A story about how small decisions in managing people can lead to major consequences and about how can consistency and consideration might save not just the manager's face.
Management has a lot of pitfalls – small decisions that can have major, unexpected impact. It’s a difficult responsibility to master, because you are serving two masters: The organization and the people in your charge.
There was one manager I used to work for that really tried to do good by the organization – to do what’s in its best interest. Unfortunately in this effort, he forgot the people in his charge. Don’t take this as blame, it’s unfortunately absolutely normal for this to happen and managers need to be made aware of this and to battle it actively, if they want to live up to their full potential.
This manager, however, resisted input that tried to stop him; tried to make him aware of the situation he’s putting himself into. Please mark this point in the story. This is where a crucial decision could have been taken differently and it would have changed the outcome drastically.
Said manager received some feedback about tensions and communication issues in the team, with a specific team member – let’s call him Ed. Ed was very driven and blunt about his views and that didn’t sit well with some of the team.
Manager decided to talk to Ed and inform him of the feedback he got, but he decided to stay very vague about it and give only the most general of instructions and to shift the whole burden on mitigating the situation to Ed.
To cut a long story short, Manager also chose not to spend any of the little time he had over the next three months, to work on these issue with Ed. Ed, on the other hand, actively sought to improve the situation, asked for feedback and didn’t get any discouragement about his efforts from peers at all.
Three months later Manager decides to fire Ed, based on the fact that he didn’t receive any positive feedback about Ed as yet. Of course this is his choice and his right. The ultimate hypocrisy however, happened in the moment when Manager relayed that decision to the team.
He asked them for their understanding and their supporting Ed in finding a new place to work. At face value, this request is very considerate and reasonable. It’s a good-guy move to not abandon a person you just fired. The real and ultimate hypocrisy here is: Manager never ever even thought to ask the team to help Ed in the first place; to improve is odds of him staying with the team, becoming a valued and appreciated member; to simply work on their end of this communication issue – because those issues are never one sided.
Remember the point in the beginning where Manager could have made a different choice? This would have been that choice: To not put the burden of change on one single person, but involve the team and making it a group responsibility and work together with them on it.
It would have changed the outcome massively. It would not just have been good-guy pretense, it would actually have been the considerate, benevolent thing to do.
Don’t fire people until you have convinced yourself and everyone around you, that you have tried all to make them a valued and appreciated member of the team. That is good management.