Q: I am troubled by some recent developments in the company where I have worked for 20 years.
Lately, I have been hearing a lot of complaints from my friends in another department. Even though I'm not directly affected, I hate to see my colleagues having such a difficult time.
The problems began after a new vice president was hired. "Dan" is not only rude to his staff, but he has also been modifying many well-established policies and procedures. No one questions these decisions because Dan is extremely intimidating. To be fair, I should also mention that he is very smart and has saved the company a lot of money.
Because I really care about this business, I would like to help resolve these issues — but I'm not sure what to do. Should I bring this to someone's attention?
A: Based on such limited evidence, it's impossible to tell whether Dan is a hero or a villain. If he was hired as a turnaround artist, his smart money-saving moves may be exactly what top management was hoping for. In that case, your unhappy colleagues might just be experiencing a normal reaction to change.
On the other hand, Dan could be the proverbial bull in the corporate china shop, creating operational chaos and alienating valued employees. But since complaining about high-level managers is risky business, you need to proceed with caution.
If you have a trustworthy human resources department, that's the logical place to take this information. Your 20-year track record will bolster your credibility, and your lack of direct involvement should help you present the situation objectively.
For example: "Employees in Dan's department have recently shared some concerns with me. Many of them feel that Dan treats people disrespectfully and is making reckless changes. Since I don't work for him, I have no firsthand knowledge of these issues, but I thought you should be aware of them."
If Dan actually is a rogue executive, your feedback would be quite valuable. But if you fear that such a report may not be well-received, then you should keep these grapevine comments to yourself.
Young supervisors acting like dictators
Q: After almost 30 years, I still love working in retail. The only problem is that my bosses are usually young people in their first management position. Most of them appreciate my long experience and recognize my customer service abilities. A few, however, have become obsessed with their newfound authority and turned into little dictators. What's the best way to handle that type of supervisor?
A: Dealing with brand-new managers requires patience, understanding and a good sense of humor. Your retail expertise is now well-established, but you undoubtedly made some blunders and bad calls at the start of your career. Reflecting on those early errors may help you empathize with baby bosses who are just beginning to develop leadership skills.
The ones who have a natural talent for management will automatically value and admire your experience. But those who are insecure and easily threatened may compensate by deliberately demonstrating the power of their position. For new managers, overuse of authority is a common rookie mistake.
Instead of becoming resentful or defensive, remember that these young supervisors are going through an uncomfortable learning curve. They will therefore appreciate employees who are courteous, cooperative and helpful. Even when you don't particularly respect the occupant, you can still show respect for the position.
Management requires a multitude of skills, and no one person possesses them all. Some people, however, should not be allowed anywhere near a management position. So if you encounter any truly toxic bosses, the problem is not their age but their personality.