Q. How can I earn more credibility with my work unit and team? I know many of them are far more knowledgeable than I am, yet I hesitate to let on how much I don’t know. It’s a Catch-22: I know the least, but I must lead a team of employees who know more.
A. You can still establish credibility as a leader. Ironically, your first step is to admit what you don’t know and ask for input. Many managers or supervisors have less knowledge about products, systems, and processes than those they supervise. Even if you were the one with more knowledge, the basics of supervision and leadership would be more important. Employees want you to show dedication to what they are doing. They want you to value their capabilities and help them strengthen their skills; they want to feel your passion about the job. Your employees don’t want to sit in unproductive meetings; they want you to create opportunities for them and generally help them be happier on the job. Find out what your employees’ unmet needs are and how to make their jobs more meaningful. You may be considered be the best leader they’ve ever had.
Q. I am a “nice guy” supervisor. I’ve been with the company for 32 years. I don’t hassle, chase employees, or watch them from the shadows. I admit to feeling less motivated these days to be proactive with them, but I can’t decide if I’m getting lazy, experiencing depression, or what.
A. Does management have expectations for you to make tougher decisions involving your employees? If you are keeping up with their expectations, then your leadership is meeting their goals. Regardless, meet with the EAP for some consultative guidance on these issues. The EAP can provide an assessment to determine whether you are suffering from depression. You may need to establish work goals and involve your supervisor to help you reengage and get reenergized. In the meantime, be cautious. Employees who perceive supervisors as apathetic or unwilling to hold them to account are naturally incentivized to lower their productivity, increase absenteeism, and generally take advantage of that sort of leadership style. All of this increases risk on many fronts.
Q. There were a few employees I did not refer to the EAP in the past because I felt that they were too manipulative and dishonest and that they would easily snow the program. What’s the argument for referring these employees?
A. The EAP is not just a place to counsel employees. Moreover, it is a programmatic approach to resolving performance problems associated with troubled workers. This perspective is lost when EAPs are thought of only as offices where employees go to get help. From the employer’s perspective, the EAP approach always works. “Works” does not mean that an employee is always successfully treated and returned to his or her original state of competence and capacity, although that is the most desirable outcome. Instead, it means that every method has been provided to accommodate the employee toward the organization’s goal of resolving the performance or conduct issues. The most important dynamic in this process, and the one that makes EAPs succeed, is when difficult employees accurately perceive organizational resolve and clarity on what will happen if performance problems continue. When this happens, even the most difficult employees will pursue wellness in their self-interest, motivated by the need to avoid job loss.
Q. How might a supervisor play an innocent, unsuspecting role in an employee’s decision not to follow through with treatment or EAP recommendations?
A. Depending on the difficulty of the recommended treatment and the diligence required of the employee to be successful with it, a decision to not follow EAP advice is often based on the mistaken belief that it isn’t necessary. The classic example is the employee with alcoholism who believes that prescribed treatment really isn’t necessary in order to stop drinking. The employee may think, “I will just stop on my own and save the hassle.” Family, friends, employers, and even strangers may be elicited to participate in passive discussions about self-control prior to such a final decision. They become unwitting co-endorsers as the alcoholic uses them as “sounding boards” to build support for his or her decision. These solicitations by the employee can be subtle and benign-sounding conversations. Supervisors willing to participate in such discussions are especially valuable in the patient’s formulation of his or her rationale to quit treatment.
Information contained in “The Frontline Supervisor” is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be specific guidance for any particular supervisor or human resource management concern. For specific guidance on handling individual employee problems, consult with your Employee Assistance Professional. ©2013 DFA Publishing & Consulting, LLC.