Friday, September 17, 2004

At the Manager's Mercy

It is a known fact, especially among the HR circles, that the single-most reason why a person leaves his organization is because of his immediate manager. It is also said that a person joins an org. Because of what he perceives the org. To be like. So...What happens after he joins and before he leaves?

When a person joins an org. He has some expectations from the org. This is based on the org's brand image, it's leaders, press releases, advertisement claims, etc. The expectations could be w.r.t its values, culture, job opportunities, career growth, learning opportunities, freedom to be creative, job rotation, etc. Once a person joins the org, he is left to the mercy of his immediate manager more than anyone else. The HR folks typically move away after the person gets in and more often than not, cannot keep a tab on how each person fares, his problems, challenges et al. Mentoring practices, if any, more often than not, point to the immediate manager once again. If the immediate manager is one who isn't responsible enough (which seems to be the case all the time! ;) ), there goes the chance of retaining an employee....!

The new employee begins to see EVERYTHING through the manager's eyes. He forms his opinion about the org. based on the manager's behaviour. Of course, peers and other associates do contribute to a large extent, but it is the manager's behaviour that creates a lasting impression and impacts the new employee the most! For example - If the manager refuses (unfairly) to approve the employee's request to attend important training programmes, there goes the employee's perception of the learning opportunities in the Org. If the manager doesn't appreciate the employee's efforts, there goes the employee's perception of the org. culture, the same happens if the manager does not trust the employee, admonishes him for failure or blames him for no fault of his etc.

In short, the behaviour and characteristics of the manager has a clear and direct impact on the perception of the org. culture, values and opportunities in the eyes of the employee. If the org. does not have a system that can keep such managers in check, then it obviously leads to the employee getting frustrated. In many cases, even 'brave' employees don't have the guts and the time to bring such things to the higher officials'/HR's notice as it may either not result in any action or in fact may backfire and make things tougher for the employee. Appraisals and pay hikes may become the convenient 'tool' for the manager to 'get back' at the employee. Anyways, what does it cost? Even if the employee spends time to build a case against the manager, it will have an impact on his work as he will not be in a position to spend all his time and energy in accomplishing his work. It will more often than not, be a long fight to the finish. And well, to add insult to the injury, the finish might not be as expected! Meanwhile, all through the process, the employee is still under the same manager and will be subjected to the latter's reactions. Whew!
Leaving the org. definitely sounds like the easiest way out! Doesn't it? No, wonder so many people leave because of their managers.

What's the way out for the org.? It certainly is a huge cost for the org. if people leave. To name a few, cost of replacement, cost of training the new employee, opportunity cost in terms of what the previous employee could have accomplished in the meantime, and not to forget, the cost of the beating that the reputation of the org. takes because of the old employee spreading the 'bad' word. Way out?

1. Recruitment Processes - Recruitment standards have to be extremely stringent. Only people with the attitude should be recruited. Intellectual assessment should not be the only criteria. Projects and cash flow/revenue should not be put above the quality of the people that it needs.
2. Selection of Managers - Managers should be selected based on their ability to handle people, their EQ, their organizational perspectives, their understanding of the big picture, their ability to follow even as they lead, their ability to nurture the younger generation etc. Succession planning practices should be extremely strong.
3. Mentoring - Mentoring must be a norm. Mentors should not be the immediate manager. They should be people from other streams/teams etc. They should be highly responsible people.
4. HR Processes - HR processes should accomodate for individual follow-up and support.
5. System - The system should be designed in such a way that Managers who get through despite the above-mentioned precautions, are caught sooner than later and 'put in their place'. At the same time, the person who brings it to the notice of the 'system' should be 'protected'.

What do you think?

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