In your organization, in your workplace, you’ve undoubtedly got people in positions of authority; charged with supervising others. Are they putting in the effort to lead, inspire, motivate and mentor or are they putting in time?

I suppose if you’re fortunate, you’ve got a Manager whose style and substance is a good match for what fits with your own expectations. So if you thrive on a hands-off environment and you’ve got a person in the management role who largely leaves you alone to carry out your work, you both win. On the other hand, if that’s your preferred working style and you end up with an immediate Supervisor who micro-manages, the fit won’t work for either of you, and something has to give. Recognize that neither is implicitly wrong, but the two contrasting styles don’t compliment each other and there will be problems.

So unless you’re working as an entrepreneur and running your own business with no other employees, this issue of leadership is vitally important to all who work in organizations. There’s two sides to this equation, the needs of the employees and the need of the Manager. Not only do both have needs but both have responsibilities. While it’s easier to see the Manager pointing out the responsibilities of the employees they supervise, it’s not so easy to see the employees getting together to point out the responsibilities of the Manager to lead them.

Nonetheless, Managers, when acting as a collective Management team, have a critically vital role in organizations; setting the tone and atmosphere in which employees work, leading by example and ensuring that the activities of their staff and how they go about those activities works towards common organizational goals.

It’s interesting though isn’t it; this distinction of the two roles. I mean while they are both people, the one has the right to walk in unannounced and say, “So how’s it going? What are you working on? Let me see how you go about your day.” I rather doubt most employees would experience a comfort level in doing any of the three with their own Supervisor.

The best kind of Supervisor perhaps is the person who aspires to inspire; the one who said at some point, “I want to be the kind of Supervisor who works to bring out the individual talents of those on my team.” Of course, it largely depends on the organization you work with, the structure that exists, the ideal atmosphere and the directives the Supervisors themselves get from their own leaders. Could be the best kind of Supervisor in some environments are those who crack the whip, who accept nothing less than superior performance, who watch performance and push for better results and more profitability.

Now if you’re in Management you might feel you finally have the authority and power to bring about the chemistry and ideals you place in high regard. However, just as you feel you’re in a place to make changes, you find yourself inundated with reports, projects and meetings you didn’t expect. Your time is now consumed with new responsibilities and the people you supervise are suddenly working independent of your leadership it seems except for those scheduled team meetings. This isn’t how you pictured things.

As an employee, you have to decide what you need in a supervisor too. Are you new and need the guidance and tutelage of a hands-on Boss who can correct, praise, instruct and approve? Are you looking for a leader who will recognize your lengthy years of service and your strong performance and give you the latitude to do your thing and check with you from time to time? Or have you plateaued, there’s little that you do voluntarily anymore, and you’d love to hide right out in the open and the kind of Boss who would let these things go unnoticed would be ideal?

Different people both want and need different kinds of leaders. Sometimes what they need isn’t what they want and conversely what they want isn’t what they need. How many times though does a Supervisor sit down with their team and say, “Okay, let’s talk about what you each need and what you all need collectively as a team?” Assuming this did happen, how honest would you be, how well would you know your own needs if asked, and how likely would your current Supervisor be to receive all that feedback and then, most importantly, do something positive with the information received?

There’s a vulnerability in this process of asking for that kind of response. There’s little value in seeking honest comments if people are closed to change and adaptation. What you might need or ask for may not be possible to give too, and it could be that what you ask for might indeed be available in another person but not the one charged with you on their team. So is it time for change – not with them, but rather you?

Managers manage people, and an office and name plate don’t guarantee that they’ll be good Managers. Some are only concerned with the title, the income, the prestige, the authority or power. Some are reclusive, some like the closed-door, the, ‘knock and wait until you have permission to enter’ philosophy. Others mentor, critique privately and praise publicly.

What do you need? What will you contribute? What will inspire your best?




Challenging Authority At Work

The longer you report to a person, the greater the likelihood that eventually you will question a decision or opinion that person has, no matter how much you respect them personally. It’s inevitable and undeniably going to happen. So when it comes about, it’s not really so much your difference in opinion that could spell trouble; it’s possibly the way you handle yourself in the process.

Like so many things in life, there is a wrong way and a right way, and an awful lot of ways in between that you could choose to air your feelings. I have found from listening to many of my clients over the years, that going about things the wrong way can lead to immediate dismissal, a stalled career or a whole lot of energy spent trying to repair damage done in what otherwise was a good working relationship.

One of the first things you would be wise to acknowledge is where you find yourself on the organizations hierarchical chart. Are you the supervisor or boss? If so, realize the title on your business card doesn’t necessarily mean every decision you’re going to make will be the right one. Nor does it mean that all the people who report to you have less intelligence or somehow don’t see the big picture the way you do. You are entitled to be treated with respect based on your position in the organization, but you also gain respect from your employees based on the respect you show them.

If you answer to an authority figure at work such as a supervisor or boss, you would be wise to respect the person you report to, and ultimately defer to their authority as the final decision-maker on the big items. You can get yourself into trouble if you overstep the boundaries of your position and start making decisions you have no right to.

I’ve listened to both men and women who got fired or let go from places of work who despite overstepping their job descriptions, failed to learn the lessons. “The guy’s a jerk. I could do his job with my eyes closed. He’s an idiot. I told him what to do and that if he didn’t he was stupid. I wouldn’t go back if they begged me, and I’d do the same thing again if I had the chance. Good riddance!”

The comments made above tell me more about the person making them than they do about the person being talked about. The person talks in issues of right and wrong, my way or the highway, black and white. Further, the message communicated is that if things aren’t done the way the speaker sees things, then the other person is an idiot. Ouch! There isn’t any respect being shown for holding a different opinion, and there’s no credit being given to the supervisor for seeing a bigger picture, knowing more background in a situation or their own work experience.

If you are going to question someone with authority, let me give you some helpful advice. First of all, always respect the other person and their right to hold an opinion different from your own. Ultimately you both want the same thing; to maximize your resources, improve conditions, solve a problem, generate numbers, maximize profits, etc. So keep your thoughts and your comments confined to the issue, not the person.

When you challenge something, don’t challenge authority, challenge yourself first. That’s right; challenge yourself. Your challenge is to respectfully bring up a topic, suggest or recommend an alternative to a process. Understand right from the start that you may be successful and you may not. You may be the one who has to relent and you might not be given a full explanation as to why your idea – so blatantly better – is not the right one at this time. Your title and the title of your supervisor or boss alone might mean you walk away having been heard but your ideas not acted on. That’s the order of things.

Picking your battles, understanding you won’t always win and seeing things differently than ‘You won I must have lost’ or ‘I won you must have lost’ are smart attitudes and behaviours. The boss is no more an idiot in every given situation than you are right in every situation. Far from being about who is right, wrong, smart or an idiot, words you choose should always be about the issue, not the people.

Conceding on issues may just be a sign of your strength by the way. By presenting your ideas for improvement but openly deferring in the end to whomever is in a position of authority, you demonstrate good interpersonal skills and your Supervisor will appreciate that. You can still be passionate about your ideas on a subject, and you might even find the person in authority gives your future ideas more thought because of the respect they feel you’ve earned by respecting them.

Personality clashes sometimes get in the way of respectfully exchanging ideas and respecting those in the workplace. It’s a wise person who pauses to see things from another person’s perspective when they can, and asks for clarification when they can’t. People want to feel listened to, their ideas heard and considered. In the end, the higher a person is in the organization the greater is the ultimate responsibility for major decisions.


A True Story About A Bullying Boss

I had a phone call yesterday from a former client of mine. It was exactly one year ago less a single day that she accepted an offer of employment through a job seeking workshop I ran. She’s out of work as of yesterday, and while she’s in shock, I’m just livid.

Now you have to understand this particular woman was one of those who truly impressed me. I mean she listened, put into practice the new skills she was exposed to, and while she questioned things she didn’t immediately grasp, she always did so respectfully and worked hard to earn her success. So it was that when she called me right out the blue yesterday, I could immediately recall her to mind.

It turns out that for the last year she’s not only found work, made enough to exit from the social services system that once provided her with food and rent funds, but she had rekindled her self-confidence in the process. Employment does that; so much more than just working for a living.

So the problem? Her boss. Her boss as it turned out was the son of the owner of the business, and the father is the one who had hired her. The son is a tragic example of all that is bad in people who have a taste of power and authority. She provided me with examples of how he would yell, curse, verbally abuse, belittle and demean not only her but others. Apparently there have been 5 people call in and report this person’s behaviour to the local Labour Relations Board in the past year alone.

When I spoke on the phone yesterday, she had just hours before taken all she could and things came to a climax. As she reports it, he ran out to her car and met her in the parking lot where he proceeded to tear a strip off her verbally. He yelled at her, telling her what she needed to do the second she got inside. Sure there was no one else in the parking lot, but what a start to your day. I mean who does that?

Once inside, she started to do the things he told her to do and then he kept on at her only this time in front of others. Up until yesterday she had taken all this verbal abuse because she needed the job and the income it provided her with. Yesterday however, she’d had enough and asked him not to speak to her that way. Well, not used to someone having a bit of a backbone, he told her loudly so that all could hear that he could talk to her anyway he pleased and added a few choice words to emphasize the point.

This intimidating, bullying behaviour continued and she then asked him to leave her alone to do the work, and that’s when he told her she was done and to get out; she was gone. Now in shock, publicly abused yet still clinging to some semblance of clarity, she went to the payroll person and asked for her ROE to be prepared for pick up or mailing and her last cheque. He came after her and told her she’d get it when he wanted her to get it and not before and if she didn’t leave he was calling the police. So she left.

And it was at that point she went home and not having any idea of what to really do, called me. Now it’s been a year as I say since I last spoke with her. I give her credit for having saved my contact information. By the time I’d called her back a few hours had passed. She told me she’d already got out all the handouts she’d been given by me a year ago and had started to re-read them to re-familiarize herself with good job search principles and actions. I was impressed anew.

She was still shaking, still in shock, crying a little, and it will be in the coming days that the full impact of things hits home. I shared with her what to do immediately, like call the Labour Board herself and make a report, file for Employment Insurance. I also told her that there’s two general things she could do for the next week; get right back into a job search or take a week off to mentally recover, compose herself and then set a target of next Monday to start looking for work. Depending on the person, either choice is the right one.

I made sure that she knew she had done the right thing, and that in no way should that kind of behaviour be tolerated in any workplace. Do you know the father who originally hired her actually called her to plead with her to come back to work? She had enough self-worth to decline this despite her financial worries. And she’d already called back to speak privately with the person in payroll to make sure if a reference called she could be assured that her employment dates would be verified.

She’s strong, resilient, deserves better and will succeed again. She’s going to stay in touch now, even though she’s no longer a client. And she needs a good answer to the future question, “Why did you leave your last job?” But I am dismayed this kind of person is still in a position of authority. No job is worth that kind of abuse.