Matt was a high-volume sales associate in a large retail store. He sold custom-built products that required a significant amount of time to prepare estimates and proposals. On one Thursday evening he was working alone at his desk in his department when the manager from another department in the store came to Matt and asked about the status of one proposal the other department manager had initiated. In that store, sales associates from anywhere could begin the process but it was the responsibility of the specialist to complete the process.
Matt explained that he was not pursuing that proposal because the customer had declined to comply with government-mandated permits for the installation of the product. “This sale,” Matt explained, “is dead. But I do have estimates sitting here on my desk I am working on right now that amount to more than $50,000 worth of sales.”
The interfering manager would not let it go. He kept insisting that Matt drop those projects and return to the project Matt had already proclaimed to be DOA.
“Don’t you care about the store’s reputation to meet customer’s needs?” the manager challenged. And he would not let it go.
Now, if you really want to discredit yourself as a leader and/or manager and if you really want to piss off a productive employee, try something as stupid as that.
Guilt trips always end unhappily. Always!
Matt’s sense of responsibility should have been obvious to that meddling manager from across the store. Matt was not just sitting around. He was working on large orders at that moment. Matt had carefully explained that pursuit of the project in question was futile. The manager’s interference brought on frustration, resentment, and confusion. Matt now wondered if he was required to pursue futile projects or focus on those promising profit. What mistakes did the meddling manager make?
Mistake #1 – He meddled. He was guilty of trying to direct the actions of an employee not directly his responsibility. While technically, in that company anyway, managers of any department do possess authority over subordinate employees anywhere else, that authority is not absolute. If you do not have a relationship with those outside your domain, and if there is no immediate crisis for which discussion is not possible, issuing orders like he has done only result in misunderstanding BECAUSE THEY ARE BASED ON MISUNDERSTANDING. A side to side approach will work far better than a top to bottom one.
Mistake #2 – He used an X-style to deal with a Y-situation. I am referring to MacGregor’s X & Y management styles. The X style is direct, dictatorial, and demanding. In some cases this is precisely what is required, particularly when you are addressing the EFFECTS of decisions made and actions taken which result in a crisis demanding immediate and aggressive action to prevent catastrophe. The Y style is indirect, parliamentary, and participative. The meddling manager had no real basis of authority other than on structural grounds. As I wrote earlier in this series, authority is granted upward. The official authority that comes with one’s office must be supplanted by one that comes from one’s character and association. If you try to use X when Y is more appropriate you come off as a bully.
Mistake #3 – He used guilt to try to gain cooperation when logic and reason had proven him to be wrong. Manipulation is manipulation and our employees are too smart to be fooled by a stupid argument like the one our meddler used. Guilt is the result of desperation, used by someone when they have no real basis for their argument. If we gain the upper hand by using guilt, we will plant the seeds of resentment, anger, and rebellion. Cooperation and collaboration are far more effective. Far more!
The objective of all management and leadership is results, to find the most expedient, efficient, and effective path to success and follow it. When a productive and fruitful employee like Matt comes along, don’t screw it up. Let them do their job.
The meddling manager manifested the dog on a walk syndrome meaning he needed to piss on the territory of a neighboring dog to show he was there. This is why I’ve given this post the title it has – 3 ways to piss off your employees.
More next week.