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Friday, 29 May 2009

Stand aside

Let me paint a scenario…..

An employee comes to see me. They do that sometimes as a last resort when everyone else is busy or on holiday or hiding in the cupboards. They have an issue they want to talk through.

Their boss they feel is over controlling. Wanting to know the ins and outs of their ever action and move, not allowing them to take decisions about their work, criticizing their appearance and making their life a misery. I ask for examples and we talk a little bit about a few things that have happened. The employee says they don’t know what to do they feel so stupid and are thinking of resigning and looking elsewhere.

I ask some questions.

“Do you think you should be able to make these decisions?” They reply that they do.

“Do you think that you are being unreasonable?” They reply that they are not.

“So”, I ask them, “Who do you think is at fault here?”

We talk some more and it becomes clear they are scared. They are scared of the repercussions. They are choosing the path of least resistance. They apologise when they have done nothing wrong. They allow elements of their work to be controlled, when they believe that it is wrong. They do this to take away the pain.

The pain of the picking and shouting and criticism.

Standing up is not an option they tell me, it just makes it worse. Last time they questioned him (and it could only be a him) he made their life a misery for weeks.

We talk about motives. Why he is behaving like this. Is it because he actually believes he should have the control? Is it because things are being done badly? Is it because when he is angry he just needs to kick some one?

We talk about actions and reactions. The triggers that make people behave the way they do. We talk about blame. We talk about neutrality and the ability not to automatically apologise when being shouted at. We talk about help and support. We talk about self esteem.

At the end I have mixed emotions. My natural instinct is to administer my own kind of justice on the situation. I won’t lie. And I’m not talking a nice bit of counselling and a formal process. But sometimes perhaps people need to do these things for themselves knowing that you are there for them as support.

It’s hard sometimes to stand aside, but I truly hope they know that I am there for them.

2 comments:

Corporate Daycare said...

Wow. This is so close to a scenario that I am currently dealing with that's it's scary.

You are right to ask the questions, to bring them to some realization and action, but the temptation to step in and resolve the issue is there.

I'm sure you did more by standing aside than by stepping in.

HR Good_Witch said...

And, so it goes....

I really believe the best thing is to not fix it for them.... but it is oh so hard, isn't it?! Good for you for holding back.

Besides... these things get tucked away into our HR psyche's right? I'll bet you'll have a chance to come at it from another direction at some point.