Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Whatever happened to basic consideration for employees?

Something that gets me really angry is the scandalous and amateurish way that some managers ‘dispose of’ employees from the payroll as if they are just disposable 'products' without feelings.

Management integrity must go all the way down the line – particularly when people have to leave the payroll not from their own choice - it’s a no brainer as my friends in the US would say.

Offloading people (what a terrible expression that is) should be done with dignity and respect for the person. The recession is hitting lots of people all over the world. A friend of mine recently experienced ‘the boot’ and these are his own words to me yesterday:

“Had a 10 minute phone call week before Christmas saying ‘thanks and bye.’ Still in fact not had anything in writing/P45 etc so I am not sure what is happening – other than looking for a job.”

That’s over a month with no word from the company!

I have said in various places in the last week or two that all managers should work within an ethical framework. This is yet another example of why I call for that.

To my mind there is just no excuse for such downright appalling bad manners and dreadful management practices. Whatever the circumstances are, no employee should be treated this way.

I started out this post with the word ‘scandalous’ but on reflection that is far too kind a word for such ignorant behaviour.

The NHS may have its problems but this sort of thing would never happen in the NHS. Professionalism in management does not end when a decision is made to ‘offload’ a person – it becomes even more important than ever before!

Why the hell do managers allow themselves to be tarnished
with such bad practice?(because make no mistake you are tarnished by association)


John O'Leary said...

Trevor, there are many classic complaints folks have with management which you've done a good job of identifying over the years. The issue I repeatedly run into as an organizational consultant is not managers acting unethically or insensitively or in bad faith. It's well-intended managers - especially general managers - who micromanage their staffs and departments in such a way that initiative and "ownership" are suppressed. It's a huge morale killer which continually drives good talent out of organizations. Sure, there are times and occasions that demand tighter reins but those moments should be the exception not the norm. Managers who give direction instead of directions are what we call leaders.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi John - I think you are identifying the difference between management and leadership. Leadership is about principles and behaviours – management is about ‘processy’ stuff and meeting objectives.

Leaders at the top of organisations set the tone. Practices such as the one I outline in my posting are not necessarily the fault of well meaning managers way down the pecking order. These practices are symptoms of the lack of leadership or poor leadership.

Most managers want to do a good job.

mark jf said...

I agree with your anger at the insensitive treatment of an employee and the negative impact on the general reputation of Management. But I have another gripe: what is your friend going to do about it? Too many people do nothing about this kind of treatment when, on the face of it, it is a classic case for legal action. Whilst I don't want to see the UK turn into a litigious society, the only thing some companies will understand is fines and a bottom line hit. All the while dismissed employees do nothing and thus accept this kind of behaviour, it reinforces some people's view that they can act like it. Your friend has - in my view, a moral obligation to stand up, take action and make the point. I hope he does.

BTW: "...but this sort of thing would never happen in the NHS." In your nice village with a helpful local doctor it mightn't. Come to an inner city or major connurbation and look again. Last week, my wife found her 'manager' (we use the word loosely) going in to all her staff and launching into an, "Any complaints... 'cos you're lucky to have a job... there's plenty of people out there would like it" spiel. Nice.

Trevor Gay said...

Good point Mark – I am seeing my friend in the next week or two and I will ask him. I’m sure many people don’t pursue these things legally because it is just too much hassle and paperwork for very little, if any, recompense. I am however with you 100% that there is an important principle here and I would like to think if ever I was treated that way I would pursue it to the hilt to really embarrass and screw the employer. They just cannot take liberties with employees lives and be allowed to get away with it.

I was basing my comment about the NHS on my 35 years experience working in it (including inner city conurbations) and not on my friendly village GP surgery.

My advice to your wife and her colleagues is to leave that practice – “Life is too short to work with jerks” as Tom Peters puts it.

I never came across such dreadful management in my career and if I had been subjected to the sort of crap you describe I would have left and reported the person to the Chief Executive with an official complaint.
Just a thought Mark - I hope your wife and her colleagues fulfil their moral obligation to stand up, take action and make the point. I hope she reports this manager to the senior GP in the practice.

Scott said...


My heart goes out to your friend. I have very similar friends in the same purgatory across the pond.

Even though there may be grounds for legal action, I've seen many cases that drag on, diminish much needed funds, and still leave the person feeling empty because of their abandonment from former leadership. Remember this to------everyone talks about change (including Obama) and sometimes the change may be a blessing in disguise.

I have had the good fortune to coach several friends, former co-workers, and strangers in the endless passion of finding and keeping a job. I think your friend needs someone to talk to, someone to coach him/her, to replenish their spirit, and make them feel like their worth something to society. Some of this can come in the good old fashioned sense of listening.

You're brilliant enough to help guide them through the process and bring them to their feet, but continue to "take their pulse" from time to time, because all they're really needing, as we say in America, is a little dose of affirmaion to get through this tough time.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Scott. I am seeing my friend soon and I will surely listen. I would love to be able to offer more practical help to him but listening is often a good way to help someone. I recall some work I did as a 1-2-1 coach for a doctor a couple of years ago. He said the coaching worked well. From my perspective all I really did was listen and offer encouragement and most of all affirmation that he is a good doctor and a good man. Sometimes that’s all we need. The worst thing we can ever do is lose our own sense of worth. It is at times like this when our faith (if we have faith) is tested but I will never lose mine.

Scott said...

I had a friend die in a motorcycle crash a few years ago and he was brilliant. Even though he had long hair, was about 6'4", 280 pounds, nothing but muscle and covered in tattoos, he taught me a lot about life and business.

He was a framer/builder and him and I worked together on several projects. I remember having a conversation with him when we were on a project together. Someone had wronged my friend and he had legal right to sue for compensatory damages. He ended up not suing the other party and let it go. I asked him why. He said, "Scott, the minute I do that to someone else, somebody will come along and do it to me." He then referred to his beliefs, karma, and other reasons for not suing. After the accident, he was in a coma with no brain activity. They waited for his dad to arrive and the doctors pulled the plug.

Not much after my advice from Lance, kinda funny how things work, one of my neighbors in Woodland Park, Colorado came on my property and cut down about 15 of my pine trees. The developer I bought the property from was a witness and the lady (neighbor) stated that her and her boyfriend had cut down the trees. She said that some blocked her view from the back of the house, some looked dead, and other so-so reason. The developer called me and stated that, "We have a problem."

I ended up meeting with the lady at a coffee house and she apologized profusely. She even stated that she had another neighbor's permission to down trees on his lot (he hadn't built yet either and was in Chicago), which was false and a lie. She said that she got confused and cut down my trees too.

Long story short...what was I to do? I did what any Christian would do. I went and rented a stump grinder, ground the stumps down below grade, and buried the roots.
Even though I could have called the police, filed charges for criminal trespassing, and pursued damages in a civil court, I let it go...just like Lance said. Give back to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.

What does a tree go for if I would have sued? Probably 8-12 thousand US dollars per tree. I chose to forgive and move on. I'm glad I did.

The US is litigious which costs everyone in the long run. Those who maintain their faith and don't sell out, Trevor---you know this more about me than probably others reading this, will do well in finding our treasure beyond this world.

Trevor Gay said...

Scott - Of course you are right. Forgiveness is the hardest of all Christian values to live up to in my opinion.

Some of my great Christian role models admit this. Genuine forgiveness is hard work. I struggle with it. On most things I forgive very easily but we cannot choose to only forgive ‘minor’ misdemeanours if we are to be genuine in our faith – ther is no such state as half forgiveness. I accept my own failings in this and I am still working on this.

I recall the story of the great Methodist founder John Wesley when approached by someone having great difficulty in forgiving a person. The immortal Mr Wesley replied calmly; ‘I pray you never make a mistake’ – how profound and yet simple.

By the way your friend Lance was a great and gifted teacher!

Mike said...

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt to prove it. I have to second the question about the role of the employee in these situations. Why do they choose to work for organizations that allow managers to behave this way? Doesn't that say a LOT about the nature of the organization they work for? I had several "encounters" with an abusive manager in a previous gig and I decided to go to the company president and ask to be reassigned away from that manager's area. I was, but a few months later that manager was "retired." It turns out he was abusive to several people and while I did not file a formal complaint, others did. The company did the right thing and asked him to leave. If they had not, or if I had not been listened to by the president and been given the chance to move on--I would have had to choose between working for an abusive SOB or leaving. I could not have lived with myself if I had chosen to stay in that environment. Many people do choose to stay, and I wonder why. Are they intimidated? Are they of the impression that they have no other options in life, no other choices? Some organizations do seem to try to make people believe there are no other options available to them. If you sniff that where you work you really must start to look elsewhere. It may take some time, but you will find something better. It may be people stay in these bad situations for the same reasons they stay in unhealthy personal relationships--fear, uncertainty, and poor self-image.

Well, that's a bit of a ramble, sorry. Take care.


Trevor Gay said...

Thanks so much Mike – that’s not a ramble at all. To me it sounds like a very coherent and honest assessment spoken from experience and from the heart, for which I thank you.

The reasons people stay in a place that they know, in their heart, is the wrong place are, by definition, individual. As such it is not wise for an amateur like me to offer too much advice as each person must some to their own solution.

From my own experience, fear of the unknown is sometimes a factor that holds us back from doing what we know in our heart is the right thing to do.

Having said that, I believe once set free from an unhealthy relationship, whether at work or personal, we will probably feel much better and look back saying – ‘Getting out of that ‘crap’ was the best decision I could have made’

I love the comments I get on my Simplicity Blog and I learn so much from contributors. The saddest thing about this posting is that we have to acknowledge that some managers do damage people who work for them. This abuse of the ‘power’ that managers have worries me. After all what is work? – It is far too insignificant to become ill over.

When will managers and organisation realise they don’t own people and they cannot abuse them?

Trevor Gay said...

More evidence of the same type of dreadful management behaviour in an email exchange I’ve had this week with a friend from the US who wishes to remain nameless, which of course I respect. This is his comment;

"A friend was fired by a trade association one week before a job anniversary that would have given her better severance benefits! Scum!"

I suspect such uncaring management is more common than we realise if we just scratch below the surface.

What a sad statement I have just made about business and managers in 2009!

God help us!

Scott said...


Mike's comments reflect the way companies should treat and honor their "front lines".

Your most recent comment regarding the person termed in the US before an anniversary "seems" to be more representative of what's happening right now in the States.

Honesty = Simplicity

Many leaders in the States can't seem to cover up or hide their bad management quick enough.

Protection of Paycheck = Executives

My thoughts and prayers go out to those being rear-ended by leadership right now.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Scott and thanks again for your comments.

Mike’s example gives us hope that at least some companies are prepared to get rid of people who think they can act like mini Gods and mess with people’s lives.

I think we are on to something with this discussion.

I am hoping that from the depths of this tragic recession - that is throwing people on the scrap head by the thousands every day worldwide - the phoenix will rise from the ashes and we will see a rebuilt business culture based on ethical principles and underpinned with integrity and honesty … and of course simplicity.

Or maybe I am just being an idealistic fool!

One thing I do know Scott is that prayers help because the big boss always listens as you and I know!

Marilyn Jess, DTM said...

Fantastic subject and discussion. Wow, I have been in a similar position as Mike's friend. Reporting it only works when the superior of the manager in question actually listens. In my case reporting it didn't work, so several people left, myself included. There are always other options, in any economy.

We will come through this period a stronger, more honest, and ethical people. I believe that. As Mr. Obama wisely said last Tuesday, "the ground has shifted..." The fearful and dishonest know it. Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Marilyn – I pray that you are right that we will come out of this with a more ethical management and business framework.

I too have faith!

Scott said...

In God We Trust...

All others pay cash!!

Trevor Gay said...

Brilliant Scott :-)