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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Managers Make More Money

I have been working at my place of employment for about a year and half. As of 7/06/09 I was moved to a different department and promoted to supervisor. At the time I was supervising 4 employees. I had to lay one of them off around 7/15 due to being overstaffed.

The employee (employee A) was supposed to be let go by my predecessor, but he never carried it out. I laid off the employee and needless to say that employee was shocked. I found out later that the former employee was going around saying that I fired him because I didn't like him.

He has a couple of friends still employed with the company so hearing this I was alarmed. Both friends (employee B and employee C) are currently under my supervision. I recently had a day off on 8/5 and returned to work on 8/6. I noticed that employee B was acting rather suspiciously. Doing things that he normally wouldn't do. He was always forgetting to lockout his computer when he would leave his desk. This day he immediately minimized an e-mail when I walked in the room. I looked down and saw that the title was "logging". I thought nothing of it. The employee then got up from his desk and left the room only to return a few seconds later and locked out his computer.

I became suspicious of this. Later that day the employee left his computer open and his e-mail up. I noticed a folder in his e-mail called "logging". I opened the folder and found that this employee had been logging incidents against me beginning on 7/16. The day after his friend was let go. He was e-mailing himself notes on interactions with me. Needless to say some of the notes are true but fabricated and some are complete lies. There was one incident that I did read and recall. I had moved the employee outside the office after he had made several costly errors and had told him that he is costing the company money with his mistakes. He logged this in that file. He made another entry how he dreads whenever I come in the room and feels that I shouldn't be allowed to look over his shoulder as he works. He also made another entry that "I said that he had herpes". Which is a lie. Employee C (the other friend) was saying that employee B had them because of his chapped lips and they where laughing back and forth amongst themselves. I had no part in this conversation. I am fairly new to supervising people and was completely blind sided by this because I didn't know that this employee was out for me.

After reading this I have taken a different approach in dealing with this employee and have started employee notes on all my employees in case I need to refer back to them in the future. This employee is consistently late coming in to work and returning from breaks and I am not sure how to deal with this either. Because I really don't need the extra stress if this employee decides to forward this file.I really am just looking for some advice. I am not sure if I should bring this up to my manager. Also I am not sure if I violated anything by reading this log on his company e-mail. Can you please help me out. I am trying my best to learn from this but its difficult and is causing me to be stressed out about the whole situation.


So, I see we're learning why managers make more money, are we? Ahh, talk about trial by fire.

To be supremely unhelpful, I'm going to talk about the things that were done incorrectly. Please note, I used passive voice on purpose because I'm not pointing fingers. I just want to give big hugs to everyone! Let's just all be friends!

Sorry, I don't know what came over me there. But, you made some mistakes and I want to address them. The bigger mistakes, however, were made by your management and your HR department. You don't give someone their first job supervising others and immediately have him fire someone without expert coaching. It seems like you didn't receive that expert coaching.

Employee A should have been terminated by your predecessor. I don't know the story behind that, but laying someone off should never be a single person's decision. I'm all in favor of managers managing, but there are legal things to be considered in a layoff and for those reasons someone other than the direct supervisor need to be aware of and involved in the termination process. A date needs to be set and a witness to the actual termination (preferably another manager or HR, and definitely not a peer of the unlucky person.)

This, obviously, was not done, if the previous boss procrastinated the awful task. (And make no mistake, laying someone off is AWFUL. I've trained managers who couldn't even say the words when they were practicing what to say. It's a terrible task. Terrible. I give you big credit for having the guts to go ahead and do what needed to be done.)

So, you sat down with employee A, told him that due to workload his position was eliminated. Perfect. (I am going to assume you did this part perfectly. Please don't burst my bubble by telling me you yelled across the office, "Hey Bob, you're fired as of today. Don't forget to clock out on the way out. By the way, I hate you.") The problem is you also need to hold a debriefing with the rest of the staff and say, "Employee A was laid off today because we were overstaffed. As of right now, no new terminations are expected. We are very sad to see Employee A go, but unfortunately it was a business decision that was approved at the highest level of the organization."

This heads off the rumors about why Employee A was fired. Of course, even if you did do this, there is no guarantee that the employee won't be angry and bitter and try to gain sympathy with his friends, which is what he is doing.

So, now, where do you go from here?

1. Make a plan. My suggested plan (which may or may not be appropriate for the people involved) is the direct approach. You call employee B into your office, tell him you are aware that he is unhappy with you as a manager. Then you can discuss your expectations, listen to his concerns and schedule a follow up meeting.

2. Before executing this plan, talk to your manager. You're a new supervisor. His job is to help you learn how to do that job. Explain what is going on, and what you want to do and ask for coaching. Do not ask him to talk to Employee B for you. That's wimpy, and you wouldn't do it anyway.

There are several key reasons for doing this. One is that the last thing you want is to handle the situation and have Employee B going to your manager and have him override your decision. If you're going to be overridden, better to find out before you talk to the employee. Another is that you need to make sure you are doing what is right for the business.

3. Keep communication open with all your employees. Especially in a new manager situation, I like to see 1:1 meetings (you with an individual employee) every week or two. Some people think this is serious overkill and micromanaging, but it all depends on what you are doing in these meetings. They can be excellent ways to develop your employees, follow up on their goals (you may have to set some if their previous manager didn't--and feel free to modify if he did), and keep track of workload and projects.

4. Realize that if Employee B's attitude doesn't change, he may have to go as well. You would, of course, do this after regular coaching and with approval from your manager.

Being a manager is tough. But, that's why you make the big bucks.

8 comments:

HR Godess said...

Great advice as always! I would just add that you need to get used to not being liked. Unfortunately, when you have to correct employees or enforce policies and procedures, you tend not to be liked.

Also, focus on the things you can control. For instance, you can't control how a story or interaction gets repeated. You can control how you handle yourself in that meeting so focus on that. If you make sure you are professional and fair and follow the company guidelines, you should be in good shape.

Bob Hall said...

Bravo, EHRL! You were hitting on all cylinders with your advice. I've had to clean up other peoples' messes and it was difficult...and this with me being an experienced manager.

The two points you made that I would like to reiterate are on:

1. Direct communication and setting expectations. So few managers come into any supervisory position and frame everything up. A lot of potential problems can be headed off when people know what's expected of them and the way you plan to operate as a leader (although I might have considered doing the expectations part as a group).

2. 1:1 meetings. I constantly hear managers say they don't have time to meet with their people and they aren't running a nursery, anyway. What? Along with the team knowing their expectations, how about using the time to see what's going on with the employees' duties? Managers can check in and can provide guidance, they can help prioritize and they can just plain give their people ATTENTION. Micromanagment? Puh-leeze! That's just a smoke screen for saying "I don't want to" or "I don't know how". Maybe if a manager held 1:1 meetings daily, that might be micromanagment, but if you're talking weekly or bi-weekly, that's just good business sense. Plus, if a company has a performance evaluation system, regular 1:1 meetings should make those evaluations a snap -- no surprises!

This company apparently is in dire need of some management training.

Great advice. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I agree with HR Goddess, you will need to go ahead and get thick skinned because there will be plenty of times when you step on toes. (employees and upper management too!) I also agree with Bob about the meetings. We get too caught up in the day to day and forget to communicate with each other. As a manager it will portray a message to your employees that you care enough to keep the lines of communication open. I have been an HR Manager for 3 years now and everyday is a new day! Drama, drama, drama! But I love my job.(Most days! :o)) Good luck!

sweetpeabart said...

I read your blog everyday. Love it!

You couldn't pay me enough to be a manager.

worldopp said...

Am I missing it, or did you forget to talk about the part where the person READ SOMEONE ELSE'S EMAIL. Is that just OK? I mean, sure, we click on that thing everyday that says our email is company property and blah blah blah, but does that make it ok for my manager to just sit at my computer and open anything she feels like, whenever she wants? Could this manager get fired for doing that?

CCSutton said...

I am new to this blog and absolutely love it. I'm sure I'll be sending in questions in short order. I would, however, like to reiterate worldopp's comment. I thought HR Lady's advice was completely on point with the glaring exception of castigating the OP regarding pulling up someone else's email. Whether their computer is locked or not is immaterial. It's certainly an ethical breach and most likely a fireable offense depending on the company. It does cause me to wonder a bit about the OP's situation. The idea that someone would do that and not realize how wrong it is is a major error in judgment and makes me wonder what other parts of the story involve similar lapses in judgment.

Evil HR Lady said...

World Opp and CCSutton--you are both right. I didn't address the manager's bad behavior of reading e-mail. Now, granted, every employee should assume that their e-mail is available to their management. But managers should not do things like this.

I need an editor to point out that I missed a big part of the story.

Anonymous said...

But managers should not do things like this.

Why?

In addressing the email/opening files (assuming this situation is in the United States) - There is nothing wrong with a manager noticing out of normal work behavior and then monitoring that employee's work.

This employee uses a work computer, and shouldn't be using it for things he wants to stay hidden.

My thought is that he wanted the supervisor to see what he was doing, read the file, and get upset. Which is what happened.