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Working around the problem

While I blog a lot about management and leadership, I certainly don’t want to give anyone the impression that I am some sort of infallible person. A lot of my posts are based on personal experience – whether it be something I was directly or indirectly involved with or observed, or perhaps even based on mistakes and lessons learned by myself! A lot of what I share on The Armchair HR Manager is done with the hope that others can learn from the mistakes that either myself or others have made so that we can all become better managers and hopefully better leaders based on lessons learned.

Business ManAs I have already mentioned, I am by no means perfect; however, there are some basic tenants of management that I see “violated” on a regular basis that absolutely drive me crazy. A big “no no” in the management world is trying to work around a problem instead of going to the person (direct report) themselves and identifying the issue. I have seen and heard far too many instances of managers and so called “leaders” taking these indirect, back door paths to resolve issues. What ends up happening is that they end up involving far too many other people in the problem that shouldn’t be involved in the first place.

This type of approach (working around the problem) does several (negative) things:

  1. It erodes at the core of any performance system and culture you have in place. By constantly working around problems, no one is ever accountable for anything.
  2. It creates a culture fueled by rumours, gossip, innuendo and fear-mongering. People hear that their boss has an issue with them…but they hear about it 2nd and 3rd hand and start making plans for their “defense.”
  3. It puts peers in very awkward situations – they know about a problem with their peer before their peer does and they are now being asked to provide a solution (work around) to things. It could be perceived, once everything comes out, (and believe me it will) that they too were part of the problem in working around the other employee.
  4. It completely breaks down any type of trust in the manager/employee relationship. Here is the real problem with this one – people want to work for managers they can trust. It is THE most important part of the relationship. If they don’t trust their manager, they will eventually leave…simple as that.

So as a manager, if you want to be a real leader, stop working around the problem and the people. If there is performance or conduct issue, discuss it with your employee directly. You need to clearly identify the behaviours or performance outcomes that are the issue. Identify how they are negatively impacting performance (whether that of the employee or the company) and also show the impact on peers, organizational culture, etc. Link it all up and clearly communicate the desired change you are looking for.

These conversations aren’t comfortable and no one looks forward to having them; however, they are integral part of being a decent manager. You owe it to yourself, your team and your company to NOT work around problems and people. By not doing this, you are establishing a culture of performance and accountability. Truth be told, you may be surprised by your employee’s reaction when you actually communicate the issue to them directly. They may be far more receptive than you think. At the very least, other members of your team will respect you more and view as more of a leader than just their manager.

At its core, this is about managerial COURAGE. I am sorry if you don’t like conflict and don’t have the courage to talk to someone about these types of issues face to face. At the end of the day, you are getting paid to be a manager and this is a BIG part of being a manager so you need to suck it up and forge ahead. If you don’t have the courage (and that is okay) it is probably time to start to think about moving back to an individual contributor role. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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