Tuesday, October 03, 2006
The Jekyll And Hyde Of Management
"Respect is a two-way street", says Ruth Hagg, author of Hiring and Firing. Managers who don't treat their employees with respect will never be respected in return.
As an example of dispectful managerial behavior, Hagg cited a recent "cyberfiring" at RadioShack, in which 400 employees were laid off via e-mail. The text of this e-mail was "The workplace reduction notification is currently in progress. Unfortunately, your position is one of those that has been eliminated." RadioShack nonetheless insisted that it had notified its workforce in advance that the layoffs, which occurred August 29th, would be conducted through e-mail for reasons of privacy. Hagg implies that a face-to-face conference behind closed doors would have been more appropriate, and would have met the need for "privacy" at least as well as any impersonal e-mail.
Hagg describes such callous methods of dismissal as "rookie mistake(s)" that not only demoralize the remaining employees but could scare away future job applicants.
Hagg claims that managers tend in come in three flavors, each with its own unpleasant aftertaste. Here is her typology - with my own remarks and annotations.
1) Sensitive managers - This type is so reluctant to handle employees with the required firmness that they are not taken seriously. Consequently, when they do fire an employee, the employee is often traumatized by the suddenness of their actions.
2) Belligerent managers - These guys tend to act now, and think later. This lack of restraint may result in a need to retract their actions later on, which makes them appear unpredictable and inconsistent and may also cause them not to be taken seriously. Sometimes they may even fire employees without due consideration, and not be able to take their actions back.
3) Regal managers - Here we have a type that is at once remote and controlling. They need to have approval over every aspect of an operation, but at the same time may not be available to make the kind of quick decisions required of a true hands-on manager. This can hobble the responsiveness of any team, and make its performance extremely inefficient. These managers fire employees from a bureaucratic perspective, without an accurate understanding of what is actually going on in the trenches.
All of these types, so far as I can see, could resort to "cyberfirings" - each for his or her own reasons. The "sensitive" ones out of timidity, the "belligerent" ones out of rashness, and the "regal" ones out of hauteur. Damn them all to hell.
Hagg counsels us that the "sensitive" ones should be more assertive, the "belligerent" assholes should look before they leap, and the "regal" dudes should come out of their corner offices and check out the world beyond themselves. These are all common sense decisions, but even Hagg admits that one's basic personality is a very hard thing to change.
According to Hagg, the bottom line in corporate layoffs is information. Managers should warn employees in advance of possible layoffs, provide an adequate justification of those layoffs, keep them informed of all changes during the process, and render as much support as they can with outplacement and re-education.
"Hiring and firing with respect" from IT World