I once attended a meeting in which a man said to me, “Did I say you could talk? I’ll tell you when you can talk.”
Oh, where to begin.
First of all, this is a guy who has been laterally passed from department to department like a flaming bag of dog poo. No one wants him. Everyone wants him to be someone else’s problem. He’s a mess that no one wants to clean up. He has zero people skills, and his management style is intimidation, confrontation, and condescension.
I am a grown woman. This man was talking to me as if I were 3. If I talked to him in that manner, it would be considered insubordination.
Insubordination is a nifty catch-all phrase. What it boils down to is that senior staff can treat you like shit, but you are supposed to sit and quietly take it, or you lose your job. The more the term insubordination gets trotted out in a company, the more likely it is that employees are dealing with a mountain of abuse.
But this man, in particular, is the poster child for mansplaining. As is explained in this video, studies show that men dominate 75% of conversations in decision-making groups. This is why the term mansplaining is becoming so popular. I know it exists because I live it.
I’ve actually had men say to me, “Don’t worry your pretty little head,” and “What’s on your little mind?” I’ve had my ideas discounted, my comments interrupted, and my suggestions ignored for most of my life. And it’s usually by someone with a much lower IQ than I have.
I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating this is. I’m done with patiently waiting my turn. Who gave you the right to divvy out these golden tickets to speak? I’m talking. Right now. If that means I’m a nasty woman, so be it.
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I have been working since I was 10 years old, and have experienced every type of manager conceivable. There is quite a bell curve on the spectrum of competence. I’ve seen many of the same mistakes made over and over and over again. These professional landmines should be easy to spot and avoid, but apparently not, because they get stepped on with annoying frequency, and it’s all so unnecessary.
In no particular order, here are some of the most common errors.
- Creating adversarial situations. Believe it or not, most employees want their company to succeed, and want to feel like they are part of the reason for that success. When you force them into a position where they are made to feel that you are on opposite sides, or when you pit one employee or department against another, it’s demoralizing. Imagine how much more functional your company would be if everyone were allowed to feel as if they were on the same team.
- Not allowing employees to have dignity. If an employee needs to be disciplined, for God’s sake, don’t do it in front of coworkers or, even worse, customers. Allow them to save face by taking them aside and discussing the situation one on one. Your goal should be to correct, not to humiliate. And there’s never any reason to shout. You’re talking to an adult, and odds are good that they can hear you when you speak in a reasonable tone of voice.
- Not trusting staff. If you treat employees as though they do not deserve your confidence, they will eventually lose the desire to be trustworthy. What’s the point of striving for trust that can never be achieved? If you truly have no faith in your staff, why did you hire them in the first place?
- Enacting changes without consulting employees. This is one of the most costly mistakes an employer can make. Your front line employees are your best and most vital knowledge base. They can usually tell you what will work and what won’t and why. Before making a policy change, run it by them. You’re not trying to get their permission. You don’t necessarily have to take their advice. Most people, after all, are resistant to change. But they can point out problems that you may not have considered. If you have their input, they will be more likely to buy into your change. Time and again I’ve heard of large companies that pay consultants 250k to help them improve efficiency, when they could have simply asked the people who actually do the job. What a concept.
- Wasting time. Don’t have a meeting just so you can look like you communicate. Own it. Actually make it worth the effort. If you have nothing important to say, let them go do their jobs. Likewise, don’t make employees sit through training just so you can say you’ve trained them. If the information isn’t relevant, or if it’s self-evident, don’t take up time that could be better spent.
- Turf guarding. If you allow your employees to shine, you will be bathed in the glow as well. Why, why, WHY can’t managers grasp this basic concept? Don’t take credit for things that your employees have done. Don’t hold people back. Recognize the accomplishments of your staff, and sing their praises from the rooftops. This will make them want to do even better, which in turn will reflect well on you. It’s sort of like a perpetual motion machine of success, but one which is hardly ever taken advantage of.
- Micromanaging. Have you ever heard of anyone who likes this behavior? Of course you haven’t. People like to feel as if they can be trusted to think independently. If you weigh them down with an ever-increasing mountain of petty rules, you will create anxiety, resentment, and a whole lot of people who are coming up with ingenious ways to look as if they’re complying without actually doing so. Worst of all, you will lose any respect that you might have had. Before imposing a rule, ask yourself what would happen if that rule didn’t exist.
- Being inflexible. Employees are human beings, not robots. Sometimes you need to accommodate them. This does not mean you play favorites. It means you take unique circumstances into account. If you are reasonable with people, you will gain their loyalty. If you are rigid, they’ll simply consider you to be an a**hole, and won’t cooperate with you.
- Weak link-itis. If you have an employee who isn’t up to snuff, you might think it is easier to have your more competent employees pick up the slack, but all this does is eventually burn out the good employees, causing them to become less productive as well. It also breeds resentment. Rather than lower everyone to the level of the weak link, form a backbone and get the weak link to rise up to the appropriate level or get rid of that person.
- Throwing people under the bus. If you’ve screwed up, or cause your department to screw up, own it. Don’t blame it on your staff. If you cause a traffic jam in New Jersey, fall on your sword of stupidity and pettiness. Don’t fire your underlings and act as if the crisis has been averted. Everyone will know you’re lying.
- Forcing employees to make fools of themselves. If you insist that your employees wear silly uniforms or say inane and insincere things like, “How can I provide you with excellent customer service today?” You are going to be the one who winds up looking like an idiot, and if they take the opportunity to run you down with their car no reasonable court in the land would convict them.
- Creating anxiety in terms of job stability. People aren’t working for you for the fun of it. They have families to feed and bills to pay. Don’t make them live under the constant threat of possible discharge. That’s their livelihood you are messing with, and it causes unnecessary anxiety, a distinct lack of concentration, and probably a lot more turnover than you would have otherwise.
- Not being open to suggestion. Your employees spend a lot of time thinking about their jobs and how best to do them. Every now and then they may actually come up with something that you haven’t considered that will greatly improve production. You’ll never know this if you behave as if there’s a brick wall between you, or if you get angry when someone seems to be trying to upset the apple cart.
- Losing perspective. There are at least 100 billion galaxies in the universe. In the overall scheme of things, there is very little that we do on this tiny little planet that is worth getting spun up about. Relax. It’ll be all right.
- Lack of appreciation. Everyone wants to be acknowledged for their hard work. You don’t have to like your employees, but you do have to realize that if they weren’t there, your company wouldn’t exist.
- Putting your pride before logic. If you come up with a stupid idea, own it, rescind it and move on. Don’t continue with the insane policy simply to save face. It’s counterproductive.
- Not sticking up for your people. In all my years of employment, I’ve only had one boss who was willing to stick his neck out for me, and that’s my current one. Because of that, when he needs me to go the extra mile, I’ll go an extra ten. He has my loyalty, because I know he has my back. On the other hand, if a boss lets me be unjustly attacked by upper management or clients, he or she is dead to me, and I’ll only do the bare minimum to remain employed. The customer may always be right, but don’t assume that means that your employee is always wrong.
[Image credit: wanttoworkintelevision.com]
The other day I walked into a pharmacy at the tail end of what sounded like a stormy customer service incident. The customer shouted “I’ll have your job!” to the clerk as she made her exit. The clerk looked down sadly and shook her head.
It’s not the first time I’ve heard someone make a threat of that type, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. People seem to like to make that broad sweeping statement when they feel they’ve been wronged.
And should I go there? Yes, I should. It’s been my experience that the type of person who is prone to this diatribe is generally the type of person who isn’t desperate for income themselves. People who have been close to losing everything generally don’t make such threats.
Granted, some people deserve to be fired. But I’d like to think that the vast majority of customer service issues can and should be resolved without destroying a person’s livelihood and/or reputation, especially in this economy.
You really have no idea what a person’s life is like. This may be their only income source to care for a disabled child or an elderly parent. Is it worth it to jeopardize that simply because you’ve been irritated?
Speak to the manager, yes. Suggest training or discipline, yes. But don’t go straight for the jugular. Don’t be the author of someone’s potential homelessness. Some day the tables could be turned and it might be your livelihood that’s on the line.
[Image credit: zisno.com]