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Fix It Or Forget It?

April 4th, 2012

A most difficult situation in the workplace is when management has essentially pitted employees against one another, whether consciously or not.  Teamwork then becomes nearly impossible.  See what Gertrude* and Hector* did.

Gertrude* noticed that, although everyone was asked to submit their items ahead of time for an agenda that was printed up for monthly staff meetings, her manager never paid attention to it, and instead went around the room, asking this person, then that person for his or her report.

He appeared to do this either in the order of people he considered to have the most important things to say, or perhaps the people he liked the best – Gertrude couldn’t decided which.  What she noticed, though, was that she was nearly always last, either way.  It almost reminded her of getting chosen for teams back in school.

Sometimes, meetings would run long, due to someone’s report taking a great deal of time, and the manager would notice the time and say, “Well, the rest of you . . . email me what you have.  I have to get to another meeting.”

Gertrude asked me for advice on how she could be taken more seriously – or at least be noticed, since she felt essentially invisible, particularly at the monthly meetings.

I shared an article with her that discusses the importance of body language, stance, eye contact, etc. that conveys a great deal about yourself while in such meetings.  We say so much without realizing it through nonverbal communication, and Gertrude may not realize what messages she’s sending.

Another way I suggested that she might move closer to “the front of the line” would be by bringing handouts to the meeting to accompany her report, when appropriate.  The next time Gertrude had relevant visual aids, she printed up enough copies for everyone and began passing them out as the staff meeting started.

She was very pleased to hear the manager say, “So, what are we looking at, Gertrude?” which gave her the opening she needed!  These few techniques allowed her to Fix It! and improved her visibility during staff meetings.

“Of course,” Gertrude said, “I don’t always get to go first.  But I’m not always last anymore, either.  I can live with that.”

Hector* worked in development at a membership organization and was frustrated at how the Executive Director managed the organization.

During their meetings, he would appear to stage competitions between the development and membership departments, which led to them sharing less information with one another over time.  This made things more difficult, since they were already working with two different databases, and needed more cooperation, not less.

In addition, the ED frequently solicited the staff for input and feedback on how to conduct internal and external operations.  However, time and time again, people noticed that he simply smiled and voiced his appreciation for the suggestions . . . while conducting business as he already planned, disregarding all employee input.

After this “policy” became apparent, the feedback dwindled to become almost non-existent, which visibly angered the Executive Director, who then denounced the staff as “unappreciative.”

Hector noticed that, actually, there was a great deal of feedback – after such meetings, usually in the break rooms, on the smoking balcony, etc.

Seeing the building animosity on both sides – with it only escalating – Hector decided to Forget It! and we started searching for another position for him.  Clearly, the internal struggles at his organization were taking over, and raising money for the mission or focusing on the constituents, benefactors, etc., was taking a back seat.

“I’m not interested in ‘preparing for battle’ everyday when I come to work,” Hector said.  “I want to do my job and do it well, but this is too much.”

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

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