Friday, February 18, 2011

Turning Corners

I am always amazed to find myself in the places that I end up. One minute I’m wandering around, not entirely sure of where I’m going, and then *bang* I’m there.

I have a pretty good sense of direction, but readily admit that it’s based more on instinct than some innate compass or photographic memory of maps. Although I often hit traffic, obstacles, and sometimes have to circle back – I always end up where I want to be.

The physical layout of my workplace is very open concept – everyone is in work stations (and I mean everyone). In many ways it’s good, but for those people like me that like some structure and guidance, the lack of hallways and defined paths to take can be a bit annoying. Often times I find myself walking through someone’s workspace because it’s the most direct route to get where I want to be.

Of course there are external and some internal walls and these walls naturally have corners. Interestingly enough, when I use these as a point of reference, I can keep my bearings.

Then there’s the whole figurative element. The cultural environment of my workplace is not what I would consider “open”, but it certainly lacks the structure and guidelines that I would normally rely on. This has left me feeling disoriented, unsure of which way the traffic is flowing, where the obstacles are and, some days, a bad case of road rage.

However, recently I turned a corner – it was mid week and I had the revelation that I knew where I was and what I was doing. I worked on projects, answered questions, and felt productive – all without wondering whether I was heading in the right direction.

Like I said, *bang* I’m there.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Great expectations

Thought for today:

What if you realized that in order for you to progress in your career with your company you would have to focus on the smoke and mirrors of business: work over-time whether it's needed or not, constantly rush around, focus on quantity and not quality work, and put your needs above those of others.

Would you play the game to get that "exceeds expectations" rating?

Or would you be okay with "meets expectations" and leaving the office and work behind at the end of the day?

I guess it all depends on whose expectations we are talking about.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

How NOT to fire someone

No one likes to terminate employees, whether they deserve it or not. It's not fun, it's disturbing, but it is sometimes part of the job.

There are more theories out there on when, where and how to do the deed than you can shake a stick at. And some would argue that there is no perfect time, place, and way to do it.

Agreed.

But, there are are certainly things to avoid. Allow me to list a few:

1. Do not schedule the meeting on a Friday in the middle of the afternoon.
2. Do not invite the employee to this meeting by saying it's their performance evaluation.
3.Do not push back the meeting 30 minutes before it's scheduled.
4. Do not push it back a second time.
5. Do not hold the meeting in a central meeting room.
6. With glass walls
7. And have employee facing outward.
8. Do not allow the meeting to last 35 minutes.

I would love to tell you this really didn't happen. But it did.

I would love to tell you that it wasn't within an HR group. But it was.

I am embarrassed for all those that were involved.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Play it forward vs Pay it forward

I'm often comparing management to parenting. It's not so much that I think (all) employees are like children, but rather that both are roles that you only really learn by doing.

No one is born a manager any more than they are born a parent - people learn how to do these things. And despite the plethora of how-to books in both areas promising to make people better managers/parents, it doesn't happen. These books just give you something to think about and interesting facts to quote on Twitter.

I would imagine that most managers and/or parents have witnessed others in these roles and, at one time or another, have said to themselves, "I won't do what my manager/parent did..." or conversely, "When I have employees/kids, I will do what my manager/parent did..." We learn from others and hopefully we take away both the positive and negative experiences - they provide us with a portfolio of experience, without having to actually go through every situation ourselves.

The problem is that there is a certain population in both roles that don't learn, or perhaps I should say they learn the wrong lesson. Rather than taking their own experiences as an employee/child and building on it - they twist and pervert the message until they do exactly what was done with them, with the rationale that if that's what they got, then it's what they will give.

How sad. How petty.

Today I had a "Pre-evaluation". Why pre? Because my manager hasn't completed mine yet, but still had to provide me with my score, along with some rationale for it, before I saw the renumeration table. There was no apology for the fact that this 2-minute talk was lacking in consideration or detail. In fact, I was told I was lucky since it was 1 minute longer than the one she got from her boss. And then went on to repeat the same message that was she was told.

And there we have it.

She got a crappy hand-out, so goddamit, so was I.
And I'd better like it too.

Instead of taking the opportunity to stop the cycle and make a conscious decision to provide better management, she chose to keep the it going.

When you chose "play it forward" over "pay it forward", you are re-cycling bad habits, you are passing along the wrong message, and you are losing people.

Trust me on the last one. I know.