe not fatal but a company being insensitive to employees needs.
It is imperative as managers that we, sometimes, be the hardass of the company. We are tasked with enforcing the rules, regulations, policies, and procedures that may not be very popular with the employees. Some will resist and others will simmer slowly until the boiling point is reached, if ever.
But it is just as imperative that we listen & make accommodations, if possible, for them. And with our own employees, it’s even more important to listen and care about what they are saying and doing right or wrong. They are after all part of the extended family of the company and therefore needed to accomplish your mission of manufacturing your product or delivering your services.
An employee, who may be having difficulties showing up on time or not being properly groomed, could be indicative of a problem. This is not saying that we need to solve their problems for them, but we do need to be a sounding board and show that you are interested in both their welfare as well as the security of the company/client. And the only way to do this is to take the time to learn who they are as well as the problem. It may not solve the underlying issues, but it may prevent some bad results by not listening.
Other times it may be a blatant attempt at just plain insubordination for whatever reason or they are trying to play you for a fool. Which means that you have to come down hard on them and deny them whatever is against the rules in a harsh tone? And in the case of an officer write them up and counsel, or a harsher penalty, them. And make no apologies for it, sometimes it’s necessary.
I’ve had to discipline & terminate my officers in the office and on-site. But for the sake of the company and/or client it had to be done. And I would rather have done it than by someone else which didn’t engender me to my now ex-friends.
The lesson for all of this is that you have to be willing to take the time to listen and care about your employees. It may also be necessary to defend those employees if they are accused unfairly, simply to get rid of them, which can be another trigger for a violent incident and happens far too often…even now.
What is your management style? Are you one who will listen and care for your officers? Or are you so tied into the bureaucratic corporate mentality that you can’t bend for anyone or anything? Being too far on either side isn’t good for anyone. You have to strike a balance, somehow, between being a*****e and an employee’s manager, and not compromise either side or your integrity.
It is not an easy task to accomplish to become an employee’s manager. But it can be done without getting fired or raising the ire of upper management, maybe. The question then becomes…can you do it?
“To be a successful leader you must Engage, Empower, and Encourage”
Robert D. Sollars assists businesses and their employees to lessen their risk of WPV as well as other security/customer service related issues with time tested and proven ideas. You can follow him on his upcoming website robertdsollars.com or twitter@robertsollars2.
(Watch for my new book…not on customer service but on preventing violence in our schools due in May)
I May be Blind, but my Vision is Crystal Clear