Let’s face it, even the most emotionally intelligent and conflict conscious amongst us have been guilty of losing our patience and calm demeanor once in a while. The workplace offers a myriad of different scenarios that can bring out the worst in us; tight deadlines, long hours, demanding clients, clash of personalities and personal issues.
A manager however needs to rise above those provocative circumstances that might cause uncharacteristically bad behaviour. A manager needs to set the ‘Gold Standard’ and culture for others to follow suit and set an example. If he / she finds this challenging, it could be the start of a tricky conflict.
Take the following situation:
After a long and exhausting day an employee bounds into his manager’s office at 5:30 pm to show him a report he’s just finished which the client is expecting first thing the next morning. Relieved it’s finally finished and proud as punch with himself, he pushes it across the desk and expects a pat on the back for a job well done as he heads out the door for home. The manager casts his eye over it and notices several spelling mistakes (including the client’s name) and some inconsistencies in the figures. He hasn’t even reached the door and the boss snaps! He uses a few choice words about sloppy work and inaccuracies and hands back the report demanding he stays late to redo it. The rest of the department hears the dressing down too!
The employee reluctantly picks up the report, throws the manger a look which says all it needs to say and shuffles back to his desk, thinking to himself how much he dislikes him. He doesn’t feel good about himself or his boss! Morale is low which means so will his productivity and commitment to the job.
So the point is this…. The report was a little slapdash and attention to detail lacking in places but on the whole, it was ok! What is important is how it was addressed. The manager allowed his frustration and irritation to get the better of him.
A better approach might have been to take check of himself and what was irritating him when he snapped. He could then invite the employee to sit down, close the door and thank him for the report, acknowledging that he knew report writing was not one of his strengths so appreciated his hard work and that most of it was very good (which generally was true). The manager could share with him that there were a few typos and suggest he rechecks the numbers as he doesn’t think they look right. While he recognized it was late, he could ask him if he could stay a little longer to make the amendments, or if not, ask if he would be able to come in a little earlier in the morning in order to get the report to the client on time.
In this second scenario, the employee feels respected by having the conversation in private rather than public humiliation for everyone to hear. He feels valued by having his work on the project acknowledged and by asking if he can stay late rather than having this decision imposed on him. He feels supported by the fact that his manager is aware that report writing is quite difficult for him.
It is also clear that he generally struggles with his time management hence the report was left to the last minute. Perhaps he could support him further by suggesting he attends a Time Management training course to address this particular area of concern.
He would probably leave the office with far more enthusiasm and willingness to make the changes, the deadline would be met, and the result would be both a happy client and a happy employee. Conflict avoided!
Some people may view this approach as too lax but it is actually a considered and supportive one. Obviously if this was a repeated scenario, it would need to be addressed in a different way.
This approach will also allow for better communication between the manager and his team. If they see their colleague belittled and embarrassed, they will be less inclined to seek help if they need support themselves and will constantly be looking over their shoulder wondering if they will be the next victim.
Showing respect will also encourage respectful behavior amongst the team and set the bar for acceptable conduct in the workplace.
So don’t let a bad day at work define you as a bad manager, rather see it as an opportunity to review your values, behaviours and leadership skills and to show you are a supportive and respectful boss.