It's Not Me, It's You
Some managers seem to believe that it is not they, but everyone around them, who needs to adjust. People in positions of power often feel that they shouldn't have to be self-aware because those around them should be aware of them. But not knowing what pushes your own buttons ends up interfering with objectivity and fairness. Let's take a look at a few scenarios. In situations such as these, employees lose and so does the manager. Do any of these scenarios sound at all familiar?
William lands a dream internship his senior year in college. The dream quickly becomes a nightmare, however. His boss, Donna, is brilliant but aggressive and often abusive, especially toward the interns. Her tendency to launch into tirades at the slightest provocation causes people to scatter whenever there's word that she's coming down the corridor. Though Donna's outstanding reputation in the industry continues to draw intern applications from colleges and universities across the country, few interns last the full term.
No matter what time the workday or a meeting starts, Carmine is the first to arrive. Nine people report to him; his department troubleshoots customer orders. Though the situations Carmine's employees investigate are often complex and confusing, Carmine feels employees take advantage of this so he implements a tracking board. Everyone must sign in and sign out whenever they come and go from the department, no matter the reason. Upper management consistently holds out Carmine's actions as the desired attention to timeliness. However, employees consider Carmine so focused on the clock that he's willing to sacrifice their good work just to force them to toe the line —
Russell is a very nurturing kind of guy, really sensitive to other people's feelings. His employees feel they can come to him with any problem and find a compassionate ear. Russell immediately wants to make it better and is quick to commiserate when talking to the distraught employee. Employees have voted Russell “manager of the year” for five years running, though Russell's boss placed Russell on probation last month because his department consistently fails to meet productivity targets.
In each of these situations, blind patterns direct behaviors that have both positive and negative consequences. It seems, however, that the inappropriate behavior receives the most reinforcement. Even Russell, who is now precariously close to losing his job, continues in the behaviors that cause him trouble. Each of these managers needs someone to help him or her step back and see a more balanced picture. The higher you go in the company's hierarchy, however, the fewer mentors you're likely to encounter. You must become your own mentor — not an easy hat to wear.