Managers too can change for the better

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There is not a day that goes by that I don’t hear from employees of a variety of organizations about managers who don’t know how to manage and those who shouldn’t be managing. Recently, I found a survey in What is a Jerk?” from Love Em or Lose Em. In this material was an exhaustive list of behaviours that would be rated from 0-5, zero means you never act this way, and five means you often act this way. I’d like to pick some of these as a great reference.    

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t hear from employees of a variety of organizations about managers who don’t know how to manage and those who shouldn’t be managing. Recently, I found a survey in What is a Jerk?” from Love Em or Lose Em. In this material was an exhaustive list of behaviours that would be rated from 0-5, zero means you never act this way, and five means you often act this way. I’d like to pick some of these as a great reference.    

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t hear from employees of a variety of organizations about managers who don’t know how to manage and those who shouldn’t be managing. Recently, I found a survey in What is a Jerk?” from Love Em or Lose Em, with an exhaustive list of behaviours that would be rated from 0-5, zero means you never act this way, and five means you often act this way.

Some of the behaviours in the survey included intimidation, condescending or demeaning, acting arrogantly, withholding praise and belittling people in front of others. Others were giving mostly negative feedback, enjoying making people sweat, showing disrespect and showing favoritism. Also in the list was acting if others are stupid, using fear as a motivator, failing to listen, lacking patience, demanding perfection and having to always be in control.           

Still, those who use poor judgment in dealing with their employees can change. They can improve and make a difference in their own lives and ultimately in the lives of their own employees. I don’t say that change is easy, but giving feedback to managers on their performance, it can happen.

According to C. Longenecker and L. Fink in their article Fixing Management’s Fatal Flaws,

“Research makes it clear that most managers do not receive ongoing, detailed and balanced feedback on their performance, which is a real problem if organizations want to improve. But research also shows that a disproportionate number of managers are unwilling to accept coaching, feedback and, in some cases, criticism”.      

Feedback is important for both managers and employees. Just as you can learn new leadership skills at any age, you can stop ineffective behaviours or replace them with more effective ones. “Get honest feedback somehow. Managers need a clear picture of how they look to others. If you believe (or find out) that you often exhibit jerk-like behaviours, decide to change”.

Fear is the organizational killer

One of the most constant particulars of being among those who have seemingly been mistreated will always be fear. Fear is the organizational killer. None of us likes to feel fearful, but that is exactly what happens when managers use poor judgment and emotions when they deal with their employees. According to J. Bible in the article, The Jerk at Work: Workplace Bullying and the Law’s Inability to Combat It, “When people are afraid, they focus on protecting themselves, not on helping their organizations improve. The organization’s performance is impaired by costs of increased turnover, absenteeism, decreased commitment to work, and the distraction and impaired individual performance. There is even evidence that when people work for cold and mean-spirited jerks, employees steal from their companies to even the score.  Men’s Wearhouse has an impressive policy designed to eliminate workplace bullying. It includes this statement: “Everyone deserves to be treated fairly. If leaders are the problem, we ask those being served by leaders to let them know or go up the chain of command-without the threat of retaliation”.

In addition, we as employees need to pay attention to how to respond to what has been deemed hostile work environment. One way is to document our experiences and to let management understand that we understand what that means and does not mean. Another big deal is to learn to pick your fights. Don’t waste your time on incidental experiences that only reflect a negative mood from someone every once in a while. According to K.M. Kerfoot in his article On Leadership, Leadership, Civility, and the ‘No Jerks’ Rule, “There will always be situations where there are jerks. You can become the brunt of their nasty e-mails, sabotage, and negative behaviour. Several strategies will help you deal with jerks:

  1. Take care of yourself. Emotionally, it is important that you do not personalize the attacks, although this can be very difficult.
  2. Always take the high road. At no time should you ever allow yourself to drop down to the same level of behaviour.
  3. Assume that a workable relationship can be established. Withdrawal from the person is probably the most natural reaction.
  4. Reach out to experts when all else fails for advice and counsel. This is not time to go it alone. When one is in a difficult situation such as this, thinking can be distorted. Reality checks form mentors and experts will help guide you”.

Also, don’t forget human resources, then if need be, the appropriate employee union, if you have one.

True Story

Remember, there is always assistance from someone in your organization to solve issues of rouge managers, just like there is assistance for rouge managers not to stay that way. We can all change, and sometimes that feedback is just what a manager needs to change their ways. I personally saw this happen at AT&T recently. An assistant manager was straight out of the military and came to the position in a new store with a coercive style. She wanted to bust heads and write reps up. Suddenly, after an employee survey on managers, she changed her mind. She saw multiple reviews on her staring her in the face. She applied for a store manager position and even though she was very qualified, upper management read all the surveys from employees, and said, “No.” She realized the only way to have a promotion was to move to a different state away from the employees she had mistreated. It came back and bit her. She recently left to start over. Lesson hard learned.  

 The author, David Pollitt, is a well-known author in leadership and educational circles. His articles and his books can be viewed on smashwords.com. He is also known for his Christian Science fiction and secular science fiction books.

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