Why are managers afraid to manage?

In his IT Leadership blog today, John McKee discusses the reasons many IT managers are reluctant to deal with personnel issues. Having been a personnel manager for a number of years, I wanted to stand up and applaud his words.

And I have to tell you, now being just another employee in the crowd, I want to stand up and applaud them even more. Here's why.

Nothing demoralizes employees more than working with a co-worker who is a problem that no one will deal with, either because doing so would be "uncomfortable" or the happiness of the team is just not a big priority. Basically, it ends up with the crappy employee holding everyone emotionally hostage.

I learned a long time ago that, although it's never pleasant to deliver criticism, the burden should never outweigh the need. If someone is a personnel problem, he or she has to be responsible for the consequences. I'm not suggesting the criticism should be blunt and loud, by any means. It can be finessed. But a manager should never be apologetic for having to criticism the work performance of a team member. If Employee A exhibits behaviors that negatively impact the rest of the staff, then Employee A needs to be made aware that it won't be tolerated.

If not, what's the message to the rest of the team? I can show up late, push my work off on others, be intimidating, be toxic, and watch YouTube videos all day at work. Who's going to say anything? And the other message is that I am not important enough to straighten things out for.

Much of the time, a manager will turn a blind eye to a bad employee even though all the signs are there. Then they'll wait until a co-worker comes in to complain. At that point, the manager gives the "You should talk to her and explain how that makes you feel" speech. First of all, and I know I'm going to get creamed with feedback on this, we can try to be all kum-ba-ya about it, but nine times out of ten, such a "talk" will result in one employee being directly in the "hate radar" of another. Most unbearably unpleasant people also happen to be defensive about their unpleasantness.

Second, isn't that what the manager gets the extra bucks for…managing?


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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