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Managers' Lack of Character Must Be Fixed

Managers must learn to treat people better, this author says, but it requires buy-in from the top and the creation of a management-coach position.

May 30, 2003
Related Topics: Ethics
While grocery shopping, I overheard a conversation between a couple.on the shelf.

    Woman: "That's the candy she wants." She points to a medium-sized package on the shelf.

    Man, picking up the package and looking at the price: "You have got to bekidding! Do you know how much this costs per ounce? This is a rip-off. We're notbuying it!"

    Woman: "That's fine. I'll tell her they didn't have it."

    The cost of the candy: $1.64 for the package.

    What the couple saved in pennies, they lost in character.

    Lack of character--it’s a club whose membership rolls keep increasing.Enron, Arthur Andersen, even former U.S. presidents belong. It is all about theeveryday choices we make as individuals.

    I manage a front-line supervisory program, and I hear a lot of things fromthe people in my classes. The following are some excerpts from what I like tocall the Characterless Manager of the Month Club.

  • An executive, while speaking on the phone and not liking what the callerwas telling him, proceeded to pound his handset on his desk, finally shatteringhis phone, sending the pieces flying. When it was over, he looked up and startedlaughing.

  • A manager, wanting to win a department Halloween contest, asked that allof her employees come in on Saturday to help with decorating, which they did.But she never showed up.

  • An executive called an emergency meeting with all of her employees andproceeded to read them the riot act about obeying the company dress code, allthe while wearing a skirt with no hosiery and open-toed shoes—two items thatviolated company policy.

  • A manager refused to let an employee go to his anniversary dinner becauseof a deadline, saying, "The fourth anniversary doesn’t matter. It’s thefifth that counts. You can make it up next year."

    My all-time favorite, though, has to be one from my own work files from amanager I had about 10 years ago. She would call employees into her office andtell them all the things she didn’t like about them. When she was finished,she would tell them to leave and say, "Oh, by the way, have a nice day."

    Lack of character can be fixed, but it requires buy-in from the top and fromthe manager in question.

    The first step is the creation of a management-coach position. The size ofthe organization would determine how many coaches to put in place. Ideally, eachdivision would have one. Because of the nature of some of the feedback and tokeep things confidential, this individual would report directly to the executivemanager for that division.

    The coach would monitor all supervisory positions, identify individuals andareas that needed development, and create an action plan to accomplish thegoals. A variety of options would be offered: classes, seminars, one-on-onetraining, and/or mentoring programs. Managers could also go to the coach forhelp in areas they would like to strengthen, such as coaching, writing skills,delegating, and running more efficient meetings.

    Once a plan has been created, a goal date should be established. Two thingscould happen at this point:

  • The manager sees nothing wrong with the behavior and refuses help.

  • The manager is unable to correct the poor behavior.

    If either of these situations occurs, then the coach would require a strongbackbone because there’s only one thing left to do: cut those managers looseand give them their walking papers.

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