Having worked for state and local governments for over
sixteen years, I was just wondering how you get past the
unstated resistance of group leaders or members who may
feel they have the most to gain by keeping things the
same, and therefore undermine change.
this a problem specific to government managers? What has
been your experience? What suggestions do you have?
You have put your finger on why organizational change is
so difficult. It’s hard enough convincing someone to
change when the reasons are clearly in their best
interest (like losing weight, for example), but when the
person thinks they will by hurt by the change, they
really dig their heels in.
Resistance takes many forms but in organizations it’s
often unspoken and subtle because to be seen as
“resistant” is risky. Often, a resistant person will say
the right things but make no changes in behavior or
subtly undermine anyone who does.
of my consulting work is in the area of organizational
change, and over the years I’ve begun to identify the
key factors that make the difference in a transformation
effort. Here they are:
The leader is the most important factor. If the leader
has a clear vision of where he or she wants to take the
organization, and he or she communicates that vision in
every action, people will fall into line easier and
have found that leaders frequently underestimate the
power and influence they carry. One president said to
me, “I’m just a nice guy. I don't throw my weight around
or act like a big shot. I’m just one of the team.” Not
quite. Whether he wants to acknowledge it or not, every
person who comes in contact with him studies his moves.
A leader's actions speak so loudly, people can't hear a
word he/she says.
The senior team can't delegate the change to someone
else. Teamwork and empowerment must start at the top.
Typically, senior managers each run a different part of
the organization and only share information on a need to
know basis with their peers. The top management group
needs to work together to define the changes and their
The incentives and consequences must change. In
government, like many other bureaucratic organizations,
the game was played by keeping out of the line of fire,
telling superiors what they want to hear, building an
empire of many employees, and not rocking the boat. The
people who played the game won promotions. Today, the
organizations that are serious about change must change
the rules and the prizes.
Government jobs are narrowly defined, pay scales are
locked in and promotions are often determined by rigid
rules and tests. If you're an ambitious, bright employee
with many innovative ideas, where's the incentive? As a
result, government can’t change as fast as private
industry. It needs to start “reinventing” these systems
to create the freedom it needs to compete against
The structure needs to change. They say that “form
follows function” so it’s often necessary to change the
structure to match the changing functions in the
transforming organization. If you leave all the
supervisors in place, for example, with the same number
of employees and the same policies and procedures, why
in the world would they suddenly embrace (or understand)
the change just because the CEO said to do it?
the other hand, some companies make the mistake of only
changing structure, in the hopes that it alone will
force the changes to happen. For example, in some
companies where middle layers have been removed and all
other bureaucratic rules and administration have stayed
the same, the net effect is a lot of burned out people.
You simply can’t “do more with less” unless the system
is re-wired for fewer people.
The process is everything. Most organizations approach
organizational change the way they design a new product
or switch suppliers. They figure if it looks logical
down on paper, it should all go according to schedule.
They overlook the complications that occur because the
changes are affecting people’s lives. That takes longer.
That takes endless face-to-face communication. That
takes more employee involvement. You don’t build trust
via e-mail and you can’t change an organization via memo
Good coaches find balance
Jan 28, 2016
Every manager is supposed to be a “coach” these days.
And if you’ve ever taken on the challenge of a coaching
job - from little league to adult volleyball - you know
it’s not easy. You’ve got to balance a lot of factors at
once: for example, the desire to win needs to be
balanced with having fun and letting everyone play. Your
new coaching role at work isn’t much different -
corporate goals must be met while helping everyone
participate and stay challenged on the job.
even though the word “coaching” is thrown around a lot,
I’ve found that few people are able to actually define
what "coaching" really means when you apply it to the
workplace. For instance, most bosses err on one side of
the spectrum or the other. They say, “Just do it right.
Figure it out for yourself” or, “Here’s a list of
everything you’re doing wrong. Now fix it.” If you were
on an athletic team and heard that “coaching,” would it
help your performance?
studied master coaches as a part of my work in
organizational change and leadership development. I’ve
watched them and analyzed their techniques. Then I’ve
worked with them and asked them to coach me - to see if
their techniques made a difference in my performance.
are a few ideas to try with your employees. Don’t be
discouraged if you don’t catch on right away - these
master level techniques take a while to learn.
Identify what I call the “performance gap” between their
current performance and the desired performance. Here’s
an example: “What Linda’s doing is taking the customer’s
order. What I’d like her to be doing is taking the order
and then cross-selling other products.”
the gap has been identified, the master coach begins to
closely observe and analyze the behavior patterns that
are contributing to the gap. For instance, in a retail
store the manager might observe a new sales
representative working with a customer and study the way
she greets the customer, suggests products, and other
2. Pick out
and isolate one thing in the performance gap and create
a “drill” for the person to practice. Etch the new
behaviors one at a time. Master coaches don’t try to
close the performance gap all at once. They know that
the gap is made up of numerous little skills that need
to be isolated and improved. Sometimes coaches even work
on the isolated behavior to an extreme in order to put a
spotlight on it. Then when the new skill has been
learned, they ask the performer to refine it down to
where it can be integrated into the whole process. This
is a technique I learned from Jerry Warren, master coach
for the Professional Ski Instructors of America and
member of the U.S. Demonstration Team.
example of this is the golfer who practices swinging the
club with only the left hand for creating a new mental
“groove” to etch the sensation of letting the left hand
lead. Once the groove is made, the golfer can go back to
a two-handed swing. Similarly, the retail sales rep
could isolate and practice a new suggestive selling
technique until she is ready to integrate it into her
3. Use the
Warren learning model: SEE, FEEL, UNDERSTAND. Most of us
just coach by explaining things to the learner.
Unfortunately, most of us aren’t auditory learners.
Instead, try to combine talking with showing and doing.
the SEE, FEEL, UNDERSTAND approach, first show the
person what the performance looks like when it’s done
correctly. Either demonstrate it yourself or ask someone
else to do it. They will SEE what correct performance
looks like. Together with the learner, analyze the good
performance and isolate one thing to practice.
In order to FEEL the new behavior, they need to try it
out for themselves while the coach watches. The coach
looks for anything that is even close to “right” and
reinforces it with comments such as “That’s the idea!”
Master coaches don’t wait until it’s perfect to praise.
They know that self-esteem is a powerful factor in
learning. If they constantly say, “No, that’s not quite
right,” the energy for learning drains quickly.
UNDERSTANDING comes when the performer starts using the
skill on their own and internalizes it. When they can
describe what they’re doing and why, they have
integrated the new behavior.
example of a leader who used this approach recently with
his construction foremen who needed to learn public
relations skills with residents who lived near a new
construction site: He took a small group of foremen with
him to visit five homeowners.
First, he did all the talking and answered all the
questions. After each one, he asked them to analyze what
he did to isolate what made it work.
Then, he asked each one to take different parts of the
presentation. As they walked between houses, they gave
each other feedback and further refined their skills.
Next, he asked them to divide up the remaining
homeowners and do presentations on their own.
Then, they got together periodically to discuss how it
was going and to share approaches.
These tactics make people love learning. They will
willingly try new behaviors without prodding from you.
With effective coaching, employees will experience
progress and will feel like winners with the
self-confidence to pursue more. And isn’t that what
“continuous improvement” is all about?
is your humility quotient?
Jan 21, 2016
Could you please write a column on the arrogance of top
management? When I read about the enormous salaries they
are paid, the “bail out” golden parachutes they have and
the general lack of accountability they demonstrate to
their employees, it makes me wonder.
Although many top executives don’t fit your description,
many others do. Somehow, something happens to them on
the way to the top - and it isn’t pretty. The saddest
part is most of them have no idea how they are coming
across and how much damage they are doing to themselves
and to their own companies. They judge themselves by
their best intentions, while others judge them by their
you’re an executive, it may be time to check your
HUMILITY SCALE. True leadership is an earned privilege.
Here’s a quiz that might cause some introspection:
Do you surround yourself with status symbols in your
job? Is it important for you to have a fancy corner
office, executive parking privileges, expensive suits?
Often, executives who wear their position like a crown
treat people as inferior subjects.
you feel your time is too valuable to be “wasted” with
people who can’t make their point in five minutes or
less? Do you get impatient with people, dismiss them if
they aren’t talking about something high on your
priority list? Do people below you take great pains to
squeeze ideas into a one-page summary or massage them
into a format you’ll pay attention to? Impatient
executives miss great ideas and innovative solutions.
the past, have you been surprised by a problem you
didn’t know about? It could be a sign that you aren’t
listening or that you are shooting the messenger when he
or she tries to tell you bad news.
you think you are doing well in the eyes of your
superiors but not sure what your employees think? If you
don’t know (or care) about how you are perceived by
people below you, there’s a good chance you aren’t
treating them with the same respect you give to people
above you. If you haven’t asked them lately, you could
be kidding yourself.
you know the names of all your employees and a little
about their personal lives? If you take the time to get
to know the mail clerk, the secretaries, the intern,
there’s a good chance you’re a team builder instead of
an empire builder.
you think you are smarter than your employees or peers?
Do you think you have the best grasp of the key issues
and problems that need to be solved? If you feel that
way, you probably aren’t seeking input and ideas from
others. Arrogance can make you listen poorly and learn
you make negative judgments about people based on
limited information and contact? This creates a highly
political environment, where people jockey for an image
you’ll approve of. They will waste hours getting ready
for any contact with you and you may be fooled by a
slick operator who knows how to appeal to your ego.
you think you know what the customer needs better than
they do? You may by quick to deny this one, yet if you
don’t talk to your customers, listen to the employees on
the front lines, or get reliable customer data to use in
your strategic planning, you may know less than you
you think you are above the rules? Everyone else has to
follow the system for buying supplies, filling out
expense reports, holding performance reviews, but you do
what you want. If you don’t lead by example, don’t
expect anyone else to follow your rules.
you show your importance and intelligence by the
questions you ask? Any new idea is game. You pride
yourself on finding the weakness and risk in any idea
and you love to show off this ability in front of your
peers. Killing new ideas with questions beats the
innovation out of your organization and snuffs out
Do you think your value is so much higher than that of
other people in the organization that your salary should
be exempt from pay freezes and layoffs even if the rest
of the employees are taking a hit? Are you so important
that your salary ratio is in the stratosphere, while
first level employees’ salaries are subterranean? Do you
get a raise whether the company performs well or not?
Leadership is a privilege. You earn it by building
respect and trust. Maybe the best question of all is
this one: “If your employees could choose their own
leader, would it be you?”
you lead with humility, you can probably say “Yes,” with
Taking disciplinary action with your employee can be
Jan. 14, 2016
an office manager in a medium-sized company. Prior to
this promotion one year ago, I worked with the women I
After my promotion, I had my share of resentment and
jealousy from these women. They have gotten much better
and I finally can say I’m beginning to enjoy
problem centers around one woman who was out on a
maternity leave and who is now back. She has had many
problems with her babysitter and has missed a lot of
work. Because the problem is serious, I spoke to her
about it, but she always has some new excuse. She knows
I’ve had a few problems with sitters in the past myself
(when I was her co-worker), so she always brings it up
and expects me to understand her situation. She has also
been spending a lot of time on personal phone calls to
So I know I must draw the line soon, but I am having
some difficulty deciding how to do it. I know she will
be very angry and resentful.
you could give me any advice, I’d be most grateful.
Supervising former peers can be a difficult task. As you
struggle with your new role as the boss, your former
co-workers must adjust also.
Disciplining a former co-worker, for a problem you have
shared, is going to take some special effort.
must first put some distance between her current problem
and your former problem. This is her problem, not yours.
She must take full responsibility for solving it.
Feeling empathy for her situation and taking
disciplinary action are not mutually exclusive. You can
express empathy for her predicament, but your job, and
hers, is to get the work done.
doesn’t appear that your employee realizes how serious
this problem has become. She must be told, in clear
language, what the consequences are if she fails to
resolve this problem. You may wish to follow the outline
below when having the next discussion with this
Review previous discussions, including any solutions
that were agreed upon and any action actually taken.
Your tone of voice and manner should be that of adult to
adult, not adult to child. Make sure you stick to facts
and focus on the problem, not the person.
2. Ask for the reason this problem is continuing and
listen with understanding. This has been a trouble spot
for you in the past. Prepare carefully. If she says,
“You know how hard it is to find a good sitter,” you can
certainly respond with, “I understand how concerned you
are about quality care for your child.” Stay focused on
her problem and feeling, not yours.
3. Explain the effects her problem is having on you and
the rest of your staff. As a new mother, it’s
understandable how she may have overlooked or minimized
the effects of her absences and personal phone calls on
others. It’s important to be specific. Rather than
saying, “We all must do our share,” say, “When your
phone is tied up, customers can’t get through.”
Let your employee know the consequences of her continued
behavior. (If that has already been done in your last
discussion, outline the action you must take and why.)
Unless there are new factors to consider - the child has
a serious illness, for example - you must clearly
describe the action you must take if the problem is not
your employee becomes angry, remain calm. If she becomes
emotional, hand her a box of tissues and wait for her to
regain her composure. If she accuses you of being
uncaring or unfair, calmly acknowledge her feelings “I’m
sure I must seem that way to you, but I must try to be
fair to all the people who work for me. Your frequent
absences and long phone calls have affected all of us.”
5. Attempt to come up with specific actions the employee
will take to solve her problem. You might say, “I know
you can turn this situation around. Do you have any
ideas for solving this problem?” If her solutions are
the same ideas that haven’t worked in the past, say,
“You’ve had some difficulty doing that in the past. What
will you do to make sure it’s successful this time?”
Set a follow-up date to review progress. Choose a period
of time that will allow your employee enough time to
solve the problem. In this case, you may want to ask her
how long she thinks it will take to straighten things
out. Keep an informal log of all the discussions held
with this employee on these matters.
Can quiz predict success or failure of a manager?
Jan. 9, 2016
Can you shed some light on what separates the managers
who succeed from those who fail? It seems to me that the
differences are hard to pin down, since some people who
appear to have poor people skills make it up the ladder
while others who are talented don’t make much progress.
magic ingredients that separate the winners from the
losers are hard to bottle. Most of us have our own dark
predictions about the witch down the hall or the
Vice-Emperor in the corner office.
Center for Creative Leadership, in Greensboro, NC, took
a scientific approach to predicting their fates. They
studied the specific characteristics that lead to
managerial “derailment” - demotion, being fired, or
Their research revealed some interesting traits and
behaviors that can kill careers. It may help you keep
score in your own organization. Keep in mind, however,
that each organization has its own set of values and
rules and you can learn a great deal about the politics
and culture of your company by watching who gets
rewarded and who doesn’t. If you can’t see the logic in
who gets knighted and who winds up the dungeon
supervisor, you need to expand your internal network and
get closer to the subjects you’re studying.
might take the following quiz twice - once for yourself
and another time with the Vice-Emperor in mind.
(1=strongly disagree and 5=strongly agree A 5 is always
Does not follow up on promises; lets people dangle
Thinks more about getting promoted than the job he or
she is in now
Does not select staff wisely
Could not handle conflict with a bad boss or one he/she
Is not good at building a team
Has an insensitive, abrasive style
Cannot handle a job requiring the formulation of complex
Chooses an overly narrow subordinate group
Makes a splash and moves on without really completing a
Can’t make the mental transition from technical manager
to general manager
Is arrogant (e.g., devalues the contribution of others)
Has not adapted to the management culture
Does not resolve conflict among subordinates
Adopts a bullying style under stress
Does not pay enough attention to detail
Does not handle pressure well
Isolates him/herself from others
Relies too much on natural talent
Disagrees with higher management about how the business
should be run
Is emotionally volatile and unpredictable
Has chosen to stay with the same boss too long
Makes subordinates or peers feel stupid or unintelligent
Might burn out, run out of steam
Has left a trail of little problems
Might lose a powerful advocate within the organization
Has left a trail of bruised people
The new year is a great time to review, rethink and
Dec. 30, 2015
Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions yet? Well,
even if resolutions aren’t your style, the New Year is a
logical time to start fresh with some changes in your
job and your work life. Here are a few ideas - big and
small-- to get you started:
something new that will make you more marketable. Check
the want ads in your field and see what the latest
qualifications are. This should give you ideas about
where to focus your own development. Next New Year’s Eve
you could be one step closer to your next career move.
Identify 2 colleagues you admire and initiate a
relationship with them. If all goes well, they may
become your friends or even your mentors. Surrounding
yourself with people who are successful and who know
what it takes to reach their goals is a tactic most
successful people use. Not only will you learn a lot
from their experience and wisdom but you’re likely to
meet a whole new circle of friends.
Volunteer for something extra at work. Your company
probably has lots of opportunities for people who are
willing to reach out and grab them. Join the office
social committee or bowling league - you’ll see fellow
workers from a whole new perspective and develop a new
branch of your network.
Take up a new outside hobby or sport. Staying active is
good for the spirit as well as the body. Start tennis
lessons or build birdhouses - whatever will provide a
totally different activity from your job duties. Your
mind craves the challenge of varied activities and the
stimulation will make you fresher at work.
Change your workspace. Whether you change your office
decor or clean out your files, the new environment will
do you good. New surroundings can be uplifting and
organized systems will make you feel more in control.
Ask 3 respected professionals in your field, “What was
the best business book you read last year?” and then
read their top choices. If you like, follow up with them
after you’ve read the books to discuss key ideas. It’s a
great time-saving way to stay on top of the latest and
greatest new books while enriching your network.
Write more personal notes. High tech is convenient and
fast but it tends to de-humanize the workplace. Short
thank-you notes and brief notes to acknowledge someone
else’s latest accomplishment make the workplace a better
place. Maintaining a personal touch in spite of a busy
schedule will make your efforts all the more appreciated
Upgrade your appearance. If you haven’t updated your
wardrobe and you’re wearing the same old hairstyle
you’ve had for years, maybe it’s time for a more modern
look. If your appearance shouts 2000, people may assume
your ideas aren’t up-to-date in 2016.
Stop complaining about your biggest beef and do
something about it. If a policy or procedure at work is
bugging you, take steps to correct it or bring it to the
right person’s attention. If a co-worker is a pain, work
on your half of the relationship.
Write down your personal and professional goals for the
year. There’s magic in writing down what you want to
accomplish. Many successful people are firm believers in
the power of writing down their short and long-term
goals. They say it holds them more accountable and is a
more powerful motivator than just a passing wish. (I did
this for myself last year and it worked so well I’m
going to do it again this year.)
Whatever you decide to do for yourself in 2016, may it
bring satisfaction, success and prosperity!
Flextime abuse creating resentment
Dec. 17, 2015
have flextime at my place of employment. You may choose
to begin work any time (in half-hour increments) between
7 a.m. and 9 a.m., with the core hours being 9 to 3. The
problem that we are confronted with is the underwriting
manager has elected to work the 8 to 4:30 shift. It has
been brought to his attention that there are people
abusing the flextime (we don’t punch a time clock).
These are both the time card and exempt employees.
manager will not say anything to these people or change
their hours because he doesn’t see them coming in late.
Is this fair for those of us who have to rotate our
hours with those who do not arrive to work on time?
Please respond as I have no one I can talk to. If I go
over my manager’s head I am in trouble. I do not feel it
is fair that those who abuse the system should have the
privilege of working these hours.
flexible work place is the goal most companies want. But
the absence of strict, rigid policies does not mean that
everyone can do whatever they want. Some managers get
confused - they think that giving employees more
autonomy means that they should take a hands-off
approach: “If I shouldn’t dictate and control anymore,
maybe I shouldn’t exhibit any authority.” Not true.
fact, as the organization gets more flexible, it
requires stronger leaders; people who can keep the
balance fair for all employees without resorting to the
old one-size-fits-all policies.
Although your manager is wise to be cautious about
second-hand information, he isn’t being wise about what
he should be doing about it. Saying “I don’t see it so I
can’t confront it” is a cop-out. He needs to change his
hours occasionally - and without warning - so he can be
aware of what’s going on during different times of the
day. If he’s received complaints from people that a
problem exists, he needs to take off his blinders and
check it out for himself.
managers I know, who have dealt with this problem, have
asked the chronic abusers to go back to using the time
clock until the problem is overcome. (The wrong thing to
do would be to make every employee go back on the time
clock. Why punish everyone? It would only infuriate the
Leaders in the flexible workplace walk a fine line
between “checking up on” employees and turning a blind
eye toward their activities.
key delineation is this: If the problem behavior is
negatively affecting the work, co-workers or customers,
it’s time for the manager to step in. In this case, the
offenders seem to be working fewer hours and coming in
when they feel like it. This negatively impacts several
1. They are
getting paid for hours they aren’t working, which
violates the fundamental employer/employee agreement -
you could even call it stealing.
The purpose behind the “core hour” concept, and locking
in a start time, is so that there is enough coverage for
customer service. Phones can be answered, meetings can
be scheduled. People know when you will be available.
Abuses disrupt everyone’s schedules.
The fairness factor. Inconsistent application of
guidelines or rules creates resentment and poor morale
among the good employees. When the good employees feel
taken advantage of, they leave.
agree that going over your boss’s head is likely to
infuriate him, since he doesn’t want to look weak and
ineffective to those above him. Perhaps you can suggest
that your manager try to see for himself what is going
on so he can have first-hand information.
Surely, if you decide to take matters into your own
hands and have a direct confrontation with the offending
employees it will only make matters worse.
your manager refuses to act, you need to decide if this
is a battle worth fighting. If you think it will eat at
you and cause you to become obsessed and bitter about
it, perhaps changing jobs is your only answer. But if
you like your job and the company, ignoring the behavior
of others, while upholding your own high standards, may
be your only solution.
What is an internal HR consultant? How do I work with
Dec. 10, 2015
I’ve recently moved to a new company and I’m a manager
with a fairly large staff. Most of my experience is in
manufacturing and now I’m working in a service business.
In the past, my dealings with Human Resources have been
mostly grievance related and disciplinary actions for
personnel problems. They helped with the hiring and
firing and things like performance reviews.
this new company, I have an “HR consultant” but she is
employed by the company - not an outside consultant. She
works with our division. My question is about her role.
I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to be working with
her. She wants to sit in on some of my staff meetings,
and wants to meet with me to talk about my staff. I’m
not sure how to take that. Is it because I’m new, or
because my boss doesn’t trust what I’m doing? It feels a
little like she is overstepping her job.
reports to corporate HR and has my division as her
“customer.” I’m worried about confidentiality and also
about how much she should be involved in my decisions.
Could you tell me what this role is supposed to be? I
don’t want to appear defensive. She seems competent
enough but how much do I tell her?
The HR consultant role has evolved over the past 10
years. It has been adopted by many companies but the
transformation from administrator to consultant varies
by company and corporate culture.
Historically, the philosophy among managers was, “I’ll
get the job done, HR can do the people stuff.” But
without ownership and involvement in the “people stuff”
the results aren’t as good. As managers evolved their
leadership acumen, they - rightfully - began to get more
involved in the people business. And as laws and
regulations increased, and employees became more
sophisticated, leaders needed expertise to help them.
And the HR consultant role was born.
worked with many HR consultants, and I also created and
teach a course for HR consultants, so they can partner
effectively with the leaders they work with. One of the
key points is that trust has to be earned. And the way
to earn it is to add value to the leaders you work with.
And the best way to add value is to help them find
practical solutions to business and people problems, not
be the HR Police, enforcing rules and handing out forms.
other words, a good HR consultant may help you think
through a decision you, or your team, is wrestling with.
She would ask insightful questions to help you and the
team think of all the upsides and downsides to the
company and the employees. She may help with a plan to
communicate it. She might give you honest feedback about
what you do well and what you need to work on, to be
more successful. She may give you feedback about members
of your staff or help you sell an idea to your manager.
She would give you creative ways to apply HR practices.
For instance, she may challenge the need to replace a
retiring employee - and suggest ways to redistribute
of course, if you don’t trust that she has your best
interests at heart, or she can’t keep some things
confidential, you aren’t going to partner with her. So,
like with any partnership, she has to earn your trust. I
would suggest that you have a “contracting meeting” to
discuss each of your roles and responsibilities. For
example, spell out things such as:
* How she
can add value to you and to your employees.
What kind of ongoing communication you both want to
What should be confidential.
Explore how open each of you are to feedback from the
other. For example, do you want her to provide feedback
on your leadership skills? Give input on business
Talk about “trust busters” each of you have. For
example, going around you to your employees without your
knowledge. Or, speaking for you, instead of letting you
speak for yourself. Or, sharing negative information
about you or your team with other people.
what areas do you want her to take a stronger role and
exert more influence?
Having an open conversation about your respective roles
will be a solid start to a collaborative partnership
that could be developmental for both of you.
Enjoy your organization’s holiday party, but remember -
you’re still at work
Dec. 3, 2015
Holiday parties are a wonderful time to celebrate the
season with co-workers but make no mistake - you aren’t
just at any ordinary party - you are still at work.
Memories are long when it comes to social gaffes and
political blunders and you don’t want stories being told
about you long after you’d like them to be forgotten.
are some career-healthy do’s and don’ts for your
Attend! This is a great opportunity to join your
colleagues to celebrate your good will as a work family.
If you don’t attend you will be missed and your
teammates - and boss - may even feel slighted if you
don’t show up.
Decide in advance how much you plan to drink at the
party and stick to it. We’ve all heard stories about
people who have made fools of themselves because they
had a few too many and told the boss what they really
Mix with people from different departments. This is a
good opportunity to introduce yourself to executives and
fellow employees you wouldn’t normally have an
opportunity to meet. You can cross department lines and
jump hierarchy levels without stepping on any political
toes, so why not take advantage of it?
Stand near the buffet or bar so you’re in the best spot
to meet the most people. This will also enable you to
break away gracefully if you are caught in a
conversation you would like to escape.
Avoid talking shop. Use the occasion to get to know your
co-workers on a more personal level. Find out about
their lives outside of work. Knowing something about
their children, their hobbies and their friends will
help you relate to them as whole people and it will give
you new insight into their approach to work.
you are interested in mingling don’t sit down. Once you
are parked at a table with a group of people, it’s more
difficult to leave.
Avoid giving gifts at the holiday party. Public exchange
of gifts can cause discomfort or even embarrassment; Did
you spend too much? Too little? Was your gift too
personal? And gag gifts aren’t a good alternative
because they can backfire if they’re in bad taste or
cause hurt feelings.
Watch what you say. Remember, you are at work. Don’t say
anything at the party that you wouldn’t say in a
meeting. Stray remarks in a “social” setting can do
great damage to yourself and others.
Coach your spouse or date so they are on their best
behavior. I’ve seen cases where a spouse has cornered a
boss to demand why her husband wasn’t given a raise! In
another incident, two spouses were chatting and one of
them revealed that her husband was thinking of looking
for another job. The remark got back to the employee’s
manager and caused problems.
Discuss gift-giving among co-workers early in the
season. Instead of exchanging gifts, many groups choose
to do things together such as going out for a holiday
lunch or doing something for a worthy cause. Some have a
cookie exchange or an ornament exchange - it’s
inexpensive and fun.
it’s customary to exchange gifts, agree as a group about
the cost limits. Many people have a tough time affording
gifts for their families and the added expense of buying
for co-workers can be a burden they feel pressured to
Use the holidays to update your contact list and keep up
your networking. Send holiday cards to update your
address book. Take colleagues and mentors to lunch.
Attend holiday gatherings sponsored by professional
organizations to keep up your professional affiliations
with people who can potentially influence your career.
Take some time off to shop, cook, wrap, party...The
holidays can be stressful and trying to squeeze it all
in while you’re working can make you less effective in
both areas of your life.
Coal in the stocking
Nov. 27, 2015
work for a small department of a large employer who
frequently receives holiday gifts from vendors with whom
we do business, as a thank you, at the end of the year.
However, when we receive the gifts, we aren’t allowed to
open them to enjoy. Rather, our boss tells us not to
touch them because we will re-gift them to other people
(sometimes other departments that never work with these
vendors, sometimes outsiders) in order to save money.
greatly upsets the worker bees because not only do we
think it’s rude, we feel that the giver meant for us to
have it because they value the work we do with them
throughout the year. (No, the dollar values are not
over our corporate compliance policy either.) Not being
allowed to enjoy it makes us feel like we aren’t
supposed to feel appreciated.
are also told that our department really doesn’t need
the food items. We’re all aware that we don’t really
“need” the cookies, candy, etc. that come in; it’s all
part of Christmas cheer. It’s the principle of it that
bothers us because we feel like we don’t get a say in
it. (On a side note, we did mention it to one of our
vendors. He was dumbfounded by what was happening with
What’s worse is that we also have to sign a thank you
note to the sender with personalized notes about the
gift. In addition, we’re told that we need to choose
who we’re sending the gift on to.
the way, we aren’t opposed to giving gifts to other
departments, or outsiders. We just feel that we can
budget the $50 it might take to give gifts, to be able
to keep someone’s thoughtful gesture in our area.
should we tactfully bring this up with our boss to let
her know how much it’s hurting morale?
Answer: This is a joke, right? You’re testing me to see
if I really read all my mail!
boss must have had coal in her stocking when she was a
child. This whole notion is so Scrooge-like, I am
stunned (and I thought I had heard it all.)
put myself in your boss’s shoes (and it is a struggle)
and try to rationalize why she would do this, I can only
come up with the idea that she doesn’t think vendor
relationships need to be rewarded. Or, that she is
worried that the “payola” could influence your vendor
selection in the coming year. (However, I have yet to
see anyone base a vendor decision on their annual box of
chocolate cremes.) And even Scrooge didn’t make his
employees turn over their gifts so he could re-gift
them, and he was the king of cheap. At least Scrooge
made it clear he didn’t want gifts at all.
only are you forced to give up your gift, but you have
to write a thank you for the gift you weren’t allowed to
keep? This is like yanking your kid’s gifts out of their
hands and giving them to the neighbor children, and then
telling them they have to write a heartfelt thank you to
Santa. (Would your boss have given away her real Barbie
doll or Chutes and Ladders?)
were a vendor, I’d be angry that my gift was passed on
like meaningless chattel, a monetary object of no real
worth to the receiver. When I buy someone a gift, I mean
it for the person, not to make that person look good
when she gives it to someone else!
Everyone’s a kid at Christmas. Giving and getting a box
of goodies is a wonderful way to spread good cheer and
well wishes between business partners who work together
all year. Business can be tough and stressful the rest
of the year, but let the magic of the holidays create a
little peace on earth - even if it only lasts a little
to tell your boss? Wrap a piece of coal in this column
and put it on her desk.
Avoid these common performance review mistakes
Nov. 19, 2015
many managers, the end of the year means performance
review time. A performance review discussion can leave
the employee feeling motivated and appreciated, but if
it is poorly handled, it will do just the opposite, and
it will damage the relationship.
are some common mistakes and how to avoid them:
Mistake: Only focusing on the last few months or on a
Solution: Keep an electronic file (or a three-ring
binder) for each employee, and throughout the year add
notes and samples of the employee’s work. Some people
like to use Post It Notes, because they are easy to
insert and less likely to dislodge.
Mistake: Over-emphasize the negatives and skip over the
Solution: In addition to the above suggestion, ask the
employee to do a self-assessment. The employee will be
sure to include examples of things he or she is proud
of. This will be a welcome reminder as you reflect on
the past year. Also, during the discussion, make sure
you give ample time and detail to all of the positive
contributions the employee made.
Mistake: Using subjective words that judge the person,
rather than behavioral descriptions of the person’s
performance and actions.
Solution: You will cause defensiveness and resistance if
you guess your employee’s motives or judge him/her as a
person. For example, “You were very inconsiderate
because you” judges the person. A better example is,
“When you didn’t invite me to the meetings on the Baker
project, it kept me out of the decision-making process.
That caused problems for the project later on, when you
needed my help in the eleventh hour.” The trick is to
describe behavior specifically (rather than judging it)
and tell the person why that hurt them.
Mistake: The words and the written review don’t match.
If you only tell the person they need to improve and
then you gloss over it in writing, the employee doesn’t
know if it’s really important to fix. On the other hand,
if you write it but don’t mention it, the employee feels
like they’ve been blindsided.
Solution: Be consistent and only write what you say,
with the same kinds of descriptions and examples.
Mistake: Soften or sugar-coat the review because you
don’t want to hurt the employee or make the person
Solution: Employees deserve to know the truth, so they
have an opportunity to improve. In addition, if an
employee has poor performance and applies for another
job in the company, and their performance review is
glowing, the next supervisor gets stuck with a turkey.
That artificially inflated review will make you look
weak and ineffective. In addition, it isn’t fair to the
good employees, who really earned a good rating.
Mistake: Retrofitting the rating so the person gets a
often happens when there is a numeric formula for
determining ratings and salary. Instead of rating the
person where they belong, the supervisor wants everyone
to be happy, so works backwards from the salary number
to determine the rating. This isn’t fair to anyone.
Solution: The purpose of the performance review and
salary increase are to let people know where they stand
and to reward their contribution. And if they don’t meet
expectations, they should get a clear message that they
need to step it up. If you aren’t comfortable delivering
this message, you probably shouldn’t be a manager.
Mistake: Not allowing enough time for the review.
you rush through the review, simply hand the review to
the person and ask them to sign it, or answer the phone
during the review, you will be telling the person they
really don’t matter very much to you.
Solution: Allow at least an hour for each person. Turn
off your phone and computer and give your employee the
undivided attention he or she deserves.
When personality, not performance, is the issue
Nov. 12, 2015
am searching for some information and advice on an
employee I have. I am at a loss for what my next step
is. I can’t fault this employee for anything regarding
DOING her job. She does her duties well and in a timely
manner. I can always count on her for that. The problem
I am having is with her personality.
noticed almost immediately after her arrival here that
she would try and force a friendship with me, to the
point that she would drop in unannounced at your house
on the weekends (even when you never told her where you
live). And she would always call - just to chat. She
started to bring me small gifts and my children small
gifts. It was all very uncomfortable.
While I am friendly with all my employees, I try and
keep my personal life separate from my job. In the past,
I have been good friends with fellow employees and it
always backfired. So, I tried to speak with her about
it being unnecessary to do such things. None of it
worked. Finally, out of frustration, I just started
withdrawing from the situation. Since that time, she
has “laid off” me and moved on to others.
that point, her paranoia started to become apparent.
Pretty much on a regular basis she would ask me whether
or not I was going to fire her. I tried to calm her
fears on that subject. None of it worked.
Then, it started getting back to me that she was talking
about me behind my back - and none of it nice. She
would complain about every action I took, whether it
regarded her, her job, or her division, or not. I tried
to speak with her about that. She became very hostile
and started shouting that if I wanted her gone to just
fire her. It was a very ugly situation. At that time,
I wrote her up for her behavior.
I was able to speak with her when she was calmed down
she expressed to me that she felt like I was trying to
get her to quit. Which is the farthest from the truth -
as far as her job goes; she is one of few people I can
count on. I tried to reassure her that was not the
case. But, again - none of it worked. But, I feel like
this all stems back to her trying to be my friend. I
have tried dropping comments about how I feel toward
office relationships. I don’t know how to explain the
reasons for not being her friend. Nor do I think I
should have to.
Sadly, I am now convinced that she is suffering from
some disorder that affects her thinking and behavior. I
have noticed symptoms of bipolar and paranoia. I have
also had a half a dozen other employees bring certain
traits of hers to my attention. I don’t know what to
do. I do not want to see her go but I want to see her
get the help she deserves. And I need some peace in
this office. Not only for myself but for all
admit I am sure I have not handled the situation to the
best of my ability. I have never had to deal with this
situation. Please help. What could I have done
better? What can I do? What can I say?
She needs professional help, so stop kicking yourself
for not handling her correctly. On the contrary, I think
you handled the situation quite well, given the
you have an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), I
recommend an immediate referral. They will be able to
recommend someone who can diagnose her behavior and
direct her to a qualified person to help her.
you don’t have an EAP, suggesting that she get some
counseling could backfire. Given her paranoia, she is
likely to overreact and explode, just as she has in the
past. She will probably think that this is a validation
of her worst fears.
Instead, I recommend a straightforward, consistent
approach that includes telling her exactly what behavior
is problematic and how it is hurting her. Beating around
the bush with her hasn’t worked, so clearly explain why
you aren’t friends with employees. Tell her that her
work is excellent and you would not want to lose her.
Explain that her constant need for reassurance is
unnecessary and time consuming. Tell her that you will
have one-on-one meetings with her each week, to go over
her work and give her direct feedback, if she feels it
would be helpful. Summarize your conversation and send
her a copy.
an added step, and to be certain that she is on track,
you may also want her to summarize your weekly meetings
with a brief summary emailed to you. Explain, “Since it
seems as if you and I are on different pages - for
instance you think I am trying to fire you - I’d like
you to summarize our meeting each week, to make sure you
and I have a clear understanding of what we discussed
and any action plans you have agreed to do. That way, I
can verify that we are in agreement and you won’t worry
she continues to have outbursts or other inappropriate
behavior, document it and call it to her attention
she can’t turn it around and continues to be a serious
disruption, I would tell her, “I feel it is only fair to
tell you what could happen if this continues. You could
lose your job. I hope you won’t force me to do that.” If
she doesn’t seek treatment and the behavior continues,
all you can do is react to the behavior she displays.
Don’t mistakenly think that you can’t fire her because
her work is well-executed. Behavior at work is just as
much a part of performance as the technical outcomes.
Sadly, she is self-sabotaging and I suspect this is
exactly how the story will end. You can only hope that
she will get help before her self-fulfilling prophecy
When, and why, executive coaching makes sense
Oct. 29, 2015
Executives are often expected to run across a battle
field, carrying a heavy load of employee and customer
problems, dodging competitive bullets, while jumping
over political landmines. The job requires a tool bag
that includes communication skills, persuasive
presentations, political savvy, analytical skills and a
rucksack filled with sophisticated techniques and
tactics. That’s why I love coaching these folks.
executives bring a technical expertise with them as they
climb the ranks, but some of the subtler things - people
- politics - polish - can be their undoing. The idea of
executive coaching has caught on across the country
faster than a cold in a kindergarten. And I think the
reason is that it makes sense.
Companies turn over coffers of cash to executive search
firms and spend company resources grooming, growing and
promoting people into their executive suite and when
they falter, it’s a misstep that can be felt all the way
through the organization because of the impact they
Executive coaching, if done well, can pinpoint the
specific behavior that needs to get buffed or
overhauled. It focuses a laser beam on the area and
teaches the executive a new way to perform. While a
seminar or a conference can create awareness or educate
an executive about new trends or teach some skills, the
intense coaching experience goes right to the heart of
the matter and creates specific homework designed to get
results immediately. And that’s the fun of it for me. I
love to craft the transformation.
make no mistake, changing your “soft skills” is anything
but soft. It’s a boot camp with you as the only recruit,
so the pressure is on. And the behavior changes can
range from purging small, quirky behaviors to exorcising
major career killers. Here is a sample of some of the
spoken and unspoken rules that can trip up executives:
Credibility is tough to build and easy to lose.
Executives, who think their career’s protective shield
is the results they get, are sure to step on an internal
mine or two. Sometimes they think the way to challenge
an idea is to challenge their peers in front of others,
only to discover later that the cultural norm is to
challenge privately and build consensus before the
Executives who are perceived as doing things for
themselves rather than the organization are sure to be
attacked. If they are seen as arrogant or know-it-all,
they will attract snipers from all camps.
others are too technically focused and duck all that
“political stuff,” so their ideas are ignored or
trampled in the fight for better productivity and
Inability to manage
employees without being either too hands-off or too
For many executives, their rise to the top came up
through one department. Suddenly, they find themselves
directing multiple disciplines and working with many new
constituencies. Selecting the right management staff and
working through them to reach the people in the
organization is sophisticated stuff.
takes a battle plan of one-on-one and cross functional
meetings, with an organized system for tracking people,
projects and outcomes. Executives need to stay at the
30,000 feet level but have a system that allows them to
swoop close to the action when they need to.
Inability to tailor
a presentation to the audience
If there is one thing that smacks new executives in the
face, it’s the amount of time and focus that goes into
presentations at this level to their own organization,
to their peers, to sales, to customers, to outside
groups, to the board. The farther they get from the
front line, the more important crafting an effective
skill set ranges from being “folksy” and conversational
to delivering a compelling, executive summary. And did I
mention being able to tango and cha cha, when you are
asked those tough questions?
Being either too
accommodating, or too resistant
You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. If you
take on too much work, in an effort to look like a good
soldier to your superiors, you can weigh down your own
troops. Or, you can appear to be too rigid and
protective of your own organization, so they can meet
their goals, but you end up looking like you are not a
team player with a sense of urgency. The art of
“pushback” reaches critical importance at this level.
perceived as insensitive or even a bully
Executives who have risen to their position early, but
failed to change with the times, usually see their
corporate image fade like a photo in the sun.
Anyone who thinks they can be a bull in a china shop
regarding sexual orientation, race, religion or gender
hasn’t been paying attention to the rising cost of
People expect to be included in decision making, not
bullied into predetermined solutions. They expect to be
treated with respect and dignity and not screamed at by
a drill sergeant. The diversity of the workforce today
is unparalleled. In age demographics alone, this is the
first time we’ve seen four generations in the workplace.
Getting them all to march united across the battle field
is no small task.
Respect and fairness are the very core of good
Oct. 29, 2015
am 32 years old and have worked as a computer programmer
for 10 years. Recently, I was hired for a managerial
position with another firm. I look forward to the job,
but am uneasy about being the manager. I feel confident
in my work skills, but not as confident about my
managerial skills. (I applied for a job with a new
company as a technical worker, and they offered me the
will be supervising six people. Would you consider
writing about the “essentials of management”? I’m sure
you have written about this before, but I never thought
it would affect me. I know there are golden rules of
management that I am unaware of - and I don’t want one
of the people I will be supervising to write a letter to
you - about me!
doubt you will get a letter written about you as long as
you continue to be eager and open to learning about how
to manage people. I suspect it’s the ones who think they
know it all and aren’t introspective about their skills
who get letters written about them.
Perhaps the best guide to managing others is to think
about how you would like to be managed. I’ll boil it
down to my version of the basics. But make no mistake;
just because they are the “basics” doesn’t mean that
they are easy, and just because they are common sense
doesn’t mean that they are very common.
People want to know what the goal is and what your
expectations are. Too many managers just hire people and
put them in a job and then never tell them anything more
about the mission of the business or future goals of the
organization. No matter what kind of organization I work
with, employees at all levels express a keen interest in
wanting to know where the organization is going and how
they fit in. Talk about the mission and goals during
staff meetings, when decisions are made, when praising
someone, when people are hired ... in other words, all
2. Treat your employees with the same respect you would
show to the CEO. If you deeply believe this key
principle, you will listen closely to what they suggest
and follow up on your promises to them. You will value
their contributions and tell them so. If they disagree
with you, you will be open to their point of view.
Find out what their career goals are and make every
attempt to help them grow and succeed in their jobs. If
you challenge them with interesting work and let them
try out their ideas, you will see your employees get
excited about their jobs and become motivated to get
better results. This doesn’t just mean a once-a-year
career chat. It means seeing yourself as a full-time
mentor to your employees.
4. Communicate with them as adults - honestly and
straightforwardly. When you share the good news, the bad
news, what you do know and what you don’t know, they
will learn that they can rely on you to give it to them
straight. This ties right back into having respect for
them. This means giving them feedback that is clear and
immediate, yet tactful. It also means saying, “I was
hoping you could all help me solve this problem because
I really don’t know what to do.”
Care about your employees as whole people. Find out
about their children, discover what their hobbies are,
pay attention to their trials and triumphs outside of
work. I’m not suggesting that you become their best
friend - it can be a mistake to get too chummy - but
taking the time to know what makes your employee tick
will help you know how to create a bond as a leader that
will make people feel like committing to you and to the
Build their confidence and self-esteem. No matter how
old we get, these two things are at the core of who we
are as people. One of the best ways to create
willingness to try something new or do something extra
is to reinforce and recognize the behaviors we want more
of. One of the biggest complaints I hear is “I always
hear about it when I do the wrong thing, but he never
notices when I do something right.” Positive
encouragement is a tremendous tool to shape behavior and
When making decisions, strive for outcomes that have a
three-way balance: they are good for the
organization/customer, good for the team and good for
the individual employee. Managers get themselves into
trouble when they get out of balance on one of these.
For instance, if they take only the employees’ side and
can’t see the organization’s perspective, they will be
well-liked but ineffective. If they take only the
organization’s perspective and fail to consider the
employee’s needs and views, they will lose employee
know there are many more “golden rules” but these have
always been the ones I have used the most, and have seen
work the best.
Reading “tells” is as important in the workplace as in
Oct. 22, 2015
Joanne knew she her boss was nervous, even though he
didn’t say a word.
Peter instantly saw that his peer was defensive, even
though most people in the room didn’t recognize anything
reason Joanne and Peter were able to read the reactions
of their colleagues is because they knew how to read
their “tells.” A tell is a gesture or mannerism that
someone uses frequently and predictably. Most of the
time, they don’t even know they are doing it but if you
know what to watch for, you will have an advantage in
any conversation with them.
One of my female colleagues picks up a piece of hair and
bends it in a specific way, whenever she is tense or
Another colleague’s voice goes up to a high pitch when
she is pushing her idea.
client of mine laces his fingers together and puts them
behind his head and spreads his elbows, whenever he
feels challenged, or disagrees with something being
A friend of mine flexes her arm and hand in a certain
way - almost like a spasm - when she feels judged, or is
trying to get others to agree with her.
friend taps his toes or fingers when he is bored or
Another friend’s ears get red when he is embarrassed or
female colleague flushes pink on her neck and chest, and
looks down, when she disagrees.
I pick my cuticles when I am impatient with someone.
what is your tell? If you don’t know, ask the people who
know you best. In fact, ask them to describe your other
body language habits while you’re at it. For example,
many years ago I was in my boss’ office describing
something important. He was reserved by nature and
somewhat introverted, while I am an unabashed extrovert.
I noticed his eyes and head were moving as I spoke. It
dawned on me that he was watching my hands gesture
wildly as I described the scenario! From then on, I
tried to make it a point to hold my hands in my lap -
and I assure you it wasn’t easy.
Another example of a body language habit comes from a
colleague who tends to talk with his eyes closed when he
is thinking about what he is saying. It goes on for
prolonged periods and it feels odd to his companions. A
different person looks away for long periods and doesn’t
make eye contact. Someone else I know coughs (a short
fake-sounding cough) whenever he reads something out
loud (a holdover, he says, from the embarrassment he
suffered as a kid, when he had to read in front of the
There are other body language cues that come out when we
are nervous or feel under a spotlight. For example, when
I coach leaders in presentation skills, I often see
defensive body positions. Because public speaking is
stressful and makes many people feel exposed and
vulnerable, they reflexively protect their most intimate
body parts. Men will sometimes use the “fig leaf” pose,
with hands in front of their body, while women will glue
their elbows down along their sides and gesture in front
of their chests. It’s also why so many people prefer
standing behind a podium. Of course, they would never do
this in a normal conversation and don’t even realize
they are doing it in front of a group.
I sparked your curiosity? For the next few days, pay
attention to not only what is being said but what their
body is doing. Watch your boss, your spouse, your
children and friends. They are the most important people
in your life and they make wonderful subjects to study.
Your skills will improve over time and will give you an
advantage in your communications with them. It will
trigger you to be more empathetic, help you to stop and
probe for unspoken disagreement, and make you realize
when to back off, all good moves that will help you be a
Respectful confrontation saves time & trust
Oct. 16, 2015
Trust. It’s at the core of any meaningful relationship.
And it’s certainly a key requirement for any
organization interested in creating and keeping a
motivated, committed workforce.
You can’t automatically create trust - it must be
earned, one behavior at a time. It’s almost like each of
us has an emotional bank account. If you are treated
well by your manager, a “deposit” is made in your
account. But when a personal violation occurs, a
“withdrawal” is made. If your manager treats you well
over a long period of time, trust builds and an
occasional withdrawal is no big deal. But when an
account is empty - or even has a negative balance -
trust has no foundation on which to build.
company has many employees with empty accounts and low
trust, any attempt to implement any changes and
improvements will be met with skepticism and resistance.
Cultural change requires a personal commitment from
everyone. Building trust must come first.
Saying “Trust me” won’t work. Only day-to-day actions
can prove that management is trustworthy.
are some behaviors that will help you to invest in your
employees’ emotional bank accounts:
Trust is destroyed when employees are constantly
surprised by inconsistent treatment. Surprising them
with negative feedback at performance review time;
changing priorities without explanation; and changing
the rules arbitrarily are the kinds of behaviors that
convince employees to be suspicious and on their guard.
They see that the top has the power to knock them off
balance whenever they want to.
management has a big role to play in establishing the
values they want to operate from. If the top managers
aren’t in alignment, there is little chance that their
behaviors will be consistent. Mixed signals destroy
Instead, say what you’ll do and do what you say. Keep
the promises you make or don’t make them at all. If you
need to change direction, explain why. Treat all
employees like the most important customers you have -
because they are.
Tell the truth.
this were easy to do, we’d all be doing a lot more of
it. Many managers hoard or hide company information from
employees. They think knowledge is power and they want
it all for themselves in the hope that it will give them
job security. They don’t tell poor performers the truth
about their need to improve. They don’t admit when they
don’t know the answer or admit that they’ve made a
Telling the truth is closely related to the first point
- being consistent. If you tell the truth consistently,
you will build trust. Whether the news is good or bad,
employees will learn to rely on you for a straight
Treat people with respect and dignity.
This is not conditional. Even if they screw up or do
something nasty to someone else, you need to set a clear
example that people can trust. Does this mean you coddle
poor performers or “look the other way” when mistakes
are made? Not at all.
the contrary, it means treating them like adults who
deserve to know the truth. For example, if they’re
failing on the job, they deserve to be told and given a
chance to succeed. But if they don’t succeed, they can
be “helped out of the organization” in a dignified way.
The rest of the employees will be grateful. They will
see that you can be trusted to reward the right behavior
and that everyone - even the worst performers - will be
treated with dignity. But they will also be expected to
take responsibility for their own behavior.
One of the best ways to demonstrate that you trust your
employees is to treat them like colleagues who are as
committed to the organization as you are. Give them
information about customers; tell them what the vision
and goals of the company are and discuss how they fit
in; tell them what you know as soon as you know it.
Ask for input and listen to it.
You don’t trust people who do all the talking and don’t
listen to your opinions and ideas. Your employees don’t
either. Trust is built when employees know you will take
time to listen to them and involve them during the
decision making process. Telling them after the fact
creates BOHICA (Bend Over Here It Comes Again).
Trust isn’t something you can demand from someone else
until you’ve taken steps to deserve it.
Respectful confrontation saves time & trust
Oct. 9, 2015
“Just imagine that the audience is naked.” Anyone who
has ever taken a workshop on how to make presentations
has heard that one. But in a situation where you face a
hostile audience or you are asked a challenging
question, you’re the one who feels as if you’re standing
there in your birthday suit.
If you are expected to make presentations to employee
groups, shareholders, industry peers or the public,
chances are you’ve been challenged by a member of the
group at some point in your speaking life.
Increasingly, my firm is asked to help an executive
polish his or her presentation skills. It’s becoming
more important as companies realize the value of
face-to-face communication in building commitment to
changes and forming partnerships with constituencies.
For instance, some executives are now expected to hold
regular “town hall meetings” with employees at all
levels. These meetings provide a great forum for give
and take but it’s the “take” portion that causes
presenters to sweat.
Presentation skills don’t come naturally for most of us.
In fact, it’s number one on the list of things most
feared by Americans. It’s daunting enough to just stand
up there and talk, let alone be grilled or attacked by
the audience. The good news is that group behavior is
fairly predictable and predictably fair.
are some strategies for you to clip and save. You can
pull them out the next time you’re asked to speak:
A member of
the audience disagrees with a point you made in your
presentation and attacks you in front of the rest of the
not to do:
Do not respond with a condescending remark or attempt to
justify your position. I recently heard a speaker say,
“Apparently you didn’t listen to my whole speech or you
would have known I made that point.” Then he went on to
restate a portion of his speech that everyone had
already heard. Ouch! The audience instantly turned
against the speaker.
Never get into a shooting match with a member of the
audience. You will lose, even if the person is a flaming
fool. Here’s why. The leader is in a position of power
and authority, and if he or she appears to “argue down”
a dissenter, or get defensive in front of the group,
credibility is lost. Each member of the audience
recognizes that the audience member who is being
embarrassed could be them.
better approach is to let the arrows pass right through
you. For instance, say, “I appreciate your perspective.
What do the rest of you think?” Almost without fail, a
group will rise to the occasion and moderate the
situation for you.
the person has a personal axe to grind, or is
inappropriate in other ways, another approach is to
gently cut him or her off by briefly restating the
opinion in neutral words and thanking the person before
moving on. For example, “So, if I understand you
correctly, you feel that managers are power hungry
people who climb on the backs of their employees to get
what they want and to look good to their superiors.
Unfortunately, you must have had some very negative
experiences. Thank you for sharing your perspective.”
audience member who asks a question that is really a
thinly veiled challenge.
not to do:
Don’t take the question at face value and answer it. For
example, if the person asks, “Don’t you think there are
a lot of people who will disagree with this policy?”
don’t respond with, “No, I think the policy is fair.”
The audience will know you have tried to dodge the real
issue and it will make them uncomfortable. Once there is
dissension in the group, they will not be able to settle
down until it is resolved. Ignoring it generally causes
a flurry of conversation in the hallway and at break
time. The audience needs the leader to bring closure to
What to do:
for more information. The more you show sincere respect
and try to understand the point they are trying to make,
the more the audience will settle down and respect the
leader. “It sounds as if there is more behind your
question. What specifically do you think some of the
problems are?” will draw out the real issue and force
the person to be straightforward about what they really
member who begins to take a lot of time to tell personal
stories, express their views, or asks numerous questions
about an issue that only has importance to that
not to do:
Don’t get caught in the trap of conducting a lengthy
one-on-one dialogue in front of a group. The audience
will begin to check their watch, shift in their chairs
and even leave the room. They expect you to respectfully
cut it off. Another mistake is to cut the person off too
abruptly. For instance, interrupting the person with,
“We’re running behind schedule. We have to move on” will
insult the person and may make the person more
Look for an opening, briefly summarize the person’s
point and say, “I’d be happy to discuss this with you
after the session or at break.” Then neutralize it with,
“I’d be happy to discuss any personal experiences or
problems any of you have after the session. I wish we
had more time but unfortunately we’re forced to stay on
audience member who expresses a contrary viewpoint that
others seem to agree with.
What not to do:
Don’t evade this one or play down its significance
Stop, restate what the person said, ask the rest of the
group if they agree. Then spend the necessary time to
explore the opposing viewpoint. If you don’t listen to
the majority opinion, you will shut them down and lose
them for the rest of your presentation. Ironically, even
if the rest of the group disagrees, they will resent it
if you don’t listen to what members of the group have to
Public speaking is a tremendous career builder. If you
are able to handle tough situations with grace and
dignity, your audience will respect you and listen to
your ideas. Trust the group to help you succeed.
Respectful confrontation saves time & trust
Sept. 24, 2015
am relatively new to my position (1 year) and I work in
a high-tech industry. I have a peer who works with me on
a variety of projects (he’s been here two years) and
here is where the problem comes in.
is a scene stealer - always using big, buzz words to
“wow” the higher ups and making sure he gets credit for
things. The problem is that he doesn’t have very good
follow-through on projects and in actuality, is more
talk than action. He is very political and this drives
me crazy. I end up doing some of his work and when I
have to pick up the pieces I become furious. He just
goes on his smiling way, kissing up to all the
hesitate to talk to our manager because I am afraid I’ll
look like “sour grapes.” In the meantime, my attitude
toward my co-worker is getting very cool. Can I take any
action without hurting my standing with my boss and the
people in the company I do projects for?
Political animals tend to show their stripes over time
and I will bet your co-worker will eventually be found
out. You may not even be aware of how much your boss and
clients already know. Most people are wary of people who
snow them with $25 dollar words when 10 cent ones will
do. The irony is that the harder he tries to impress
them the phonier he’ll look.
Often, people who are trying this hard are secretly very
worried that they’re not measuring up. These impostors
either don’t have what it really takes to perform or are
operating under the assumption that it is only who you
know, not what you know, that counts. They spend more
time strategizing than acting and can get very
threatened when they feel someone has discovered their
game. Your co-worker may even stoop to dirty politics if
he feels it could help him advance. In other words, be
the same token, don’t let him dump all over you and then
steal the credit. The trick will be to remain objective
and cool about how to get the credit that is due you.
way to do this is continue to perform exceptionally well
for your clients. If you are doing things for them that
they aren’t even aware of, make sure you mention what
you are doing or keep them updated by memo, with a copy
to your boss. Don’t be shy about passing on compliments
you receive to your boss.
you find that you are picking up the pieces your
co-worker doesn’t complete, you are helping to cause the
problem. You are making it easier for him to slack off.
Smoke him out by being “too busy” with your own half of
the project to bail him out.
sure you’re protected by being crystal clear about who
is supposed to do what before beginning a project. It
wouldn’t hurt to summarize this in a memo to your
client, upfront. This will force him to complete his
share or be discovered.
Writing memos about what you both have agreed to do and
updates about your progress may seem like an unnecessary
nuisance. But it will not only give you credit in a
subtle way - it will make you feel that you are taking
constructive action to protect yourself. It will also
give you a positive way to manage your resentment.
this problem persists, you may also want to ask your
boss some “naive” questions. Questions such as, “I’m not
clear about who is supposed to be doing this part of the
project. I thought I was only supposed to do the
research, not write the report. Did I get that mixed
up?” This will give your manager an opportunity to
intervene and you won’t look like a “tattle-tale.”
It may be difficult for you to be a team player with
your co-worker. Keep in mind that there may be times
when you should help him out. The flip side is that you
shouldn’t hesitate to ask him for help if you should
Don’t bad mouth him to your boss and be careful who you
complain to about him. Above all, don’t try to find ways
to make him look bad to your clients. Clients don’t want
to know about any personal problems you’re having. They
only care about results. You will look unprofessional
and petty if you try to get them involved and the
credibility of your entire unit will suffer.
the end, excellent performance, assertive management of
your projects and professionalism will speak the truth
Respectful confrontation saves time & trust
Sept. 17, 2015
people only talked to each other, most of the conflict
in the workplace would disappear. Instead, it seems when
we are wounded by someone or disagree with something
they’ve done we end up talking to everyone except the
person who’s directly involved.
wander down the hall and talk to a co-worker ... mention
it to our lunch buddies ... complain about it to our
spouse. We spread the negative poison around the
organization, drag unwitting co-workers into the fray,
sully reputations and, in the end, erode the trust that
comes from open, honest, face-to-face communication.
Where did we ever get the idea that confronting someone
face-to-face had to be such a horrible encounter? Are we
all so worried about being “nice” that we’ve opted for
being spineless? And when did we get confused about the
perils of telling people the truth? What about the
perils of not telling them the truth? Our organizations
are paying a big price for this “smile to your
face/behind your back” communication style. It’s costing
millions in wasted time and lost productivity in
addition to a human price in broken trust and lost
don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating brutal honesty
and confrontation that strips away self-esteem and
dignity. I’m talking about the respectful, caring
communication that says, “I care about our relationship.
Something’s bothering me and I thought it was important
to talk to you about it directly so we could reach an
think most people are afraid. They’re afraid of hurting
someone’s feelings. They’re afraid of sounding
“negative” or “making waves.” They’re afraid of the
backlash that can come from a conflict that escalates
into a fight. They’re afraid of de-motivating their
employees. They’re afraid of not being liked. They’re
afraid of collecting political baggage. They’re afraid
of not getting ahead or losing their job.
you’re guilty of side-talk instead of straight-talk,
here are some behaviors that can help:
the “best intentions” approach.
people don’t intentionally wake up in the morning and
think to themselves, “I’m going to really hurt her
feelings today!” Most people have the very best
intentions. But it’s those good intentions that keep
getting us into trouble because other’s don’t know our
intentions - they only judge our actions.
approaching another person about a conflict say, “I’m
sure you had good intentions when you ... but let me
tell you how it looked from my perspective...” Rather
than waving the finger of blame in someone else’s face,
just talk about the affect it had on you.
Use the “I’m
just getting your advice” approach sparingly.
lot of damage can be done by going to person after
person “seeking advice” about how to handle a conflict
situation. It can become a way to see how many people
are on your side. It can also be a sneaky way of
poisoning the well for the other person; everyone’s
heard your “side” and so the other person suffers
political blows no matter what the outcome.
looking for things for which you should take
beauty of opening any conflict resolution session with
self-disclosure is that you bring the other person’s
defenses down immediately and problem solving can occur.
Be as open
and honest as you can, while preserving their
self-respect and dignity.
is the very heart and soul of building trust.
Sugar-coating your message or smoothing over the
seriousness only destroys trust. If you respect the
other person and want to remove barriers that are
getting in the way, the only way to build trust is to be
open, honest and straightforward. But in order to
preserve the relationship you must let people maintain
their dignity and save face.
this sound pretty basic? You bet. It also is just plain
good common sense. But common sense isn’t so common - we
all have to work at it.
Fear is a great motivator
Sept. 10, 2015
is a great motivator. I highly recommend it for leaders
interested in short term, instantaneous results. It
causes employees to jump through hoops to please you and
it will just about guarantee that you will rarely hear
much bad news. In fact, you will feel safe and secure
knowing you are in complete control.
course, ruling by fear does have a few nasty side
effects ...but nothing that a few more threats and
insults can’t cure. Here are some tried and true
techniques that are sure to inspire just the right
amount of “motivation” in your employees:
Yell at them in front of peers and customers. This is
sure to make them feel mortified and humiliated. There’s
nothing like showing them whose boss to get their
attention. It’s sure to make them dig in and apply
themselves to solving the stupid mistake they made and
they will have renewed incentive to try to please you.
Assume they aren’t trying to do the job the best they
can. Don’t let their thin excuses about trying something
new or helping the customer deter you from their real
intentions. If you assume they are trying to slack off
or sabotage the work they won’t be so quick to pull the
wool over your eyes next time.
Threaten your employees by telling them they are going
to lose their jobs. This is particularly effective if
you want them to work extra hard on a special project.
Another tip is to tell them that only the very best
workers will be spared. This added motivation makes them
work harder than ever before.
Keep them off balance by changing the work rules to suit
your needs at the moment. This way, everyone will have
to be nice to you to get any favors. Think of how
powerful you’ll be! Don’t let charges of “inconsistency”
and “unfairness” bother you. After all, you made the
rules and you can bend them. You’re the boss, aren’t
Don’t tell your employees what you expect of them. This
will give them too much information. It always leads to
chaos. How can you control their every move and keep
close tabs on them if they’re off on their own doing god
knows what? Besides, if you don’t tell them what you
want upfront, you can change it as often as you like.
Don’t give too much feedback. This is exactly what they
want so don’t fall for it. If you don’t tell them
anything - or just tell them when they make a mistake -
you’ll be able to keep them confused and cowed. Only
give negative feedback so they are always inspired by
how smart you are. Only really smart people are able to
spot the flaw in everything. If they ask too many
questions about their performance, see number 3.
Change priorities suddenly and often. This is a great
way to keep their attention focused on you. If you are
good at this people will have to check with you all the
time about what to do next and you won’t ever have to
leave your office. It will also make you look very
informed and important because you will react to top
management’s wishes ... and you know how demanding they
Don’t show them the strategic plan or the company or
department’s goals. They aren’t as sophisticated as you
are so they wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway.
(See number 7)
Threaten them by saying top management is watching their
every move. This is very useful if they stop jumping
every time you issue an order or they are reluctant to
take on more responsibility. If you scare them about
some far away, distant, menacing rulers, they are sure
to do whatever you tell them.
Only tell your employees the bare minimum. Operate by
the “need to know” philosophy. Those people who preach
“two-way communication” are out of their minds. Don’t
they see how employees can use this information against
you? And for heaven sakes, when you do talk to them,
don’t allow any room for questions. That’s why emails
are much better than meetings.
Don’t let employees out of your sight. You won’t be able
to check on everything they do. It’s particularly
effective if you peer over their shoulders while they’re
working so they know you are on to them and alert to any
mistakes they are about to make. The more you do this,
the more mistakes you will catch them making.
Reward employees who squeal on each other. This will
make all of them loyal to you and you alone.
you don’t follow these steps you could start to build
trust and honesty in the workplace and if that ever gets
started, there’s no telling what could happen.
Overcontrolling managers breed failure in their
employees and in their own careers
Sept. 3, 2015
“All of us were thrilled when Ed was promoted as our
manager. We all respect his technical skill and
knowledge of the field. What we didn’t expect was Ed’s
unwillingness to let go. It’s really creating some
serious morale problems around here."
worked for someone like Ed. Worse still, maybe you are
someone like Ed.
problem is a common one: a highly competent technical
performer is recognized with a promotion to a managerial
post. As a manager, the individual can’t keep his
fingers out of the day-to-day work of his employees.
Overcontrol kills. It’s as simple as that. It kills your
career as a manger and the careers of your subordinates.
As a manager who won’t let go you find yourself working
harder and longer than anyone else in the unit. You are
constantly “rolling up your sleeves,” “staying close to
the work,” “just checking” and “making sure it’s done
the subordinate under such a manager, you can feel
distrusted, underutilized, stressed and resentful. “Why
bother” is often heard around the coffee machine. After
a while, the good performers leave and the mediocre ones
will slip to new lows.
Overcontrol can be caused by many things. Some of these
managers believe no one can do the job as well as they
can. Others may be fearful of their own boss. Some
simply don’t want to stop doing the technical work that
has given them strokes and satisfaction.
Whatever the motivation, overcontrol will hurt your
career as a manager: It gets you from both ends and
traps you in the middle. Without a groomed replacement,
you can’t move up. And if you don’t delegate authority
to season and develop your replacement, you’ll never be
free to tackle new responsibilities yourself.
if you’re over-supervising, ask yourself:
I often tell my employees how to do the details of their
I take assignments back, after delegating them, because
my employee runs into a problem?
I do work that could be done by my employees?
After delegating an assignment, do I frequently check
with my employee to “see how it’s going?”
When my employee runs into a problem, do I rarely ask,
“What do you think you should do?”
I put off or ignore managerial responsibilities like
performance appraisals and career-development
you answered “yes” to some of these questions, you may
be too close for comfort.
you are overcontrolling, face it and fix it.
Start by setting some goals for yourself. For example,
“During the next month, I will not check on any project
until the due date.”
delegating an assignment, resist the temptation to
elaborate on the “how to.” Instead, only discuss the end
result you desire. Provide resources if the person is
inexperienced or the work is new to the employee.
into the task of learning your real job - managing
others. If you give it half a chance, you may find it’s
twice as rewarding as you ever dreamed it could be.
It takes more than attending meetings together to be a
Aug. 20, 2015
My company has recently begun the “team approach.”
Basically what this means is people from several areas
of the company are being asked to work together on a
variety of projects. This is great in theory but the
practical matter is that these teams are losing steam.
There is fighting between members, some people just stop
showing up, and some supervisors don’t seem to be very
supportive. They don’t adjust these employees’ schedules
so they can attend meetings or do the work that is
necessary between meetings. People are getting
discouraged and fed up. What do you think is the
theory sounds so simple: take people from different
areas of the company, give them a problem to work on and
empower them to solve it. The “T” word is shouted from
the tops of most corporate pyramids these days but few
understand the special dynamics required to create Teams
that work. Like individual ingredients in a recipe, they
don’t make a cake unless you put them together right.
There are three basic ingredients needed to make teams
work - a Common Goal, Permission and Information.
COMMON GOAL: Most individuals have been programmed to go
after their department’s goal. Turf is built up over
many years and it doesn’t go away because an executive
says, “work together.” Rivalries flare unless the group
spends time defining and agreeing to a common goal. Top
management needs to help shape the goal and agree to
give it the priority it deserves.
The notion of cross-functional teams is outside of the
traditional, hierarchical mold. It’s naive to presume
that the old structure won’t get in the way. Many
supervisors have come up through the ranks and are good
soldiers. They know how to give orders and delegate
duties. Some of them can learn new behaviors -
listening, facilitating and giving the team more
control. Some can’t. Their old role was to gather
information to make decisions. Now their role must
shift to helping the team gather information to make
their own decisions. This new role is just as important
and even more complex.
who coordinates a cross-functional team? If a
multi-department team is formed to work on a task, have
an advisor; someone at a higher level who will resolve
political turf issues and who can act as a sponsor for
their work. If a team is formed to work together on a
more regular basis, it may make sense for them to report
to the same person. Dotted line reporting relationships
can also be used when a department (functional) person
is on a cross-functional team. For example, the person
reports (solid line) to his or her department head and
“dotted” to the project leader. This dual accountability
is designed to create the right alignment.
top managers grant the most important permission. If
resources aren’t provided, if the project isn’t a
priority, if they give no clear charter, it will stall.
INFORMATION: In the past, information was the privilege
of rank. Information was power. The top held all the
cards and only showed one when they needed something
done. Now employees are asking them to show their whole
hand, so they can understand the big picture. Employees
want to know what management knows so they can make
smart decisions. Often, employees don’t know what they
don’t know. It’s management’s job to tell them, educate
them, and help them. Management also needs to outline
boundaries and taboos so the team will have a clear idea
of what is expected and what is off-limits.
people have spent their entire professional careers
learning a technical specialty. Then they are thrown
into a team environment and expected to understand group
dynamics, shared accountability, and organizational
politics. Most can’t run a meeting, they don’t know how
to deal with peers who don’t cooperate, and they don’t
know how to manage the process of a shared project.
Training is part of the answer. Some comes from guidance
provided by managers or outside help. And the rest comes
from a shift in culture that creates the right
environment for learning to occur.
The number 1 mistake leaders make
Aug. 13, 2015
Recently, I’ve had a performance evaluation which was
very unsatisfactory. I’ve been employed at this hospital
for over 10 years. Now suddenly, my work “needs
improvement” and I have three months to do it in,
otherwise, “be written up.”
There are 22 areas on this evaluation that you need to
meet requirements with 30 pages of documentation to
prove they have been met. There is an additional
document, a peer review from two-three persons with 27
areas that are rated. This peer review carries a lot of
weight and is confidential. This peer review has a lot
of negatives according to my supervisor, such as
questions are: Is this legal? Can a peer go around
saying and writing anything about a co-worker without
proof or evidence? Where can one obtain names of
attorneys that are experts in employee rights in case of
firing? How much severance for 10 years’ employment is
customary? (Incidentally, the boss has hired two new
persons at $6.00 an hour less than my hourly rate with
no open positions.)
have only two years left to go before I can collect
Social Security, so I am not particularly anxious to
look for a new job.
have advice for both you and your boss. First, you would
be wise to listen to his feedback and take steps to
improve your performance. Second, your boss must be very
specific about what it is that you need to change
...”non-professional behavior” is too vague to be
Although I think peer reviews provide valuable input in
a team environment, they should not be used as a club to
beat the co-worker. The manager must take the
responsibility to observe each employee, firsthand, so
he can support and pinpoint the peers’ feedback and then
work with the individual to help him or her improve.
key word in your letter is “suddenly.” After 10 years,
you “suddenly” need to improve. Either your boss has
been telling you (or hinting?) for a while and you
haven’t been listening, or your boss has been putting
off telling you and things have been building up and he
is fed up. Perhaps the peer input has forced the issue.
Another possibility that can’t be discounted is that he
is trying to replace you with cheaper labor. Although it
is tempting to believe that, the fact that your peers
have given you a negative rating suggests that your
performance is the real problem.
are right to feel indignant about the general nature of
the feedback. I suggest that you go back to your manager
and ask for more specifics. However, I would wait until
you can do it calmly and with an open mind. Explain that
you are frustrated and upset about the feedback because
you don’t know why they said it and you can’t correct it
if you don’t know what it means.
listen carefully to his response. If he doesn’t have
specifics tell him that it is impossible for you to
improve during the next three months. If he does have
specific details, don’t get defensive. Listen and force
yourself to write them down. This will keep you from
getting into an argument and provide a record for you to
refer to later.
think about what he said and decide what you can do to
improve. Schedule another meeting with your manager and
discuss what you want to do to improve and get his
advice. Although you are feeling hurt and angry, you
only have two years left before you can leave on your
terms, so why not make it as pleasant as possible?
Lawyers who specialize in employees’ rights can be found
online. Frankly, you will be far better off (whether you
ever file a suit or not) to take proactive steps now,
such as asking for details and trying to improve. If you
are fired, the company doesn’t have to give you any
severance, but if they do, a rule of thumb is one or two
weeks severance pay for each year worked.
Surprise feedback is not an easy thing to hear and it’s
even tougher to listen to. It’s in your best interest to
The number 1 mistake leaders make
Aug. 6, 2015
was recently demoted at my current company with no
substantial reason except reorganization. I always got
A+ reviews and good raises. I was never told to work on
any weaknesses or develop areas I needed work in. In
other words, I thought I was doing a good job. If I
wasn’t, the company never told me and, thus, never gave
me the opportunity to improve.
I feel just terrible - humiliated, a failure, hurt at
not getting a raise that I really depend on, etc. What
do you think is going on? Is this company trying to get
rid of me? What do you think of this tactic? Do I have
any legal recourse here? I worked very hard - was
conscientious - put off extended vacations and dragged
myself to work when sick. What happened?
someone else is being hired for my previous position. Is
this the “politics” that goes on in companies now? Is it
who you kiss up to or how hard you work that gets you
hope your letter is read by every manager who would
rather remain silent than tell employees what they need
to improve on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve
heard derailed employees say, “If I had only known what
to improve, I would have gladly worked on it but I
thought everything was OK.”
workplace would be a more effective - and happy - place
if managers would remember the golden rule of bad news:
“If I had that problem, would I want MY boss to tell
ME?” If the employee’s behaviors are hurting his or her
career, it’s the manager’s responsibility to provide
feedback and coaching.
you do a post-mortem on this situation you may learn
some things that could help you in the future. Bear in
mind, however, that you may never know the whole truth.
First, let’s consider the fact that someone was hired
for your previous position. Your boss is probably not
being open with you. For example, if your position had
been eliminated in a reorganization, it would be easier
to see how this demotion could occur, given your high
ratings in the past.
your replacement has exactly the same job you held, the
“reorganization” was your boss’s way of dealing with a
performance issue he or she was unwilling to confront.
Even if the job has been expanded, you need to ask
yourself, “Why didn’t my boss tell me about the required
changes and help me develop the necessary skills?” “If
the job has gotten bigger, were the qualifications
beyond my abilities?”
Consider the bigger picture. Does your manager have a
new boss? Could this decision have been made by someone
other than your supervisor? Perhaps your manager was
happy with your work but someone else above him or her
you examine the last few years of your performance,
think about how easy it is to confuse “hard work” with
“smart work.” By that I mean dragging yourself in to
work when you’re sick and putting off vacations is
laudable but you’ll notice there is no category called
“DEDICATED” on your performance appraisal. These things
deserve a pat on the back but don’t necessarily qualify
you for more money by themselves - it’s how effective
you are that keeps you in the winner’s circle. Does your
definition of “effectiveness” and your boss’s definition
Another question for you to investigate is, “How valid
was my A+ rating all these years?” Although it will be
difficult for you, I’d suggest that you ask your boss
for some feedback. However, since you haven’t heard
about any weaknesses before, your manager may have a
problem telling you now.
Before asking your boss to give you constructive
feedback, you’ll need to manage the anger and bitterness
you surely must feel. You don’t want this meeting to be
explosive. Your manager may have avoided honesty in the
past because he or she was afraid of hurting your
feelings or making you angry. In order to get the truth,
you will need to manage your emotions. It may help to
say, “I’m confused by the mixed signals I’m getting. I
need to know what areas I need to improve on if there is
some problem with my performance.” Listen carefully to
the answer and don’t argue with it. Instead, ask for
more specifics and examples until you feel satisfied
that you understand what your manager is telling you.
company is probably not trying to get rid of you. If
they were, they would have used this “reorganization” to
eliminate your job and fire you. Perhaps they value your
many technical skills but feel you were over-extended in
your former job. Without feedback from your boss, it’s
impossible to know exactly what the real reasons were.
you have more information, you have some decisions to
make. For instance: Is your new job a good fit for you
and worth keeping? Are you too embarrassed to stay under
any circumstances? If you get some negative feedback,
can you work on it in your new job? Does this demotion
mean that you are dead-ended in your present company? If
I pursue legal action what will that buy me?
Whether you decide to leave or stay, be more assertive
about soliciting performance feedback in the future. Ask
your boss for advice and coaching on your work long
before the performance appraisal, so that weaknesses are
addressed before they can become problems. Stay in tune
with shifting organizational priorities so that you can
anticipate changes. Most important, make sure you have a
clear understanding of your boss’s priorities and
expectations. You were blind-sided on this one. I’m sure
you will never let this happen to you again.