Where Have All The Honest Managers Gone?By: Bob Selden
I well remember as a young bank clerk many years ago, sitting at my desk one morning. Around me were the sounds of hustle and bustle of a busy office – people were sipping their coffee (in those days it was instant!) opening the mail (ah, for the days before email!) and telling of the events of last evening or their trip to work that morning. As a morning person, it was my best time of the day when I was at my most positive, creative and effective best, so I had my head down and bum up. Time later for relaxing. Suddenly, the air was split with an earth shattering yell. My usually very quiet, reserved manager, had come out of his office, red in the face and yelling "Who did this?" Everyone stopped dead. When he recovered enough to tell us what the "this" was, I discovered to my horror that it was obviously something that I had done that had upset him. Apparently, I had made a blunder that would impact one of our best customers most unfavourably. I very tentatively, put my hand up "Mm, mm, mm, me, Sir", I managed to stammer. "Into my office, now!" he replied.
By the time we had both sat down in his office, he had recovered his composure somewhat. To my great surprise, he started the conversation with "Bob, I really appreciate your honesty in admitting to this mistake. I am very disappointed that it has happened, but with some luck, we can probably correct it. Thank you for owning up to your mistake so readily".
That experience for me was bitter sweet and obviously long lasting. It certainly had a major impact on my later mode of operating when I became a manager. On the one hand, I was mortified to have made such a stupid mistake yet on the other hand, I had really felt good and upbeat about the way it had been handled. I thought of that experience as I read an article in the Herald Tribune this week (Jan 3, 2007) titled "2 of 5 bosses don't keep their word". The article reported on a soon to be released study in The Leadership Quarterly that found that by and large, many bosses today are dishonest with and about their workers. The study specifically pointed out some damming evidence reported by workers about the honesty of their bosses:
Florida State University, the authors of the report, suggest that such dishonesty creates problems for companies such as poor morale, lower production and higher turnover. These results confirm my own research in interviews and focus groups with managers and their employees over the last twenty years. I too found that the major reason why people leave an organisation is because of poor management and leadership. People don't leave a company, they leave their boss!
What may surprise some readers is that the Florida State study also confirmed many earlier studies about the relationship between pay and turnover. It found that a good working environment is more important than pay and that "employees were more likely to leave if involved in an abusive relationship than if dissatisfied with pay.
My own research also throws up two other factors of note:
So, where does that leave today's managers? And, most importantly, what does it suggest for companies who want to boost morale, increase productivity and decrease staff turnover?
I suggest there are three answers to this question on which every employer should focus in the relationship with his or her workers, whether he or she be the CEO or a new supervisor.
Remember, people join a company because of the excitement of the job. It is up us as managers to do whatever we can to keep that excitement level high.
So, where have all the honest managers gone? I have no "amazing* research to provide the answers (although it would make an interesting study). However, I will suggest that:
Am I being too harsh on today's managers? I'd appreciate your thoughts, opinions, comments and stories. I wonder how many of today's managers would take the same approach as my old manager when faced with a similar situation to that of "my mistake"?
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© Copyright 2007, The National Learning Institute
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