In Management-What Goes Around Comes Around

There’s an old saying that applies to all facets of our lives: what goes around comes around or like some people prefer to call it, karma. What ever way you look at this principal, it applies to everything that we take on. Our relationships, our daily dealings with people and certainly in our business dealings. There’s no escaping it. I thought about this morning while I was going about my daily work routine here in the office.  I see people working their way up from lower positions to higher ones with a bit more responsibility just to have it all go to their heads. They develop seemingly out of nowhere, this high and mighty attitude, prancing around thinking that they are now so much better than their colleagues since they got a promotion.  Well, their bubble usually bursts at some point or another. Let me illustrate.

About 10 years ago I was working at a large telecommunications company here in Australia called Vodafone. They decided to sell off their retail arm of the business and a British company bought all the retail stores. There was a huge shake up within the company at the time. One of the team members a while before got a promotion to become the new store manager. He and I really didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things but I was always respectful of his authority. The new owners  asked from all the store managers an evaluation of all the team members. Naturally, mine wasn’t very favorable. He was always backstabbing every one of his team members, sexually harassing the female ones and just generally being a real jerk. We always told him that one day he is going to get his. Out of the 7 staff members in that store, I was the only one who was rehired by the new owners. They all got decent references to find a new job with. The manager however, not only didn’t get a reference but he was also served with papers for a sexual harassment suit. Talk about karma coming back and biting this guy on the bum.

The bottom line simply is this. Don’t let a new position get to your head. You are no better than the day before you got the promotion. We all live for in an office environment to get ahead in our careers. However, keep in  mind that getting ahead does not give you the licence to act like you are better than everyone else in the office. Sometimes, you only get a promotion because you were slightly better at doing something than one of your colleges. It could just as easily gone the other way. You have to ask yourself, how would I react if the shoe was on the other foot?

Corporate BS-Team

The definition of a team is a group of people working together in a supportive manner and to compliment each others efforts to gain optimum results.

I think this person forgot the fact the people who work in a ‘team’ are constantly engaged in self interest, one up -manship, general laziness and sometimes even sabotage due to their ambition to get ahead over their co workers. In fact, most of them a probably too busy in just getting their own jobs done and perhaps even trying to keep their jobs to give two hoots about their coworkers issues. Not to mention the fact that most people on the team probably hate each others guts.

One thing one of my managers always used to say to his superiors when things went right was, “well sir, it was a team effort”. Yeah right!! In our department, it was usually two or three people doing 90% of the work and the other 10 doing less than 10% while the balance was probably made up by the cleaning staff. If he was any kind of manager, he would have seen that and did something about it.

The other side of the coin is off course when things don’t go right, it’s never a team effort. Some managers pass the buck to others and blame the team members when in fact, they themselves are the problem by trying to micromanage everything from who closes the sales to who cleans the white board every morning. They don’t realize that by managing up all the time, they are the problem and it’s clear that they are not displaying leadership and communication skills that are needed to manage a group of people or a team.

If you are going to use the term team to refer to your staff members, then please, as a manager show some leadership and accept responsibility when things are going well and equally when they are not. Only then does the word team have any significance in the workplace.

Does Your Company Foster Professional Parasites?

More and more people in management now days do not believe that their job is for life. It’s not just people in management who believe this. When I was a kid, my father was a textile chemist from when he left school to the day he retired. He moved countries as well as continents and always stayed in the same field. He shared his knowledge with whomever he felt needed it or was asked to. He had nothing to lose by doing that as he knew he was invaluable to the companies that he worked for. That I think is a thing of the past.

The reason this is happening is probably because a lot of companies expect loyalty but do not return loyalty to their employees. So they start to think that knowledge is power and don’t pass on their knowledge and experience to others because they feel threatened and do not believe their companies hold them in the highest regard. In my father’s day, his companies held on to him and knew he was valuable to them. He was head hunted all the time and the companies he worked for knew that. Most looked after him very well. Until, the early 80′s came along and the corporate world changed dramatically. After 10 years of loyal service to one company, they let him go within one week of being eligible to get his long service leave.  He wasn’t the type of man to take the matter to court because in those days, it was a lot more difficult to take action against your employer if you think you have been treated unfairly. Not many years after that, he retired very disillusioned with the business world.

The problem of knowledge hoarding is undoubtedly compounded by the use of more and more temps in key roles within a company. If you have any say in that as a manager, don’t let key positions be filled by too many temps. They tend to gain the knowledge and experience by being like professional parasites as such and move on to bigger and better jobs.

If you don’t want your staff to just gain as much knowledge and experience they can from you or your company and then when something better comes along just leave, then it can start with you. Make the workplace a relaxed and friendly place for them to be in. Foster a culture of cooperation  and above all else, share your knowledge and experience with them. You can’t help the fact the some will leave when an opportunity comes their way but you can stop the feeling that a lot have that their company doesn’t care about them and that they are replaceable.  Make it a place where they can learn and gain experience and confidence in whatever it is that your company does. If you haven’t got one already, suggest setting up an intranet that is accessible from all the terminals in your workplace. That is an invaluable tool for people to go and get training and information to increase their skill set. It’s a small thing but it makes your staff feel secure and realize that the company does care about them and wants them to grow with the company.

As a manager, it starts with you. You can either have an office full of professional parasites who will suck all the knowledge and experience from you and move on to use it in another company, or you can have staff that actually want to be there and learn and grow with you. The only way to do that is create a friendly yet professional environment and encourage your staff to gain new skills so that they can grow as the company grows and hopefully have a profession for life.

Work Place Negativity

Workplace negativity is a little different from employee negativity? How so? One is more destructive than the other. If you have an employee that’s negative all the time, sure, he or she can affect others in time if left unaddressed. But if you have a workplace that’s negative, then generally it means that everyone is affected already. As a manager, you have to handle this situation quickly and precisely.

First off, you need to identify what the problem is. The best way to do this is to talk to your staff individually at first and then collectively once you know what the problem is. Often times it’s a very minor thing that has festered into something huge because it wasn’t addressed or resolved at the time that it happened.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time the causes for such negativity are out of your hands. Sometimes staff aren’t happy with the direction the company is going, or have heard rumours about layoffs or new pay structures. At times like that, it’s often fear of the unknown that causes the negativity in the workplace. When I was faced with this scenario, I sent out memos to everyone involved and then called a staff meeting to address the pending pay reviews and company restructuring. A lot of unfounded rumours are spread by people who love to gossip and sensationalise things so they become the centre of attention. You need to stop people like that in their tracks as soon as you hear about it and deal with that person. You need to make it clear to all your staff that you will not under any circumstances tolerate anyone spreading rumours or unfounded ‘facts’! I don’t know about you but I found it very exhausting dealing with a negative workplace day after day. If a person after being told to stop their gossip-mongering, take whatever disciplinary action you are allowed to weed such people out. I couldn’t be bothered with them and neither should you. They are paid to work not create a negative working environment.

There are many causes for workplace negativity, but there is a lot you can do to minimise it. You need to stay alert, talk to your staff and deal with a potentially negative issue straight away before it affects everyone.

Cheers

Andrew Bailey

Swearing At Work…Oh No!

We all do it from time to time no matter how moral or upright we think we are. Let’s face it. I feels damn good when we do it. There is just something about dropping the “F bomb” that releases a lot of tension and pent up emotions. In fact, i just did it as I’m sitting at the keyboard writing this: just spilled coffee all over the desk because my cat jumped up and scared the s*&@# out of me. Damn that felt good…I swear!

Anyway….what I was getting at was that swearing does release a lot of frustration and anger usually within one word. Amazing how that works. Research has been done at New Zealand’s Victoria University that basicaly said that ‘letting it rip’ wont change or improve the situation but it is a useful emotional release.

So, the question is, do you as a manager let your employee or employees swear around the office? My answer to that would be ABSOLUTELY! However, a word of caution. It has to be in context. What I mean by that is that a person shouldn’t go around the workplace just uttering curse words for the sake of it. It might offend an employee or a customer. It is also bad manners to do that. I never saw anything wrong with my team while they were in the office and talking amongst themselves to swear every now and then. I’m certainly not condoning the idea of every second word a person utters to be a swear word. That just shows a lack of vocabulary if nothing else. And an employee should NEVER EVER swear in front or at a customer. In my early days at managing I told one customer that he was a f%^& idiot and to get out of my store! That did not go down well at all with upper management and I nearly got the boot.

Believe it or not but the same study also concluded that staff members who have a bitch and a moan to each other improves morale around the workplace too. The F word is the most commonly used swear word but in the context of a close knit team, it could not be considered offensive. To me, that makes perfect sense. If it doesn’t to you, please let me know what you think about this.

There are enough pressures at the work place these days and by letting your staff swear around each other to release the tensions of a bad day, let them do it. It costs nothing and the less you have to do to maintain their motivation and morale the better.

Being Patient With New Staff

have patience with new staffBeing patient with new staff is easy to say but hard to do. Managers often have to recruit new staff members and train them in whatever your company does. There are procedures and there are systems in place that a new staff member has to learn. And how quickly a new staff member learns often depends on how well you train them. Being patient with new staff members is important for their development and possibly their future within the company. How can that work?

It’s all very simple. It’s like that old saying that goes that a student is only as good as his teacher. Generally speaking, if a new staff member fails, then it usually comes back on you as a manager. It will be seen that you either recruited the wrong person for the job or that you didn’t train them properly. In saying that though, sometimes a new staff member appears to be failing because the expectations that you have set for them are far too high too early. A friend of mine started a new sales job only a week ago. He is experienced in sales and knows what he is doing however, he has taken on a new industry that he is not familiar with. His manager has already had a go at him for being behind schedule for the role out that he had planned. To top that off, he has only been given a few hours training by his manager on how to sell that product, on how to overcome objections on that particular product and so on. His manager has been in the industry for over 20 years so he knows all the ins and outs of it. So only after a few days, his manager expected him to be able to close as many sales as someone with 20 years experience in the industry. Is that fair? Is that being patient with your new staff? Hardly.

Let’s be realistic. When someone comes into your company from a totally different background, give them time to learn everything there is to know. If you need results in a hurry, then don’t hire someone outside of your industry no matter how great they were in theirs. It takes time to get into a new mindset. Train them well, take the time to make them feel comfortable and above all else, be patient. If after a month or two you see no real improvement in their performance, then it may be time to reevaluate their position in the company. If you jump the gun after only a very short period of time and terminate their employment too early, you may lose a very valuable asset to yourself as well as your company. Being patient with new staff is also a sign of how good you are as a manager.

A Co-Worker Gets Fired

getting firedA co-worker gets fired.this can happen to anyone at any time. As a manager though, a lot of the times itís not in your control who gets fired or not. Sometimes it could be a co-manager or a manager of another department who gets the bad news. The last thing you should do is to say or do nothing at all.

Be quick to react if you donít want to appear to be insensitive. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a simple, I don’t know what to say or a simple I’m sorry.

Avoid turning the situation into a big office gossip fest.

Avoid bagging the company and saying things like this company is screwed now.

Avoid sounding like a person who has been there or done that as that can sound very insincere.

Above all, don’t downplay the situation and make out as if it’s no big deal because sometimes losing your job is a big deal. Try and be balanced in what you say to them. At times all that’s needed is a listening ear after the initial shock.

Coaching Your Staff

Socrates once said that “I cannot teach you anything, I can only make you stop and think”. One way to make someone ’stop and think’ is for a manager to coach someone. That’s part of the management role and it’s a continuous task. One company I worked for years ago had a very strict coaching system that everyone from managers to sales assistants had to go through every week.

I have worked at some places where there was no coaching done by any of the managers and the staff were left to their own devices. The results were chaotic. There were sales people doing their own thing; long lunch breaks, making up whatever they wanted to tell the customers just to get a sale, sitting around talking all day long and so on. They treated their workplace like a social club and there was little old me…doing everything and no time to even scratch my bum. After a long time of no direction by the company to coach and train their staff and not to mention my bum was getting rather itchy, I had had enough. I devised a training program over a period of a few days and took that plan to upper management. I explained to them that the staff were lazy and had absolutely no direction whatsoever. When they finally got the point, they gave me the go ahead to implement the plan. The immediate result was one of indifference by most of the staff. Most argued why the change? Things were fine the way they were. After awhile of listening to their points of view, I gave them the choice, either accept that there is going to be some sort of a training program implemented regularly, or they were welcome to find a new job. Some left but most stayed.

The benefits of a good coaching system is that it can free up your time for other things as your staff are more motivated, able to think for themselves and generally they become more creative too. I noticed that when we started a coaching regime with everyone, they became more productive and very creative in coming up with ways to make more sales.

Peter Drucker ( a famous management writer) said that ‘management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things“. One of the things you can do right as a manager is to implement if you don’t already have one, a good coaching program and if you do have one, keep it going on a regular basis with all your staff. This doesn’t just apply to sales staff but can also include all that you have under you. Everyone has dreams and aspirations on where they want to be and a good coaching program can do truck loads to help them get there.

Cheers

Andrew Bailey