In one of my earlier roles, I had this fantastic employee that I directly managed. We got along like a house on fire, they were professional, hard-working, took responsibility and really cared about their quality of work and the overall performance of the business.

Then after time, this person decided to move on to work on their own business. Great – so after their resignation – as you do, I went to HR to commence the new advertising / hiring process for a new staff member.

Things started to get a little strange about here, when I asked for a commitment to get the Ad in the Paper I was getting some very “Wishy-Washy” type of answers. As I was running a pretty serious Marketing Department, I need all the staff members I can get – so getting this person placed was a priority for me.

After a few more “Just Wait Ed’s” from the HR Manager, then all of a sudden this “New Staff” member appeared out of the wood-work. Even though I was their Direct Manager, I strangely didn’t even meet them before they were appointed. The HR Manager promised me they are a great person and I can’t go wrong.

Well – okay. I think as the Line Manager I should have met them – but okay, I am a flexible guy after all and let’s work with this.

Then, over the next few months I found this staff member was totally incompetent, lacked the patience, had minimal technical skills and had a poor attitude to the company. I tried discussing this with the employee and got nothing but cheek and attitude. Then (as you do), I discussed things with the HR Manager before taking any serious action.

Now, the HR Manager for some “Odd Reason” totally defended the persons actions and condemned my actions. I was like – What? I have been managing people for years!

Anyway, things got worse and worse and this person who just hated their job – was completely untouchable. The HR Manager was blocking me and protecting them.

Then it got really bad and things came to a head – this employee was backstabbing me (I caught them) and just not doing their work. In addition, other managers in the office complained about this employee. I then took the matter to the MD (which I directly reported to) and then things started happening.

But this was strange, never in my years of management did I ever see an employee:

– Get hired without consultation of the Line Manager.
– Be so technically incompetent yet survive.
– Get over protected by Human Resources.
– Get away with inappropriate behaviour for so long.
– Strangely enough, I then found out through the grapevine that this person’s partner was actually considering investing the company I worked for!

Ha ha – no wonder they were protected and someone as incompetent as that was allowed to work in the company.

This was a case of “Positive Discrimination” in that, this person due to their relationship with the company was given far more benefits than anyone else. I have seen plenty of unfortunate “Negative Discrimination”, but this was my first case of the opposite.

I found “Positive Discrimination” seemed to have extremely bad impacts on our office. That is, as a result of the poor management of this case, it created situations such as:

– Frustration – Not just on my part, but other managers. No Manager in their right mind likes the idea of a subordinate doing the wrong thing consistently.
– Poorer Quality of Work – As you can’t hold certain members accountable, others have to “Carry more weight” resulting in poorer quality of work, more errors etc.
– Loss of faith by Employees – As other employees can see some staff “Milking” the system, they easily lose faith in management and their own motivation takes a fall. After all, if you have to work your butt off and the person next to you doesn’t – would that make you feel inspired?
– After I moved on from this company, I heard through the grapevine that this individual had a big falling out and moved on.

What is sad, is that this could have easily been prevented. By simply treating everyone “Equally & Fairly” this person could have been pulled into line earlier on -making life easy on everyone. It also, would have helped that individual – saving them lots of their own personal issues.

One of the best General Managers I worked with, used to say to be “Ed, always be Firm – But Fair”.

This makes perfect sense as after all – any form of discrimination (be is Positive or Negative) can only lead to trouble!


4 Responses

  1. I think another variant of ‘Be firm, but fair’ would be ‘Put your heart in your top drawer’. A mentor used this to illustrate how a manager should behave when it comes to having a ‘serious’ discussion around an employee’s work performance or behaviour. Deal with it without injecting any of our own emotions into the situation. Managers also need to be aware to not address the person, but the issue or behaviour. It’s not the person per se but the behaviour that needs correcting. Now, that is a hard challenge for any new manager.

  2. I like that one “Leave your Heart in the top Drawer”.

    That makes sense. I have noticed in my own management history, than when staff members are “Acting Out” it is usually charged with a lot of “Illogical Emotion”.

    Wish I knew this 10 years ago! 🙂

    Thanks for the contribution Michael!

  3. LOL! I love the “Firm but fair” comment. Reminds me of parenting in an authoritarian style rather than an authoritative style (firm and unfair).

    Hmmm is that how managers should treat their staff? Akin to parents and children as children can be completely illogical at times! Or do some staff act like children at times?

  4. You know Bec – I don’t really know! It’s a strange one, I once had to manage this individual that all the “Modern Coaching” techniques just didn’t work for. They just wanted to dominate you, were lazy and had a poor attitude towards the company.

    I had to do the Parents / Children approach – nothing else worked! 🙂

    Even so they cried when they didn’t get their toys 😉

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