Managers that are too amiable to one employee put others at risk

When I arrived back home, this is where I found Oliver and Grace. I think Oliver hung out here for the majority of the time I was gone! But I needed that suitcase more than he did and I should have moved him off when I needed it instead of letting him rule the roost.

When I arrived back home, this is where I found Oliver and Grace. I think Oliver hung out here for the majority of the time I was gone! But I needed that suitcase more than he did and I should have moved him off instead of letting him rule the roost.

This week, I had an overnight business trip. As I packed my bag, Grace and our two cats were close-by. Oliver tried to nap inside the suitcase, but I nudged him out so I could finish filling with essentials. I shut the case and he perched on top, purring and content with his spot.

“Oh that’s so cute,” I thought to myself, and decided not to disturb him. I’ll let him enjoy this new resting space for now and come retrieve my bag later.

Fast forward to that evening as I’m checking into the motel. Imagine my horror when I looked in the cargo area of my car and realized I had NO suitcase with me!! My internal voice was racing with messages, “How could I be so stupid?” “What was I thinking (or not thinking)?” “I can’t believe I let Oliver do this!” After about a minute of absolute panic, I laughed at myself.

When I called my husband to tell him that he’d find my suitcase on the bed because Oliver had been so adorable on it, he said, “Sure, blame the cat.” He was teasing, but there was truth in what he said.

It’s the same thing that happens when managers lay fault on the actions of employees, yet they perpetuate the problem because they don’t address the situation when it occurs.

When you let another person’s words or actions force you into doing something that takes you off your own game plan, you risk bigger issues.

I’m always advocating two-way conversations and ensuring that managers offer opportunities for employees to have leeway to conduct their job function in a way that suits their style best. It’s important for a manager to be open to ideas and change course when it makes sense to do so. But there are times when a manager has to be clear about the expectations that will support the bigger picture and enforce those boundaries, even when it means the employee can’t have all they want.

Oliver has plenty of other comfy spots to nap. I should have told him to go find one of those when I was ready to move the suitcase. Instead, I introduced an inefficiency (another step to go back later for the suitcase) and a potential risk (that I would forget, which I did), that resulted in a poor outcome (a panic shopping trip so I wouldn’t look like a total idiot at my business meeting). When we give in to the needs of one employee that are not aligned with the needs of all others, problems will emerge.

I know Oliver enjoyed that perch. But it was at too big a cost. That was my fault, not his. When deciding whether to speak up or take action to draw the line with an employee, think about the implications for everyone else and let that be your guide.

Want to talk through a situation that you’ve been struggling with? Get in touch and let’s brainstorm together! I promise not to include Oliver. 

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  1. Judy Ringer on June 14, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Robin — what a fantastic post and don’t you just love Oliver for handing you this opportunity! 🙂 You’re experience is repeated day in and day out by managers who mean well and yet don’t set the important boundaries that keep the workplace safe and functional for everyone. Thanks for the concrete analogy and great writing. Just the best!

    • Robin Eichert on June 15, 2014 at 9:08 am

      At the moment of realization I wasn’t too happy, Judy, but yes, I rebounded quickly to appreciate the moment very much. It gave me much to ponder! Love your point that managers mean well but unintentionally make things worse. Thanks for adding your thoughts!

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