Written by Robert D. Sollars
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To an old-fashioned, stolid, & rigid company the days of being able to tell an employee where to go and what to do with it, when they got there is anything but a forgotten management style. Coming from the corporate line, and slogan from corporate and down was simple “There are a dozen people who will do your job, and cheaper than you’re making”, remembering minimum wage in the 80s $2.35 an hour if you quit.”
While I worked in the field for 20 years or so, I was one of those kinds of managers, “Do as I say or you’re outa here”. It took a few years, but I changed my management style. From being a bureaucratic corporate Toadie spokesperson who ruled by decree from on high to an ‘officers’ manager’…and it caused my manager’s insomnia on many a night. The question then becomes, what did I do to begin and make this transition?
I listened and became empathetic. That’s it, nothing magical or hypnotic about it, simple listening, just being on their post, listening, and being empathetic. I enjoyed being around the officers more than other managers did. I attempted to do what would be best for them, the company, & the client. Sometimes it didn’t work out well for 1, 2, or all 3 of us. But I did try to strike that balance. I usually came away with 1, 2, or all 3 mad, or ecstatic at what I did, which means I did something right somewhere.
At General Dynamics in 1993 a workplace violence (WPV) incident occurred that proves why this should be more prevalent than it actually is, despite the protestations of management across the board; A man returned from a leave of absence after burying his 6-year-old son. It was obvious that he was distraught and his work performance suffered, I think obviously. He was called in for a disciplinary meeting in which he was told that it was a prelude to terminating him. The termination meeting would take place next week.
He attended the termination meeting, and left it without a job due to his suicide and wanting to lie beside his son but also including the HR Manager as well as the union steward dead, EAP’s didn’t really exist then to assist individuals with their grief and sorrow.
In our profession, it is imperative that we be the hardass. We are tasked with enforcing the rules& policies that may not be popular with the employees. Some will resist and others will simmer slowly on the back burner. But it is just as imperative that we listen. And with our own officers, it’s even more important to listen and care about what they are saying and doing, because they are needed to accomplish the mission of protecting the company/client, and you need their trust to do that.
This doesn’t mean you have to solve their personal problems or coddle them. But you do need to listen and show them that you care about both them & the company. And the only way to do this is to take the time to learn who they are, as well as the problem. It won’t solve the overall issues, but it may prevent…
Are there ever times when you have to be an authoritarian manager and rule with an ‘iron-fist? Of course, there are. But they should be kept to a bare minimum to ensure that you don’t get that reputation. It took a long while, but I learned how to balance between being a total & complete asshole and a kinder, gentler, and more empathetic manager.
There will also be times you have to discipline with prejudice and deny them whatever is against the rules. You’ll have to write them up and counsel, or terminate, them. And make no apologies for it. This will earn respect if done without malice.
The lesson is simple, YOU have to be willing to take the time to listen and care about your officers. It may also be necessary to defend those officers if they are accused unfairly, simply to get rid of them, which can be another trigger for WPV.
So, what is your management style? Are you one who will listen and care for your officers? Or are you so tied into the bureaucratic corporate pigeon-holed style, or need to keep clients, that you can’t bend for anyone or anything of importance, except what the client may want…illegal, immoral, or unethical? Being too far on either side isn’t good. Can you strike the right balance & do it? Just remember, if everyone is happy, or mad, with you, you’re not doing it right.
It happens to Anyone…Any Time… Anywhere… For any Reason
I May Be Blind, but My Vision Is Crystal Clear
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Copyright 2021 Robert D. Sollars