No ifs, ands or buts

by | Feb 1, 2021

‘I am not joking when I say this … if you ever work with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect … talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot … no ifs, ands or buts, everybody has to be treated with decency and dignity.’

It’s a strong stance by President Joe Biden, in his first communication to the White House staff, that makes it clear he intends to practice the core values of humility and trust, and all credit to him for this.

Managing people at work can be a challenge – we’re told that the majority of employees come to work wanting to do a good job, but we’ve all come across individuals who contradict that. To manage them successfully, it’s essential to have reference points – the company’s values, contract of employment, employee handbook, and ‘workplace etiquette’ standards, which can be communicated through induction, training, appraisals, and demonstrated by the behaviour of senior staff. The more clarity there is on expectations and standards from the start, the greater the chance that problems can be avoided.

But what about if problems do arise? Generally, it’s likely to be frustratingly difficult to ‘fire them on the spot’, but it’s important to address issues. Adair’s ‘action centred leadership’ model is useful for reminding us that we need to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the team and the needs of the task – picture three intersecting circles labelled ‘Individual’, ‘Team’ and ‘Task’

If we fail to address one, we unbalance the others, so for example, if we overlook the poor behaviour of one employee, there will almost certainly be an adverse impact on the rest of the team, which will lead to reduced motivation and low morale, and that’ll impact the task.

President Biden apparently has a good track record of managing his staff ethically, so let’s hope that having stated his expectations from the outset, he can get on with his ‘to do’ list without distraction of staff issues, and we wish him all the best in his new job!