In my continuing series focusing on my previous managers and how they influenced me I now bring you an example of the bad.  Not bad as a person, but bad as a manager. Recall that managers rely on interpersonal relationships as a part of who they are and what they do daily.  The lesson that I learned is what that old adage “do as I say, not as I do” really looks like in action.

In a nutshell – a new manager was brought in to invoke changes for a small group of workers within a much larger organization.  Although this small group of employees performed their tasks, they were not always performed as fast as the customer would have liked. This was a less than desirable situation. But it was the best that could be expected due to the nature of the business. Complicating this was the manager’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge organizational politics (ie treat disparate groups fairly) and his desire to favor those that worked directly under him. In the end, the manager’s style of management was supremely ill-suited to fixing the problem. I can’t really put my hand on what exact style or combination of styles it was.   I have seen it in smaller doses but never to this extent, and in the same package.  Perhaps the only thing that comes to mind was that this manager  was “do as I say, not as I do” in the flesh.

As with any new manager, the workplace first exhibited friendliness and conversation among everyone on the team.  That is, the manager sought to get acquainted with each of us so that we would feel comfortable working for him.  I encourage every new manager to take such actions as they take on their new role. Its important to know who your employees are, both personally and professionally.  Now, I am not saying its necessary to play 20 questions with each employee.  But make sure you understand what motivates your employees.  And although I’m a big proponent of making sure that employees perform their tasks, assuring that they do so shouldn’t be at their expense.  Being too harsh on an employee – showing them that you don’t really care for them as a person – is a sure way to dampen their motivation. It should go without saying that employees need to feel valued if they’re to be productive.

So, what does this exhortation have to do with the manager described above? Let’s just say that this happy-happy-joy-joy manager soon became a very cold and unapproachable individual.  Whether it was the stress of the job or simply that the manager’s real personality began to emerge, employees began hiding from this person. It was not an uncommon occurrence to hear “don’t make me take you to HR” or “I would hate to take you to HR, so let’s not do that”.  In short order, the morale of the entire group began to suffer.

You may be thinking to yourself really? That’s a dramatic change in a manager.  Well not everyone suffered under his wrath. A group of “good ol’ boys” existed – and for most employees  on the team it was made  painfully obvious that they were not a part of this group.    Special privileges, training and seminars existed for the former, while the latter were held under the microscope on costs. Likewise, the non-privileged majority were held accountable for metrics that the select few would be told, “its ok, just don’t let it happen again”.  That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when you’re working your tail off and realize that you’ll never get in management’s good graces.

Now let me tie the bow with the “do as I say, not as I do” focus of this blog.  As a manager, employees are not only watching what you do but how you do it.  I’ve seen many new managers, even experienced managers, think they have a free pass on how they treat employees. They believe that the employees that report to them must respect them, but this is not necessarily the case.  Employees may respect a manager’s position and therefore do what is asked of them, but they will not respect a manager’s leadership if that manager does not show respect for them.  Sometimes this is easy to forget in the day to day grind that makes all of us a bit grayer in the hair way before our time. Yet, it is one of those lessons that is best learned early in a person’s career.

Learning to respect and value employees is not a weakness but a pathway for getting the job done.   Of course, a manager will not always be liked. But they will be respected if they genuinely care for their employees as people (and not simply as people they have to dealt with).   Also, it must be stated that managers that lose the respect of employees don’t last long.  So I will end this by saying this was not a long lasting issue in our group, as one day we no longer had this manager. And the search was on for another manager.

Care for people and they will care for you. As a manager they will work harder for you if they feel valued than if they are full of fear.

Blog by Thomas Stambaugh, Certified Manager. The Engaged Human Resources Group specializes in the training and development of individuals interested in Leadership and Management. We are the only training partner of ICPM in Michigan and Indiana and are pleased to offer the Certified Manager Credential Training to those interested in expanding their Management potential. Please check out our website to get more information on this and other offerings.