Monday, June 16, 2014

It Sucks to be You

Have you ever approached a manager or supervisor with a problem that you know that s/he can address, and you get a response that sounds something like, "When I was doing your job, I had to push a taxi 20 miles uphill in a blizzard, so you have it pretty easy now?"

Okay, maybe I'm over exaggerating a little, but I think you get my point; the manager/supervisor drones on and on about how hard they had it when they were in your position, and do not offer any solutions. I generally leave those conversations feeling like I've been told, "It sucks to be you."

"HTML CAN NOT DO THAT!!!1!!" by Noah Sussman
CC By 2.0
Yeah, I'm a little irritated right now. I recently spoke with my supervisor about not having the necessary tools close at hand so that my co-workers and I could effectively and efficiently perform my duties. The response I received was a long-winded version of how she had to search further and more often than we do in order to find these components; it bordered on implying that my co-workers and I are lazy. I found this response slightly offensive because we're not lazy; sometimes the work can be fast-paced, and walking away from our areas to hunt down these necessary components can mean the difference between quality product and scrap. It also means the difference between being written up, and not being written up; I don't want to get written up because I have to search for something in order to do my job, and neither do my co-workers.

Here's a quick lesson that I learned in college; it is important to ensure that employees have the physical, and metaphorical, tools they need to succeed. It is demoralizing to employees when they don't have these tools. How do I know this? Because the HR community, college textbooks, our professional experiences, research, and common sense have proven this to be true. It's really not rocket science, or some mysterious formula.

I may not be a college graduate, and I may not hold some terrific managerial position within a company, but I have supervised and trained employees. I have not forgotten, and will probably not forget, how frustrated I was when I encountered some "minor" problem that made my job more difficult. I have yet to dismiss an employee's ideas for improving a process offhand, and I have always made sure that that those ideas and problems are brought to my superiors' attention.
"/doh" by hobvlas sudoneighm CC By 2.0

I felt that it was my job as that person's trainer or supervisor to empathize and at least attempt to offer some kind of solution. The solutions I came up with may not have always been the best solutions, but at least I put some effort into it. You wanna know something? Even if my solutions weren't the best solutions, my subordinates appreciated that I cared enough to at least make an effort to help... Go figure!

Don't get me wrong... Sometimes we can't do anything to really resolve the problem; sometimes the employee just has to deal with it. There are instances in which we have given the employee some ways of dealing with the problem, and it's not the solution that the employee was looking for. There are cases when the same employee refuses the solutions that we've given her/him, and we have to be firm about the fact that they can take the solutions that we have offered, or not. However, this response should not be our default response to every problem that an employee encounters.

It seems to me that a manager/supervisor who has performed the same duties that her/his subordinates do would have a better understanding of the problems that the subordinates encounter, and would want to leverage her/his position within the company to try to improve working conditions for those subordinates. I do understand that it is difficult to keep trying to do this when one meets resistance from superiors; however, I would also like to point out that this is what one signed up for when s/he took the managerial/supervisory position. As a manager/supervisor, it is one's duty to not only oversee one's subordinates, but it is also one's duties to ensure that the subordinates have what they need in order to get the job done.

I don't call b.s. on a situation very often, but I'm gonna call it here. If you are a manager or supervisor who has given in to apathy, forgotten the problems that you had as a subordinate, and just absolutely cannot find solutions to those problems or take those problems to a superior that can resolve them; I have only this to say: 
It sucks to be you.

Thank you for reading.

Title image modified from original image "Pushing a Taxi" by Dan Nguyen CC By-NC 2.0

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