As a manager within your organization you are expected to provide leadership and direction for those employees who report to you. Likely that requirement is a key accountability in your job description, and fulfilling that mandate means that you'll have to make decisions that impact your employees - for good or ill.
Bummer. Not everyone is comfortable with that part of being a Manager.
From the senior management perspective, a key leadership expectation is the matter of employee performance review - and future pay (reward) actions based upon that assessment. The bosses have placed the ball squarely in your court to render those decisions.
Well, are you a tough manager with high expectations, or do you have a “rep” as an easy rater - as someone easy to please, someone who hesitates to make up or down decisions about their employees? Do you feel that all employees deserve an annual raise? Are you reluctant to choose?
Perhaps you have a tendency to make your decisions based on emotional factors (employee needs and wants), versus on the basis of business-related practicalities (performance assessment, company affordability, most deserving, budgets, etc.)?
Well, you probably say, the truth is that it’s a matter of balance; that managers need to weigh both factors (employer and employee) in trying to do the right thing.
True enough in concept, but . . . a balanced approach suggests use of a carrot and a stick.
Signs of the "softie"
When it comes to doling out the company's money, easy-to-please managers believe in giving as many employees as possible as much as the company allows, with the expectation that recipients will:
• Be grateful and work harder out of personal thanks
• Be satisfied and not leave
• Appreciate your efforts on their behalf
These managers wear rose colored glasses, kidding themselves, thinking that their emotional pay decisions are going to deliver results that help them (the manager), and maybe even the organization (there's that unfortunate priority again).
Why do Managers make emotional decisions?
Managers have a choice, and what unfortunately comes naturally for too many untrained folks is the tendency to protect themselves. Many still think of themselves as supervisors, not members of the organization's leadership cadre. In simplistic terms they still take the so-called "employee side," versus the "company line" (and that's how they see it).
• They want to be liked. They want to be a friend as well as a boss. They still remember sitting on the other side of the desk. So they empathize.
• They don’t want to make career-impacting decisions. They'd prefer that someone else play judge and jury with an employee's career. Or let the performance figures speak for themselves ("numbers don't lie").
• They don’t understand (or defend) the company’s pay program. These are the ones who tell employees, "I wanted to do more, but HR wouldn't let me." They fail to defend company policy on rewards, preferring to be seen as on the employee's side.
• They’re afraid that someone would quit - because that might be a reflection on them as a manager.
• It’s really about them. Having employees unhappy for any reason usually means more work for the managers themselves. It could mean extra attention to subordinate work (vs. their own), training replacements, doing the work themselves to fill in, etc.
These managers are not helping the organization; they’re not even managing. What they’re doing is administering the pay programs as if they didn’t have a balanced decision-making role to play as part of the leadership team. It's managing from a distance - being the disengaged leader.
For sure it’s not easy for some new managers to “flip the switch” and start thinking like one of the leaders of the organization. But when they took on the mantle of "manager" they stepped up to additional responsibilities. They're no longer “one of the boys,” but now the boss of those “boys.”
Those who wear rose-colored glasses to make reward decisions are in truth ineffective managers, who over time will harm the organization through their inability to make effective, objective decisions.
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a brood of cats.
Creative Commons image courtesy of Leeks