Collin was the teacher all the incoming 6th graders wanted. His success in the classroom also won him considerable respect with his fellow teachers. In fact, after only teaching for 7 years at the elementary school, the school board asked him to be the elementary principal. The first few months went great (you know, the “honeymoon” period). Then the wheels came off.
The Cost of Avoiding People Problems
Collin struggled to address several teacher-related issues. But he most obviously avoided dealing with underperforming teachers, which eventually cost him. Sensing his leadership vacuum, other teachers stepped in to handle “lazy” teachers as they saw fit. At first, they used passive-aggressive tactics. After a while, though, they openly maligned the other teachers in staff meetings and even to their students. The problems grew to such a distracting level that parents asked the school board to step in. They asked Collin to return to his 6th-grade teaching post, appointed a new principal, and spent the next two years repairing trust amongst the teachers.
Managers Must Manage People
The story of an individual contributor stepping into a manager role unprepared is nothing new. And a lot of the time they grow into the position. But it is rarely the technical stuff that sinks the new manager. It is the people stuff. They know how to make a widget but they do not know how to lead and manage people to make the widget. So, to help you help your mangers, here are five expensive people problems we consistently seeing managers avoiding.
5 People Issues Managers Avoid
Managers are typically fine with pointing out small missteps or errors good-intentioned employees make. But when they begin to see a pattern, when a worker consistently underperforms, delivers late, or is not engaged in their work, they know the problem is deeper. They intuitively sense the person is not a good fit, but the process of “letting them go” is too hot to handle. So they avoid the underperformer, just like Collin did.
How is this even possible? Some people are rock stars, and so much so they can begin to form an entire organization of their own within your company, with a different vision, its own strategy, and really, a completely different rule book. Managers, not wanting to lose these top performers, tend to avoid addressing the misalignment and cross-functional chaos these people cause. Most of the time these people simply need boundaries that focus them back on their core responsibilities. Sometimes though they need help realizing their career path is soon taking them beyond their current role.
According to a study commissioned by CPP Inc. — U.S. employees spend 2.1 hours per week involved with conflict, which amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on average hourly earnings of $17.95), or the equivalent of 385 million working days. Managers tend to tolerate spats between team members because the problem is not directly related to the group’s work. But ignoring interpersonal conflict will cost you.
Passive Aggressive Communication
In Stephen Covey’s “The Speed of Trust,” the first behavior that builds trust is straight talk. Anything other than simple, straightforward, honest truth-telling is wasting your team’s time.
A head engineer was in a discussion with a sales manager about a project timeline. Eventually, both of them started getting agitated. Right when the tension started to build, the engineer said, “Ok. I’m done. Whatever you want.” Your team members who avoid conflict are limiting your team to mediocrity. Peter Drucker urged managers to encourage “the clash and conflict of divergent opinions and competing alternatives.” Patrick Lencioni warned us all to beware of “artificial harmony” of self-censoring. Leaders should create an environment in which everyone is confident and expected to speak their hearts and minds with passion and conviction, knowing their intentions are understood, respected, and appreciated.