Manager Woes

Continuing thoughts I wrote in 2017 about managing. The word manager itself suggests we only look at numbers and not people. In my experience, looking simply at measure and not the human is a serious mistake.

Oct. 2017


I had great managers. My first manager was an outstanding manager. She was tough and knew how to motivate her people. I looked up to her in so many ways and still do. Another manager was hands off and laid back. I appreciated the freedom he gave me to do my work. I respected them a great deal. There were two events, however, that showcased things that I decided I did not want to follow. People are human, even seemingly those we put on pedestals. If people are what matter in business, and I believe they are the only thing that matters, I would not be able to follow these examples.

Our policy at our company was very compassionate for bereavement leave. The standard was three days paid for distant relatives and up to five days paid for close relatives, or if travel was involved. One of my agents had a death in her family. She was devastated and needed to fly to Chicago to be with family. Her Grandmother meant the world to her and I was heartbroken for her. I entered in the bereavement request for the full five days and wished her well.

My manager called me over. As is customary before our manager approves requests, is to ask about the circumstances and just to see if everything is OK. I mentioned that my agent’s grandmother passed away and that she needed the full five days to travel to Chicago for the funeral. I have never forgotten her response: “for a grandmother?” She went on to say that if her grandmother passed away she would not need to take the full five days. I was stunned, to say the least. Here is someone that I admire, that I want to emulate, but in the end, it really was just about business. It was not about the person at all. Well, she really had no choice but to approve the time, but I decided at that moment that I would never let business get in the way of the human side.

A few years later, as I worked for another manager, I experienced the unexpected death of my young nephew. My boss was great and supported me, as I rushed to Nebraska to be with my Sister. When I returned I realized I had not grieved the entire time I was in Nebraska and I started to have a tough time at work. I began to be short with my peers, arguing about meaningless stuff. My manager asked to speak with me. He wanted to see if I was OK. I mentioned that I had not processed what had happened and was simply grieving. He said: “for a nephew?” Again, stunned! He caught himself right as he said it and immediately apologized, but damage done.

People must matter, in my view. Yes, the work needs to be done and done well, but I don’t believe you can forget the human side. If you take care of your people, they will do the work. Treat them poorly and without compassion and it makes it tough. I really had a challenging time with these two events and still think about how to avoid them as I progress in my career. Because of these events, and as a matter of principle, I have tried to put my people first and always error on the side of compassion. What say you?

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