That's what a manager is saying to their staff when they show a reluctance to distinguish between their high performing employees and the "Joe Average" types when it comes to the granting of performance rewards. These "leaders" make excuses to avoid tough pay increase decisions, instead manipulating the Pay-For-Performance system to ensure that, whenever possible, everybody gets something. If there isn't enough money in the budget, well, there's Human Resources to blame.
This is what happens when managers aren't able, or aren't willing to manage pay.
They want to be liked, and who can blame them? We all want to have friends. These managers have to control a team, have to consider the good of the entire staff, to keep spirits high, and limit any grumbling in the ranks to a minimum. They'd like to be appreciated by their employees for those efforts, while at the same time keeping their problems to a minimum. So in their view treating everyone the same, or as close to that as possible, would provide a leveling of the playing field - so they can proudly boast, "we treat everyone the same." In other words, there aren't any "special people" here - not even performance stars. They believe in a kind of reward redistribution that balances everything out. Everyone deserves to get something.
And they hope to get Christmas cards from the staff at year-end.
Ah, the angst!
At the same time this type of manager is afraid as well. They're afraid of being criticized for making the wrong decisions - or for not making a decision at all. Some are actually paralyzed by indecision into non-action. Why?
- If any employee quits, that could be a mark against the manager; that they couldn't successfully manage. Why else would someone quit?
- Such criticism could be doubled down if it's a valued employee who has left.
- Some managers take to heart the adage, "people don't quit companies, they quit managers." So they could take it personally when one of their employees decides to abandon the team.
And then you have the angst over the replacement process.
The losing manager will have more work on their plate, having to cover for the missing employee, then having to take the time to recruit and ultimately provide training for the replacement. How long will it take to get everything back to normal? How long will their life be disrupted?
So it's worth it, the logic goes, to keep everyone as happy as possible. Because to a manager a departing employee is bad news all around - unless of course that person is in the bottom 5% that we want to leave. But how many managers actually point a finger at an employee and say - you're a 5%?
For such reluctant managers you would need an employee's taped confession to a federal crime, one that was also committed on company property, in order for them to feel justified in taking a hard line.
On the other hand, effective managers strive to be respected. Being liked is nice, but shouldn't be bartered or purchased at the expense of doing their jobs. Which raises a question.
So what is a leader?
There are many answers to this question, of course, but for the purposes we're discussing here let's focus on the ability to make timely and thoughtful decisions for the good of the organization. That's why the employee with the "manager" title was promoted, wouldn't you say?
It's not a matter of making a decision in the purest sense, because bad decisions, even idiotic decisions would qualify. One could also construe that a manager's non-action, non decision is in fact a form of "decision." It's decisive action in the face of challenge that sets the effective manager apart from the rest of the pack.
Is there a difference between a manager and a leader? Both can have the same title, but their outlook on roles and responsibilities could be quite different.
Technically, a manager can be someone who simply administers an ongoing operation, keeping it running, maintaining processes and completing assigned work. An important role to be sure, because we need Indians as well as Chiefs. We need someone to be the mortar that holds the bricks of the business together. But perhaps that's more management than leadership.
For its part, leadership has coined the phrase, "follow me." These are the individuals who set the course, stand up for themselves and make the tough decisions.
So, yes, there is a difference between someone acting as a manager, vs. another who is driving forward as a leader.
Which one are you? Which one do you report to?
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 fantasy prof