Finding Your No
What do you do when you work for a supervisor or manager that is ineffectual and/or incompetent, someone who hasn’t the education, the experience, or the expertise for the position? For example, how do you deal with someone who gives you little or no direction or the wrong directions, and then blames you for his error? Perhaps you are a teacher who has been assigned to teach a class but is not given any curriculum; then you are reprimanded for what you are teaching. Suppose your boss places you in charge of scheduling, changes the schedule without telling you, and then holds you responsible for the ensuing chaos. (Note: These are all real scenarios.) What do you do?
Here are my recommendations based on personal experience.
- Set your own goals, standards, and expectations based on principles of truth, integrity, perseverance, and competence. Make your standards exceed the company or group standards. This builds your capital and strengthens your voice.
- Create your own timeline and agenda with built-in flex time for emergencies—especially those created by your supervisor. Keep a daily journal of your time and activities. This documents the work that you do.
- Document everything. Take notes during meetings, allowing it to be known that you are taking notes.
- Keep the focus of any meeting or discussion on the present situation or task. Do not allow yourself to be sidetracked by peripheral issues or vague tangents until the issue at hand is addressed to your satisfaction.
- Front-load as much as possible by setting up group norms and common agreements. Do not assume that everyone is thinking alike. Make an agreement of expectations, definitions, and goals.
- In all situations, clarify the appropriate protocol or procedure. If there is not one in place, suggest one for consideration and approval.
- Develop a “rhino hide” that is impervious to emotional manipulation and intimidation. Do not let fear take you hostage. Again, document everything.
- Maintain clarity. Restate what you hear, repeat what you say as a data statement, and remain silent rather than justify yourself. Allow the facts of the situation to speak for you.
Several years ago, a young man was promoted to assistant manager of a department of a large firm. One of his supervisors was overextended and the other was too inexperienced to provide any guidance or input. The previous manager had left the department disorganized and the workers discouraged. The young man decided to set new standards for himself that exceeded company expectations. He front-loaded the situation by meeting with the workers and coming to an agreement of what worked best for them. Then he took on the role of a servant, making sure that his workers had everything they needed to do their job. Within a year, the department was back on track for productivity; after a few years, it was the most efficient department in the company. The manager achieved maximum results by applying the strategies listed above.
Complicated rules to adjust behavior are a weak substitute for simple principles.
Mary Wollstonecraft ~ A Vindication of the Rights of Women