Emerging Tech

6 (bad) reasons managers avoid personnel issues


I'm always amazed when I see otherwise good managers falter when they have to deal with a personnel issue.

I'm talking about all kinds of individuals. Those who are strong technically, smart, even outgoing are as likely to waiver as are others who don't have the same knowledge or brainpower or extraverted attitude.

Why is it that managers who rarely fail to meet their other deadlines, don't do as well with personnel issues?

Here are 6 key reasons:

1. Because they can. It's easy to avoid dealing with people - especially when you're in a more senior position. A simple, "Sorry I can't meet with you, this project's got to be done by such and such date and it can't be delayed," gets you off the hook. After all, very few people will argue that they are more important than THE PROJECT.

2. Because they don't know how easy it is. For a lot of people, it seems easier to simply avoid dealing with an issue that's personell related. Of course it's not. Avoidance, over time, makes a manager feel bad. Often those who avoid problems frequently will report feeling like they are weak, indecisive, unempowered, or even a fraud. But when they finally have to deal with the issue they often report that they feel much better. Even if it was a tough meeting.

3. Because their boss does it to them. They say things like, "Heck, it's what everyone around here does. So why should I get involved in this hassle; no one else cares anyway." I hear this in a lot of very poorly-performing organizations. No surprise if you think about it - when people are disregarded or problems avoided for a long time; the message to all is clear - "we managers really don't care."

4. Because they think their leaders are full of it. I mean, how many company leaders DON'T say stuff like, "our people are our most important asset" today? It's like a BS mantra. But then they're not accessible to the employees or other managers. When I hear this from a C-Level person I ask if I can see their appointment schedule. The ones who truly care have a lot of meetings with employees, union reps, or other lower level managers. Most don't. And the rest of the company just learns to live with the boss who says stuff but doesn't act on it.

5. Because they haven't been trained. With good training, even a rep who has to deal with customers' complaints all day can keep his or her perspective. They are taught what to expect with the interaction between them and unhappy customers, and how to respond without taking it personally. Understanding how to deal with personnel issues is a key part of being a good manager; yet many companies don' t have a training program in place. So we expect the manager to deal with it like a pro. The manager knows (s)he's not. And avoids.

6. Because they don't care. Face it - some managers really don't have any concern about the well being of the company or their fellow co-workers. They are there for the paycheck and to get out and spend it. If you see these people, recognize that they are not simply screwing the 'system'. Their lack of care may cause a waterfall affect which makes your company the next one to go out of business, beaten by another filled with managers and employees who really want to deliver a good product or service.

In today's world, a failure to recognize the importance of personnel issues, and then deal with them isn't just bad - it can be fatal.

john

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

49 comments
spriya.ram
spriya.ram

I agree with the author, that most of today's managers are shying away from personal issues. But how many of the associates come up and speak about it to the manager? I even doubt should they even say it? How many of the associates are true about their situation? I leave it here for each of us to think and educate the one we come across and correct ourselves if we need to. I have come across managers who take care and find alternatives with the associate and help them out with successful delivery of project. It is dependent on project management with the identification of such risks in the early or finding a backup quick. Response to such situations need to be quick as the motivation would go down. PERSONAL LIFE SHOULD BE GIVEN EQUAL IMPORTANCE TO THE PROJECT.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I always take time to listen to personnelle issues, firstly, I am on the employees side more than the employers, or at least that's what people I have managed think. They also understand that I don't take lightly to whining, complaining about others (tattling) or just wasting time. By being frank and yet understanding, my door is always open and rarely do I have anyone trying to avoid speaking with me, going over my head or trying to work around me. Anyone I have managed sees me as a key point of contact, I represent them and take care of them. For that, I have always received respect and honesty from people I work with. They know I would never ask them to do or say something I wouldn't happily do or say myself, and they offer the same respect. It's not wasting my time if it is done with respect.

dkmunyere
dkmunyere

lack of character and thus no moral authority to deal with issues especially personal. Pride. Some are too proud to deal with mere employee issues

Emrecall
Emrecall

While reasons 3, 4 and 5 strike a chord with me, I think many IT (and HR) departments find it easier to reformat (fire) than fix (confront and retrain), just like they do with hardware. Poor performing organizations almost always take the path of least resistance.

Jaqui
Jaqui

I'm to abrasive, but I'll pull anyone aside who isn't pulling their weight and talk to them, if that doesn't work, then I'll publicly ream them out about it. Since I use a "Flat Management" style, I don't often have these problems, team members actively work better when they have authority in the area they have the highest skill. [ I have gotten flack for using this model, until the effectiveness of the team is evaluated. ]

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

There is one more reason, one that I had to deal with when I was a manager, and it isn't an easy one to deal with. Some employees just don't get along with anyone and nothing is ever right for them. I had one tech that made my job a lot harder because he didn't like the jobs that were assigned to him or he wanted more training or called in sick at the most inoportune times (usually sunny days when the weather was nice). What made it worse was he'd go over my head to the owner and make me look like the bully. I had no issues with any of our other techs and was quite dilligent in working to make this one tech happy but it was a lost cause. I have moved on from that job but it left a bad taste in my mouth and I currently have no desire to ever be in a management position again. I think some managers fit into that category. Some don't care and others are too busy but don't forget about those good ones that have the employee form he**. EMD

skingan
skingan

What is the difference between leadership and management? To my way of thinking, management is forcing your will and the will of the company upon the subordinates you have power over. A leader would tend to empower those they are over and guide them through encouragement and constructive criticism to maximize their strong points and help them to grow in areas of weakness. It seems to me that the management stile that some have described here would be used by individuals who themselves have areas of weakness that need improving. No one benefits by a oppressive work environment. In my opinion the one that needs to move on would be the manager that publically humiliates a fellow employee. There are times when terminating an employee becomes necessary but problems should always be dealt with in private.

jlrobins
jlrobins

I would suggest another reason; ?7. Because they don?t realize they should be concerned about their subordinates.? Some may think that this is a corollary to ?6. Because they don?t care.? But it is a larger issue. As an example, let?s handle people based on a method taken from the discussion in previous threads off of Jaqui?s post? You take this person aside and talk to them about the amount of time they are taking off and that it is at a bad time in the project. They apologize and promise to try to do better, but there are some problems that they have to deal with. They do a little better, but after 2 months are still are seen as ?slacking?. So you catch them and publicly humiliate them. Your monologue continues until they blurt out that they are missing work to take their spouse to chemotherapy (or some equally personal and legally protected information). Then he or she continues by telling you that it is really none of your business because they are using sick leave. Furthermore, because of your past delicate handling of issues with people, they did not trust you enough to disclose it to you. But since you were so kind as to bring their behavior up for public discussion, they thought that this would be an appropriate time to let everyone know. And they will probably be talking to their lawyer about this incident, as well. Yes, this staffer will probably go on to another job. But you may have created tremendous ill will among your staff and a possible legal mess that could be a career stopper? if the company really cares about public relations and productivity. Jaqui and some of you others sound like a couple of bosses I have known or worked for. One had a department of 30 people. But he is approaching retirement now with 0 people reporting to him because he managed with the same style and finesse that you advocate. This is an attitude that one would expect from a law firm trying to weed out the ?mediocre? new hires/indentured servants before considering them for promotion to a ?partner track.? Or is this a ?management model? revived from the coal mines and auto factories just before unionization!!! Are there so many IT workers unemployed that they (we?) have become disposable?

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

At least you talk to your employees. Right now I have a great boss, but I've had some crappy ones. Honestly, sometimes people need to be publicly embarrassed. Too many times people don't actually change until they have a good reason. People always under estimate me because I'm a 'nice guy.'

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

you should take them quietly aside and fire them. Public humiliation helps no one.

rscholz
rscholz

i think we all agree with pulling an employee aside who isn't pulling their weight (this is your job btw), but publicly reaming them out is not, and unkind. this does not sound like a rewarding working condition, your "style" sounds more like a wreaking ball, i wouldn't be surprised if most of your team members quietly dislikes working for you. we don't gain respect by brutality, we can only gain it by fairness, decisiveness, and kindness. these are people after all, not machines.

mikeadams1137
mikeadams1137

Don't video tape it. Don't write it down. Deny, Deny, Deny. Seems to be the understanding of the management, I have been subjected too, in my two years of working in a corporate world. Cheers

mjones55
mjones55

Some managers enjoy leaving people twisting in the wind when action is clearly necessary. This passive agressive behavior is rooted in 1) fear of the subordinate getting credit for uncovering important issues and risks, 2) narcissism based on the principle "If I'm having a bad day, then you must suffer too", or 3) unwillingness to expend effort on anything that does not directly benefit the manager's position (such as on process improvement, or on employee development of the subordinate).

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Too many people think that their job owes them something. If they do their job, they won't have a problem. The problem is that too many people try to skate and then force those of use that actually work, to work harder. What Jaqui is saying is that sometimes people need to be called out or they will never change. I agree. A lot of people don't care about what you, as the manager, think...but they do care about what their fellow co-workers think. Oh, and the rhetoric about all of us working at Triangle Shirtwaist is just silly....Let's not even play that game.

Jaqui
Jaqui

if you don't bring the issue to someone's attention, how can it ever get resolved? [ step one, polite, on the side ] step 2: public humiliation for not changing the problem behaviour. step 3: fired [ from the top of the building preferrably ]:) ]

Jaqui
Jaqui

it is here. first strike caused private discussion. 2nd strike, public humiliation 3rd strike, fired.

Jaqui
Jaqui

then I'll publicly ream them out. their choice, change or get humiliated.

jlrobins
jlrobins

Ironically, I get what you're saying... And I am not saying that "everyone is a unique and delicate flower..." Now let's talk about a "strawman"? This is the sort of mischaracterization that you complained about when people described your approach as "humiliation"? I AM saying that what you describe works for some and not for others. Give them two tries (or whatever you or your organization set as the limits) then fire them. But make sure you have a clue about the person so that the the tries are more likely to be effective with the person. If you won't take the time (usually not very long, either) to figure out what works with a person, you are going to lose many (potentially) good people. But then, there are people that not as sensitive to social cues so that they are not able to 'read people' well. Without seeing and understanding those cues, they can not effectively adjust their behavior to work effectively with the full range of people they will face. [And they usually don't understand people who do read those cues.] As for your last point... I didn't say the 1970 research article you cited was 'discredited'. I said it was not a key piece of research. The way you were citing it, I figured it would have some earth-shattering results that everyone would be citing. Instead, it is in a lesser known journal with very few articles or books referring to it. btw, I am the person that gets given the oddballs and 'difficult people' to deal with where I have worked. And I get positive results when others before me have failed miserably. I get given the 'rejects' from people with your attitude, and often get positive results from them. [I will NOT say that everyone works out, though.] That is why I probably find your attitude so annoying.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

As for the rest of the mess of a post: 1) McClelland is still used in many textbooks and is quite popular, however, his works have been beaten to death. Not to mention that people like you don't accept that the workforce isn't made up of delicate little flowers. 2) As for Management Theory, I quite like McClelland, Senge, Herzberg, and Plato. Sun Tsu is also fun, but really over done. 3) As for the whole idea of nAch, it makes perfect sense. It helps explain the overly simplistic Two Factor view of Herzberg (basically why people were satisfied at their job) in terms of individual personality. There are Achievers, Power Seekers, and Social Seekers. Do you not work? Can't you see with your own two eyes what McClelland explained? 4) As for me? I'm INTP. I don't have time to play the politics. Rather than get the the point of publicly reprimanding the individual, why not fix it the first go around while it's still private? If you are warned privately and you don't fix your behavior, the only other motivating factor would be external. You must agree with that? That's Management 101. I tell you, this is why we have so many entitlement issues...everyone is a unique and delicate flower...blech * Edit to add: Please point me to where this article has been discredited by multiple sources. The article is still valid and still used, age is not a factor.

jlrobins
jlrobins

... as the basis to tell me that I know nothing about organizational theory? Stick to technology. You are obviously brilliant there. But the article focuses on motivating Hawaiian school boys from various cultural backgrounds to achieve. My local university library didn't happen to have that issue of the Sage journal. But I could pull together quite a bit of info from other articles by the same authors published at that time. Isn't the underlying theory for that research David McClelland's 'need for achievement', 'need for affiliation', 'need for power'? That research was in style in the late 1950's through the early 70's. He, and his students, kept publishing works, but were never in vogue, again. What other management theory are you going to roll out next to cover this management style's 'need for power'? That is the intent of using coercion (threat of humiliation) to manage and control others. But it is not just a need for power, but a need for personal power. Furthermore, it is an emotionally immature expression of that need. [Those references are all drawn from McClelland's needs theory research.] And your precious article is almost uncited since 1975. And the few citations it does receive are NOT related to management. Again, I have no doubt that you are brilliant. Don't presume that means you are an authority in all areas. And don't presume that being insulting or condescending wins an argument. That is a lesson I learned long ago.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

What a load of rubbish. Read the link I posted, educate yourself on organizational behavior, and then come back and post.

jlrobins
jlrobins

...and just because the lack of concern isn't with physical safety doesn't meant it is any less inappropriate or potentially dangerous. Actually, I wasn't thinking Triangle Shirtwaist... I was thinking 'going postal'. That seems to be the 'rage' now. Even in the schools.

dcockrell
dcockrell

This sounds like like a good idea. It makes sure the employee understands the gravity of the situation.

dcockrell
dcockrell

I have seen managers do this in front of co-workers. The thing to think about is co-workers may not feel the same about an employee as the manager. It is one thing if we are talking about missing a deadline, or something in general not being done right and looking for clarification. But, if you are looking to reprimand, it can sour your whole team by doing it in public. You can force the issue in private. Generally, when we hit step 2, the person is put on a 30 day (or less) plan to correct the problem. If they don't correct it, they are gone.

Jaqui
Jaqui

edited to add: yup mae, it is an appropriate use so no royalties needed. ]:)

jlrobins
jlrobins

Kevin, that is excellent. Simple; to the point; no grounds for a lawsuit; no 'just let it ride'.

kevin.peters
kevin.peters

From a Harvard Business Review many years ago a solution for addressing personnel issues like this. For the second step, talk with the person privately. Explain the undesirable behaviour. Clarify with the person what the desirable behaviour should be. Then give the employee several days off, with pay, to think about the situation. Inform the employee to return to your office with their documented plan on how they will correct their behaviour. Inform the employee that if they do not want to do this not to return to work and you will assume they have quit. If the employee does follow through then they have made the committment to correct the problem. If they don't correct the problem they know they will be terminated. I have used this process several times with excellent results. It forces the employee to take ownership of the problem.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

These are the guys that don't like it because they know it's them. How hard is it to correct your actions when you've been informed about them?

Jaqui
Jaqui

that these whiners about abuse are only whining because they know they would get called up in front of everyone for not fixing a behaviour or attitude problem don't you? abuse is over used. [ you could say it has been abused ] real abuse would be to chain them to thier desks and beat them bloody until they did their jobs right, anything less is not abuse. editing to add: if there wasn't a legal requirement for three strikes against someone, they wouldn't even get past step one, cause that would be FIRE their a$$es off the roof of the tallest building in town.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

1) Yes, and give them the time line then 2) In front of their coworkers, explain they haven't corrected their behavior and must do so in a new, much shorter, time line. 3) Fire them How is that so hard? If step 1 doesn't work, that means the person just isn't going to do it unless you force the issue.

richard.wilson
richard.wilson

Poor Employees=Poor Management just like Poor Management=Poor Employees I bet your employees would agree...

eclypse
eclypse

*rolls eyes* This is the beauty of a free market, you can go work somewhere else if things aren't working for you. Or you can get your act together and stay where you're at. Problem solved.

cats
cats

I agree with this approach over the public humiliation. I have to say, I was flabbergasted at the public humiliation approach. Respect has to be earned, not extorted. Humiliation, let alone public humiliation, is abusive. Have we all not had a boss or colleague who handed out humiliation? These people tend to have self esteem issues.

dcockrell
dcockrell

Or try this step 1 bring it to their attention and guide them on correcting the situation (in private). step 2 reaffirm there is still a problem and give a timeline to correct the situation step 3 fire the person. Public humiliation is demoralizing to the employee and to the team. Generally, everyone know who causes problems on a team without it being announced publicly. I've seen good employees leave because a boss feels the need to humilate someone over a mistake. Why jeopardize the whole team dynamic like that. I'm a firm believer in praise in public, reprimand in private.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Take your strawmen somewhere else.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

"verbal reprimand, written reprimand, time off without pay, dismissal" (all documented, of course). None involve public humiliation, which can come back to bite you in the form of a "Hostile work environment" lawsuit.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

It is a public reprimand. Please read the link I've posted a couple of times.

lucky.la.riccia
lucky.la.riccia

I don't think it's a matter of not doing anything if employees are not performing - public humiliation is a sign of a lack of common decency - in society - let alone a workplace. If an employee is not performing, performance manage them out of the business. Document the expectations, document the failure to meet those expectations - OUT ! I have successfully managed 4 employees out of the business over 2 years and all of them, bar one, made a specific mention that at least it was handled in a documented & decent manner.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

it's mostly in the eye of the beholder. Not saying it's right... just the way it is.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

involves every punitive measure up to and including firing. If you publicly humiliate someone then later fire them, they can argue (probably successfully) that your tactics created hostility between them and their colleagues that made it impossible to correct the problem. I wonder what your supervisor will do to you when your management style causes your company to lose a multi-million dollar lawsuit, and where you'll work once your name gets added to the blacklist. (On the other hand, maybe they'll give you a glowing reference to their competitors.... hmmm.... maybe companies should be leery of glowing references from one's competitors...).

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

The first step is to punish in private...after that, all bets are off.

stuck_in
stuck_in

I had a boss that would just embarrass an employee when they screwed up. Well, the company got sold and the employees were asked if they would work with him again. NO was heard from the rooftops. You just never know what is going to happen.

Jaqui
Jaqui

times I have had to go public I was the team leader, not manager. The employee went running to the manager, and was demoted to daysh|t. Nothing was said to me. the other time, the "public" was the entire management team, including both owners, and we wound up with a new person as my direct superior. [ the documented evidence showed I had not made a mistake, which he had spent the day saying I had. ] editing to add: ya gotta love being able to point to the accunting figures that show a profit from your decision, when the business owners are accountants. then point to quality controll figures and show there was zero loss of quality. They decided the whining boss had to go all on their own.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

As for feedback, how do you know if you are doing a good job. Look, the reality is, the job of a manager is to take the heat for his/her team and to catch his/her team on fire when they aren't doing what they are supposed to do. If privately explaining to the person that they are doing wrong fails, the only other option is to do it publicly. I suggest you read this: http://jcc.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/1/1/77 People are motivated to do stuff if public image is at stake.

richard.wilson
richard.wilson

There's a thin line between a public berating and public humiliation. One will get everyone's attention. The other will possibly get your a$$ sued. These days, there are too many lawyers out there just waiting for a manager to slip up and throw a harrassment suit on you. It doesn't matter how "adult" we all are. You can't just throw your weight around and humiliate someone because they didn't perform the way you wanted them to. Maybe it is different "across the pond" but here, actions like that could land you in hot water. I have been in management in every job I ever had and my management style has always been the same. I worked with my subordinates and made them feel like they were part of a team. I made them feel like they were an important figure and, if they weren't able to do something assigned to them, they had no problem coming to me and saying so. They would all give me 100% because they wanted to, not because they felt they had to. I guess what I am trying to say is that maybe it isn't the employees that are performing bad. Maybe it is the manager. Your employees are only as good as the manager leading them. If your department isn't performing well, would you like it if your superiors humiliated you in front of everyone in a board meeting? I think not...

eclypse
eclypse

Agree with Jaqui - we worry too much about hurting someone's feelings nowadays - and I am also guilty of that sometimes. While I'm not advocating just being a jerk for fun, it seems like the right approach is being taken first - the person has the opportunity to pull their weight and they know the consequences if they don't. What's the big deal? Don't like it, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out - no one is forcing Jaqui's employees to stay if they don't want to.

lucky.la.riccia
lucky.la.riccia

Would be interested to know if you have anything similar to an Employee Satisfaction Survey that they fill in regularly to talk about your leadership ? Would be nice to see what employee feedback you have of the 'change or get humiliated' tactic ? Also, whether your thoughts are if this can work in other parts of the world, with very different people cultures ? //LLR