Peter Drucker and Dr. Edward Deming reminded us that poor performance is a management issue, not an employee one. Most managers receive little management training, and some are capable of such brilliant exploits as:
- Bringing somebody on your team going 45 mph. If your team is going 75 mph, what happens when you bring someone onto it who’s going 45 mph? I guarantee there will be crashes, upset, injuries, and fingers pointed. Make sure that you bring employees up to speed before you thrust them onto a team. Unless it’s an emergency, there’s no excuse for not having an excellent “onboarding” process. Remember that who you hire is the most important part of your job; not simply something to get over.
- Focusing on what people don’t get right. All of us screw up every day. Sometimes it’s a basic thing like accidentally deleting a document. At other times, we make some huge mistakes. Either way, when you’re a boss running 75 mph, it’s easy to nitpick. If you find yourself making more negative deposits than positive ones, cut it out.
- Never giving an “atta-boy.” As a corollary, if managers aren’t giving negative jabs, they’re not saying anything at all. There are no positive offsets. They make no time to show they care. Not a five-minute conversation, not a thank-you note, not a pat on the back, nada. How long does anyone want to work for a boss like that, even if they know they’re doing a good job?
- Taking credit for positive results and pointing fingers at the negative ones. We’ve all been around people like this — and not for long. The job of a boss is to make every person on his or her team a better player. When the team wins, the boss shares credit. When there are losses, the buck stops with the boss. When I search for an example of this behavior, Jets football coach Rex Ryan comes to mind. It’s all about “look at me” and, of course, when things go wrong, it’s not his fault; simply poor play by his players. Right.
- Setting employees up to fail. In my litigation days, I met plenty of bosses who went out of their way to create an employee’s failure, whether out of fear, revenge, or stupidity. Managers like this are a cancer on any organization. If an employee isn’t performing and ownership won’t let you fire them, call ownership out on it. If management still fails to make necessary changes and you can’t be at peace with it, then work someplace else.
- Running their own fiefdoms, detached from corporate objectives. I’ve seen many bosses build a bureaucratic wall around them to guarantee their personal survival. I’ve talked to executives who have run multi-million dollar departments more interested in protecting their retirement savings than growing the company. These managers will damage the company eventually. One reason why companies are smart to move managers around every few years is to keep them from building a moat around their department.
- Failing to keep their mouths shut. Managers learn things about people’s personal lives, job histories, medical problems, family problems, nasty little habits, and more. A manager who shares this information with more people than those who “need to know” is a manager who will get employees upset and the company sued. I remember one manager who was so curious about a subordinate’s possible breast enhancements that he snuck into her personnel files, reviewed her medical records, and proved himself “right.” Then the idiot chose to share thus information with his buddies at the company. When the employee got wind of the situation, you can understand her outrage. What this manager didn’t know was that she had undergone a double mastectomy due to breast cancer two years before, which is why she eventually had the enhancements. How does an employee relationship recover from a situation like that?
Of course, there are more horror stories, but that’s plenty for now. The answer: Promote only qualified people into management and train them constantly so they keep improving.