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Monday, November 13, 2017

The Scrooge Effect

For a couple of years, I co-wrote a business advice column with my long time friend Sam Deep. We called it “Dear Workplace Counselor.” The basis of our column was to take common issues that arise in the workplace and offer solutions.

Sam had most of the credentials for this. He had taught at the University of Pittsburgh for many years. Later, he served as an adjunct professor of leadership and strategy at the Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business.

Me? Well I had experience in various aspects of radio management and had launched a marketing firm a few years before. I had also worked in the trade show field for a season.

I reflected on this fun endeavor of ours when I read about advice offered by a Forbes contributor in a similar kind of business advice column. Her name is Liz Ryan. She is the CEO/founder of Human Workplace.

The person writing for advice had made a poor career path decision. In hoping to move up the business success ladder more quickly, he had chosen to work for a manager who lacked good people skills. He had passed up working for someone he described as “a fantastic person.”

His complaints ranged from his boss’s poor mentorship, keeping him from engaging with high-level managers and often ignoring him as a report. This “bad manager” also has a temper. The employee feels the manager is insecure. And…she is intimidating.

His question to Liz Ryan is twofold: “What should I do? Is it normal to be afraid of your own boss?”
Interestingly, Liz responded by suggesting that the troubled employee has “power in the equation,” as well. There was sufficient evidence to show that the bad manager would lose if this employee left. And Liz then recommended the boundaries be pushed for the employee to get what he wanted.

Sounds easy enough. In reality, it’s probably a total loser of a situation. A power-driven bad manager with a temper is not likely to allow his or her boundaries pushed. Furthermore, she may be the type to believe you can just plug in another person to the job who will take the abuse. There are plenty of people who seem to fit that.

Here’s the unrecognized problem: This is a bad manager. She apparently doesn’t own the company. Somebody hired her. Somebody goofed. Somebody better recognize this or the company will lose good people. Millennials in particular don’t put up with this garbage. Truly talented people don’t either.

A wise and discerning employer knows that good managers must be tough when decisions require it. But they must also place value on the important contributions of the humans who make the machine run. That thinking is reflected in creating an environment where people feel appreciated and that they are contributing to the success of the organization.

The instruction given to church leaders by the apostle Peter fits well with advising managers in the workplace: “take care of the group of people you are responsible for. They are God’s flock. Watch over that flock because you want to, not because you are forced to do it. That is how God wants it. Do it because you are happy to serve, not because you want money. Don’t be like a ruler over those you are responsible for. But be good examples to them.” (1 Peter 5:2-3, ERV)

The use of intimidation creates an environment of fear. We can get a reminder of this unhealthy behavior this coming holiday season in considering the life of Ebenezer Scrooge. He needed a wake up call!

And if the bad manager noted in this week’s blog doesn’t wake up soon, she might not stand a ghost of a chance either.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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