You see one of the people who is working for you bullying another employee. You observe a person working for you selling illegal drugs to a fellow employee in the restroom. One of your employees starts swearing at a customer on the telephone. Other than the obvious that they are all bad things, what else do they have in common? The answer is that as a manager, you must deal with these situations immediately. If you don't, the following bad things may happen.
You may be viewed as condoning the behavior
You may be viewed as not knowing that it's wrong
When you eventually react to the issue, say a week or two later, you will be viewed as have being told to deal with it, rather than having the management skill to react on your own volition
You may be viewed as spineless and/or incompetent
If as a manager your don't move to correct a serious issue, you may lose your job
As you can see from the above list, none of these outcomes are good.
All that said, what does acting immediately mean? It means seeking out your manager and/or Human Resources Group quickly to get guidance on how to appropriately act, given your company's culture, company policy, and/or industry base practices. In most cases, you as the manager will be acting on behalf of the company, but based on your role and other factors, it may be your boss, Human Resources, or Legal group.
Acting immediately is also advantageous when people do good things. For example, a person working for you does a great job making a presentation to a potential customer. An immediate 'Well Done' means a lot more then and can be much more motivating than simply mentioning it three weeks later at the monthly department staff meeting.
I would now like to add a second dimension beyond just acting quickly. You must also act appropriately. If someone does something that is worthy of employment termination, you can't just mindlessly tell them not to do it again. Conversely, you can't fire someone for a minor or potentially accidental infraction. On the positive side, if you go over the top congratulating someone for a rather minor victory or accomplishment, you may be viewed as patronizing and not taken seriously.
As an example of this concept, say you are an accounting manager and one of your accountants finishes his month end work a day early. Then, as a celebration, you throw a department-wide party to recognize the accomplishment. The person begin honored may feel embarrassed and uncomfortable and the other members of your team may feel like you are picking favorites.
The primary advice and takeaways from today's column is to know that:
If you wait too long to act, your action may be as viewed false and/or insincere
If you wait too long to act, you may be viewed as incompetent as a manager
In addition to acting swiftly, you must also act appropriately
This blog is an excerpt from my weekly nationally syndicated column with GateHouse News Service. My new columns can be found in GateHouse Media publications throughout the United States.
Until next time, manage well, manage smart, and continue to grow.