There was a very good question posed by one of my Facebook friends today, “if management tells you to move places in the office (from one desk to another) and you refuse, when you come in the next day and all your stuff has been moved, who wins? Management or employee?”
This sparked a lively debate. Many said the manager won because the manager had the right to move the stuff and the employee did not have the right to disobey the manager. Others said the employee won because the employee got the work done and didn’t lift a finger.
Our culture is largely ruled by hierarchy. We are taught to obey the boss, the teacher, the authority. Consequently, it was no surprise the majority of replies to the Facebook question were in favor of the manager winning/employee losing concept. The employee must do what the boss says to do, right? That’s what society teaches people. Clearly the employee crossed the line and is wrong, right?
I have a different take on the situation. I don’t think either person won. I think that both employee and manager have lost. Although there seems a clear loser (the employee), there are other issues the manager must now face. Not knowing a full range of details behind the situation and just taking it at face value, it appears the employee was insubordinate and the manager didn't have a good relationship with the employee to start. After the occurrence, now both people are mad, creating negative energy. Productivity, engagement and morale have all declined. The lack of positive energy debilitates creativity and the ability to think clearly. This is not the type of environment a manager wants for his or her staff.
There is another element... the rest of the staff. They are all thinking, "What just happened?" They are at the water cooler talking about how the boss was wrong or the employee was wrong all contributing valuable work time to the cause. Hours of work are now wasted. They are also wondering how the employee “got away with” acting insubordinately. Why didn’t the boss do something about it?
What if the employee decides to quit because of the situation and go to a competitor, and let’s assume the employee was a high performer? The manager didn’t win. If he or she was the manager of a professional sports team and lost his or her #1 player to another team because of lack of support for one another, the manager does not win and neither does the team. There is no winner in this situation UNLESS they both resolve the issue and their relationship grows stronger because of their ability to resolve the problem together. That can happen.
The employee does not win because now he or she is lacking support from management, and may have caused a hostile work environment. The employee did not allow the manager to save face by confronting him or her in private about the underlying issue of why he or she did not want to move. The employee is questioning the manager’s authoritative powers and disregards them. Unless the employee does something to clear the situation, it’s not likely the employee is going to have longevity with the company.
The fact is the damage is done. The manager should have never let this happen. He or she could have avoided it by having a conversation with the employee who refused instructions to find out why he or she was refusing. The employee should have never let it happen either because he or she should have addressed his or her concerns before acting out against the manager. But, since it already happened, what’s next?
One of these two people needs to be the big kid and have a conversation with the other to clear up the misunderstanding. People generally do not like confrontation, so don’t be confrontational, be a problem solver. If one addresses the situation with the best of intentions, positive intentions to fix the problem, then it doesn’t seem so confrontational. One thing is for sure, they need to address it immediately so they can fix it.
As the economy improves and jobs become more abundant, the employee may start searching for a new job. Let’s assume this person is a high-performer and the manager doesn’t want to lose him or her to a competitor. The manager needs to act more like a leader and coach, and collaborate with the employee instead of “managing” him or her. I’ve heard that 95% of people leave jobs because of management. I’ve found that 99% of issues are caused by misunderstandings which can be resolved by better communication. Face the adversity head on, be a problem solver, and resolve issues instead of ignoring them.
Personally, I think they need to hire me to conduct attitude training or a team-building workshop. These folks need a boost of Yes! Attitude.