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Passing the Buck

As a manager, one of your most important functions is to take ownership of the issues that come up in your department and with your employees. Of course, this is a somewhat easy task when the things that you need to “own” are all positives. For example, most managers I know (of) have no problem delivering good news items to their staff. They have no issue with telling someone they are receiving a bonus or pay increase. They are quite happy to let employees know that their training request has been approved or that their requested paid time off has been granted. Like I said, all easy peasy stuff that is pretty positive from a delivery standpoint.

Where the rubber meets the road, and what separates good managers from poor managers, is when the messaging is negative. It is never easy for a manager to tell an employee “no.” As in, “no you can’t go to that user convention,” or “no, you can’t have that vacation time because others have booked it first,” or “no, you are not receiving a merit increase because your performance was not at an acceptable level.” Good managers know that they are responsible for the delivery of both types of these messages.

For managers, this also aDollarpplies to their relationship with HR. As mentioned, managers have no problem with the delivery of the good news but where the rubber meets the road is when the tough conversations have to take place. For example, nothing irks me more than when a manager wants to terminate an employee and this type of scenario plays out: We work together to review the history, what has been to correct the behavior, etc. The manager, with HR support, decides that enough is enough and the employee must go. The manager than asks me (HR), “So YOU are going to tell them they are fired right?” They are very shocked when my response back is, “no, as they are not my employee and I didn’t make the decision to fire them. I will most certainly be in the room with you to support you, but this is your decision and your employee – you own it.”

When managers avoid having these difficult conversations, and making the difficult decisions, they are in fact passing the buck. They love the managerial title and pay, but don’t want to do the things that managers are required to do. By not accepting accountability for their own decisions, they are in fact, undermining themselves and their position. Good managers take ownership for their decisions and have the conviction to see things through – realizing that not everything is going to be easy!

So as a manager, if you want HR, or even your manager to do things like terminate your employees, deliver tough messages to your staff, or even if you defer decisions to “Senior Management,” then you must also be prepared to allow these other parties to deliver the good news to your staff. That is, when bonus cheques come up, HR gets to hand them out to your staff. When merit increases are awarded, “Sr. Management” meets with your staff to tell them. When the approval for that convention in Orlando is approved, HR gets to tell your employee.

See how utterly ridiculous that all sounds? For that reason, that is why you as a manager cannot pass the buck. Not now, not ever. You need to “own” these situations. If decisions are made that you don’t understand or are beyond your control, ask more questions of your manager to gain a greater understanding. Find out as much as you can. Use that information in the discussions with your employees. Whether you agree with all the organizational decisions that are made or not, as a manager, you are not allowed to pass the buck or have any pass throughs. It is never acceptable to tell your employee, “it wasn’t my decision” or “I don’t know they decided this but….” You need to lead and take ownership of each situation in your department and with your employees. At the end of the day, this is what separates good managers from bad managers and it is what separates leaders from managers. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of thefixer/Flickr.com


2 Responses

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