Some people step into the job of supervisor and instinctively know how to manage people. But most of us find our way by trial and error. Last w
Your new boss has no experience as a supervisor. She may not have any experience with the kind of work you do. She is friendly — but close to clueless. You are sure she is going to be a pain to work for.
’Tis the month before Christmas, and all through the house the employees are scurrying — to please their new boss. Good results are achieved and reported with flair in hopes of big profits — and they’d each have a share. But instead, they each received tiny cheeseboards. And that’s just one of the many reasons I would like to untangle Christmas and the workplace.
Given a choice, I would prefer to work for a moderately capable but honest, hard-working boss than a smart weasel of a boss. And I am not alone in my preference. The top reason people leave a job voluntarily isn’t for pay or a promotion; it’s because of a dishonest or incompetent boss. A few hundred years of literature followed by decades of employee attitude surveys provide the proof.
May I speak honestly?” “To tell you the truth ...” “Well, to be honest ...” All of the above are phrases that make me wonder if the speaker’s preceding statements were nothing but lies. Based on one of those human interests surveys I read recently, probably about half of what we are told each day falls somewhere between misleading or just plain false. Performance evaluation workshop
The day Elvis died, John’s fate was sealed. He made the mistake of singing Elvis hits off and on through the workday. John had a good voice and his co-workers (including me) enjoyed the musical interludes in our day. He sang tunes he knew we liked and stopped the moment we heard footsteps in the office hallway. On the whole he was a fun, helpful and popular employee.
As soon as I became consistent in how I applied rules and expectations my dog Charlie became a good dog. It wasn’t a coincidence. He could finally see a pattern and could predict my reaction to his behavior. Charlie is my first dog and it took me a while to realize that the “trial and error” method to setting expectations for Charlie wasn’t working. I didn’t know what I should expect from him when I brought him home so I stayed flexible and accommodating. I wanted him be happy; he had been living a rough life scavenging and I was ready to pamper him. My approach couldn’t have been more wrong. Charlie’s sense of security comes from a predictable routine; no surprises, no changes. A few clear rules and boundaries and he is a happy dog. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t misbehave; he knows exactly how long he can bark at a cat before he gets the “no barking” command.
Just about everyone sees themselves as a good employee. About a third of us are deluded. I blame parents. My theory is that our parents are the first “boss” most of us experience. They set the expectation that misbehavior has consequences. They make us understand the importance of punctuality, honesty, dependability and cooperation with others. Back in the days when I spent a good chunk of my time training new college grads I could predict who would be a challenge by asking if their parents had rules that came with consequences. If they did, half my work was done.
Some people, probably most of us, are best enjoyed in small doses. And that’s what makes harmony in the workplace a real challenge. Forty hours a week working with a person who annoys you is a pain in the tuchas. About a year ago I began posting the Fair Exchange columns on my website. This past week I did a quick analysis of which columns get the most interest — and it isn’t the ones that I fuss over and rewrite several times. The winner (by a landslide) is “Obnoxious employee? — deal with it before his co-workers do.” I shouldn’t be surprised.
Over the years I have worked with all types of performance evaluation systems. Most were way too complicated. And I have worked with many companies that had no performance evaluation system in place. But that doesn’t mean managers weren’t evaluating the employees; they just weren’t telling the employees what they thought of their performance. Now, if I ask a supervisor to identify the top, average and weak performers in her work unit she can immediately identify the best and worst employees. Everyone else will fall in the middle — the “good enough” employees. If I ask supervisors to explain why Joe or Jane was in the group of “best” employees rather than with the middle bunch, they will talk about the best employees as the reliable, highly skilled problem solvers.
Every creative, risk-taking entrepreneur with big dreams needs a solid, organized, nose-to-the-grindstone person who will build a sturdy framework to make those dreams a reality. That is a good description of my friend, Roger Vitrano. When I met Roger he had just been hired to work in the financial aid office of the university we were attending. In those days students had to walk around campus and stand in long lines at registration. By the time they reached our office, the students were hot, tired and impatient. Roger had to meet with students whose Pell grants had problems. Telling one student after another that they have incomplete paperwork for a grant is a tough job. But with just a little training behind him Roger was an efficient and calming presence in the office. Within days he was known as the go-to guy for students with financial aid problems.
How much does personality affect your chance for success? If the boss likes you, then your quirks are part of your charm and your mistakes are minor flaws. You get the benefit of the doubt. But if you and the boss don’t hit it off; well, then your mistakes are horrible and your personality quirks are annoying.
In a recent New York Times article I learned that the men and women fighting the forest fires that plague us every summer receive varying levels of pay and benefits depending on their employment status. The teams of firefighters include full and part-time employees from the U.S. Forest Service as well as people employed seasonally or by private contractors.
If I could simplify the Fair Labor Standards Act and make it easy to understand, I would die a happy woman.
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