Thursday, April 30, 2015

When management crosses the line

I'm in the mood to pick on management today. Namely from my own experiences but also from what I observe and have been told recently by a coworker.

Not anyone can become a manager. Experience is a big factor, but you would expect anyone in a supervisory role to have some interpersonal skills, compassion and common sense. I've worked as a manager before, where I was responsible for 20 staff members. It's not an easy job, and I'm considered very high on the three criteria I've listed. Managing a workforce is very much like childrearing - you always come up short in someone's eyes and it's tough meeting everyone's needs. These challenges are expected. Life in general is about making the best decision possible and most times it includes having to factor others in that decision making process.

But then you have management who make things unbearable .... just because. Take for example a coworker's meeting with her supervisor. Said co-worker was looking to leave on time from work to pick up her infant son from the sitter. The supervisor's response was basically that it wasn't her problem. There was work to be done and said coworker had to be available to get that work done. Working for the same company, I know that 1) it offers flex time and 2) it is irresponsible and illegal to tell a working mother she can't be accommodated. Anyone with a business degree knows this. It was rammed into our brains in the Human Resources and Management classes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Then you have those in management who have yet to distinguish between feedback and plain old brashness. There is a huge difference between pointing out setbacks and making an employee feel like crap because they're not living up to some ridiculous standard. As someone who has worked since she was 18 in three different professions, I can assure you that those with the super high standards are not living up to them. I had to contend with a supervisor who had neglected an account for years, did not take any of my suggestions in improving the account, and wasn't authorizing payments when she should have, only to turn around and want to reprimand me for what she deemed was substandard work.

We have all heard of such examples of the "bitch", "mean boss", "crazy". Call them what you will, they are out there, lurking among the committed and tired underlings. With all the training companies are providing to their management teams, you would expect less exposure to such tiring and mentally debilitating folks. So what is a woman to do?

  • Know your rights. You have a right to be treated with respect, to be reasonably accommodated, and to have a say. Anyone who violates those rights does not deserve to be in a management position.
  • Speak up. Schedule a meeting and give your manager a chance. Try to convey what you feel and believe is happening, because your manager may have a different perspective. If you have a bad history with the manager, include a higher up or a mediator in the meeting. As difficult as it may seem, try not to interrupt and drop the sarcasm.
  • Keep a log of your interactions. If the relationship is getting very sour very fast, it's time to record any interactions and communications between you and the manager. Trust me, you'll need it when you face HR.
  • Don't give up. I was once told that higher ups will always stand by management to show a united front. Don't buy into that. Keep going up the chain of command until someone listens.
  • Know the law. In the case of the said coworker, her management is out of line and bordering on discrimination and harassment. You don't tell a parent - male or female - not to "bring your problems to the job" as the coworker was told. Children are responsibilities, not problems. The manager definitely violated a few labor laws with her inconsiderate attitude. To learn more about those laws, bookmark http://www.eeoc.gov/ and http://www.dol.gov/. You can research a particular grievance or even contact the departments. Be sure to notify your manager that you are aware of your rights and that they are being violated.
No one expects a working relationship to turn so ugly, but the truth is? It can and it does. Troubled relationships happen more frequently than many are willing to admit. Reaching out to higher ups doesn't make you a troublemaker and you can't get fired for it, either. That's against the law now, too. Good news is, a sour relationship can improve. My supervisor and I are on that path right now.

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