Monday, July 23, 2012
Fish tanks? Does this sound strange or what? This is a phenomenon that we have all seen, and the higher level the manager, the worse it gets. People watch, listen and try to figure out the intentions of the managers above them. For example, a senior manager sees you leaving the office at 6:00 PM one night and says to you "Good to see you have been working so hard". Then, you try to figure out what she meant. Did she mean:
- Was she glad you were working late?
- Did she previously think you weren't working hard and you've improved?
- Did your name come up in conversation as a hard worker?
- Did she mean you're up for promotion?
- Was it a subtle warning that you should continue to improve, or else?
- Was she making idle chatter and it didn't mean a thing?
As another example, your manager seems to be spending a lot of time these days with his door shut. Is he looking for a new job? Is he working on something secret? Is he taking daily naps?
The reason why this fish bowl phenomenon exists is because of the power that a manager has over those in his/her group. To a large extent, as a manager, you are making decisions regarding your team's salary raises, promotions, projects, training, and longevity in time of layoffs or company reorganizations. Not to mention, as the manager, you are in a position to foster a safe, energetic environment or make your team members miserable.
Because of this phenomenon, I suggest you watch your words and actions carefully and consider the following:
- Never joke about firing someone, they may not be 100% sure that you are kidding
- Be careful not to use sexual innuendo, otherwise you may find yourself being accused of sexual harassment
- Try not to use a sarcastic tone when complementing your staff members; they may consider it an insult rather than a complement. At minimum, you may leave them confused
- Be careful when comparing one employee to another employee in their presence. It may be thought of as favoritism and/or may leave both employees feeling uncomfortable and resentful
- Your staff may also be trying to analyze your emails, general mood, how fast you are walking down the hallway, and anything else that seems interesting
The above list gives you some tips on what to (and what not to say), but also remember that the words you say are only part of your overall message. Your body language, voice tone, and timing of your message can also play a major role in how your words are interpreted.
As a manager, you are also an employee. That said, how do you look at and listen to your manager? Logic should dictate that the people in your group are looking at you the same way.
This blog is based on a column I wrote last year, as part of my weekly nationally syndicated column with GateHouse News Service. For my most recent columns refer to your local GateHouse News Service affiliate.
Until next time, manage well, manage smart, and continue to grow.