Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 08-02-2015
Child care psychologists tell us that a common mistake that parents make during their children’s development years is trying too hard to be their friend. Instead of being their parent. That desire to be buddies often results in a reduced emphasis on rules, a less than firm guiding hand and loosening of the requirements for proper behavior, while in turn placing a greater emphasis on letting individuals “be themselves,” all of which is coupled with relaxed supervision and “parenting.” The results, so the studies say, trends toward increasing self absorption, greater what-about-me? selfishness and for many an elevated degree of social awkwardness when trying to fit in.
What we’re told is that, when parents don’t act like parents those raised in that environment usually find themselves beset with greater challenges in later life as they try to meld into normative society.
The boss who cares – too much?
It’s not uncommon to see a similar display of misplaced friendliness in the workplace, as evidenced by numerous examples of management cadre, including compensation managers. Some of these leaders, especially those newly promoted and facing a subordinate staff for the first time make a similar “buddy system” mistake with their employees. They want to be liked. Call it a “collaborative” management style, espousing a team effort, we’re in this together, etc., but the intent is to be inclusive and participatory with their employees. Have you heard the phrase at work, “we’re family here“?
Such an attitude can work out just fine, as most management development pundits will tell you, until it’s time for performance assessment and pay review decisions. That’s when the rubber meets the road. Because if I’m trying to be your friend I don’t want to pass judgment on you at the same time. Being cast in the role of judge and jury regarding your performance, and whether you should receive an increase in pay, can be hard decisions for any manager. Decisions that could negatively impact the manager’s desired state of “family.”
This is why some managers prefer general increases or other forms of pay “decisions” that are made by others. “Don’t look at me, they did it.”
And I say that these judgment calls can be hard because it’s also easy for managers to pass the buck, to defer otherwise difficult choices and kick the can down the road. Let’s just avoid the problem. “Everybody deserves a raise,” is an oft heard refrain from managers looking out for their employees, and if they’re not about to fire you doesn’t that qualify you for something?
Having the cake and eating it too
In other words, it’s easier for managers to become an integral part of the team as collectively the unit looks at the challenges ahead. Looks outward at the work, the planning, the activities of the next quarter and beyond. It’s a rougher road for a manager to look inward and judge their employees.
These managers like the title and the compensation associated with their role, but many can be reluctant to actually take on the responsibilities of their office. Managers are expected to manage their staff, and isn’t the individual performance element one of the most important criteria for measuring the success of staff employees? And if you’re reluctant to perform that mission?
The question then becomes, are you managing, or even supervising? Or are you simply administering?
And while you might be consciously looking the other way, chances are the employees you’re trying to “protect” are able to clearly see what in fact you’re doing. Your better performers are likely upset with you, your average (and below) performers are pleased with your “we owe them” attitude, but just as likely over time they all will lose respect for you. They’ll know when they’re being managed, when they’re being administered and when the boss is using the pay system as a babysitter.
Ask yourself, what is your goal as a compensation manager, being liked or being respected? Because it’s an odd case when you can achieve both.