Mutiny At Work

25 May

A former colleague of mine was consulting with a small business owner, Jerry, who was having problems engaging and retaining staff. Because of his missteps, the business was suffering. Although his intentions were good and his desire to become a more effective leader was sincere, Jerry had difficulty turning those intentions into results.

Our survey and interviews of the staff were quite clear-they we’re not happy with how they were being managed by Jerry and were about ready to launch into their rendition of The Caine Mutiny. As my colleague was reviewing the results with Jerry he stopped, took a deep breath, and said: “Jerry, it looks to me like your staff has fired you as their manager”.

Jerry considered the remark calmly and replied: “Chuck, I hate to say this, but I think you’re right. What should I do?”

“Jerry, you reapply!”

Jerry laughed, taking Chuck’s comment in the spirit in which it had been intended, which was giving him the medicine in a pill he could swallow.

Indeed, Jerry did reapply to be the manager of his employees, and with a new attitude and hard work he is a much better leader, which has resulted in more success with a more engaged, productive staff.

In our consulting work and research for Re-Engage, we’ve run across a gaggle of managers who, often unbeknownst to them, have been fired by their employees as their leader and desperately need to reapply for the job. They’ve turned their staff into a group:

  • who is thinking more about punching a clock than being productive,
  • who feel indifference instead of a genuine desire to offer great customer service, and
  • choose mutiny versus loyalty to the firm.

Want to hear how an employee sounds when they’ve fired their manager? Let’s listen in to one exceptionally disengaged employee, here quoted word-for-word from Best-Place-to-Work survey comments:

“I haven’t been here quite a year yet, but after a few months in my department, it became very clear to me that most people in my position or a similar position were very unhappy with how they felt they were being treated. Most employees feel unappreciated and overworked. New management has exacerbated this issue, and now people are so unhappy that they just do not care. So now no one feels the need to help anyone else with anything–go that extra mile. There’s no team, because there’s no team leadership. There have been several situations that were extremely mishandled due to bad management. Our manager has actually told people that she would rather turn a blind eye and ‘hope things get better’ on their own so that she wouldn’t ‘have to deal with it.’ Too bad, I thought that was her job. I have gone to her on a particular issue more than twice, and every time she assures me that she will take care of it and nothing is done. It’s very sad here.”

Whether she realizes it or not, her employees have given this poor manager the proverbial pink slip.  Contrast that comment with these comments from employees who feel very different about the person they call manager:

“My manager trusts me as an employee to do the right thing, which gives me more time to focus on my goals at work.   I have a very flexible schedule that helps me assist customers on a daily basis. I have control over the hours that I work to be more productive at work.”

“I feel extremely valued at my workplace; my manager goes over the profit and loss statement with us so we can all see how we can contribute to the success of the branch.  My manager answers and explains everything in detail no matter what question is being asked.  I feel my manager values each and every team member and shows everyone respect for the jobs that we do.  He always has time for us and helps out with anything no matter what it is.  He cares about the development of each crewmember and wants each of us to succeed.”

In Re-Engage we describe seven key bad practices that leaders do that disengage employees, and offer better practices that can help leaders be more effective in engaging, and re-engaging, their teams. It’s abundantly clear that not all employers we’ve studied are putting them into practice.

Has one or more of your employees fired you or someone you know as their manager? Maybe it’s time to reapply.

Image originally uploaded to Flickr by Osvaldo_Zoom

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