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Career Q&A | Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Career Q&A: New boss makes cuts that lead to chaos

Q: Our new regional manager was transferred here after being demoted from a higher-level position. This guy has no idea what our jobs involve and apparently doesn't care. He seems to believe that cutting costs will help him return to the corporate "ivory tower," so he has started randomly reducing our work hours.

Previously, schedules were posted two weeks in advance, but now they can change at a moment's notice. Employees are frequently called at home and told not to come in the next day or instructed to leave as soon as they arrive at the office. Meanwhile, the work is piling up. How can we end this nightmare?

A: If this chaos is a reflection of your new leader's management style, then his recent demotion is completely understandable. Before approaching him, however, you need to determine the driving force behind these cost reductions.

If slicing payroll was his own original idea, you should help your manager see how staff shortages could actually harm the business. But if he is simply responding to orders from above, then you need to demonstrate the benefits of a more orderly implementation plan.

Either way, the key is to convince your disorganized boss that the current strategy might make him look bad to upper management. If returning to corporate is his ultimate objective, then that's the best way to influence him.

Staff thinks manager is biased

Q: On a recent employee opinion survey, my staff gave me a terrible rating on favoritism. I have no idea why they feel that I'm biased, since I try to be very consistent in applying policies and enforcing rules.

I do have a closer connection with certain employees because we share common interests, but no one receives any special treatment. What can I do about this?

A: Since you are dealing with perceptions, not facts, your employees may have a completely different interpretation of your behavior. Suppose, for example, that "common interests" cause you to regularly have lunch with particular staff members or chat with them more frequently. The others could easily view this extra attention as favoritism.

Let us further suppose that you decide to send one of your lunch buddies to a professional conference. Although this decision may have been based solely on her need for training, others might see it as a perk for one of your pets. An accumulation of such examples can earn you a reputation for playing favorites, even if that is not your intention.

The first step toward better survey scores is to objectively evaluate your interactions with employees, then make an effort to distribute your attention more equally. If the survey was conducted by your human resources department, you might also consider asking the HR manager to conduct confidential follow-up interviews with your staff.

The moral of this story is that managers should always be aware of the messages sent by their actions. While it's perfectly normal to enjoy the company of some people more than others, you must be careful not to make that preference obvious.

Career Q&A: New boss makes cuts that lead to chaos 11/19/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 19, 2011 3:31am]
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