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Management Side
Week of 25 September 2017: Management compliments and criticisms are not always obvious

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When I was a little boy, my Dad worked for Hobart Brothers Company in Troy, Ohio. He was in charge of a department called "Welded Products." This department made the gas tanks and other welded fabrications for Hobart's line of self-powered electric welders. Later, when plastics came along, they started fabricating some of those parts, too, but we will save that story for another time.

Dad brought his work home with him, so to speak, and we heard about it nightly at the supper (supper, not dinner) table. The theme was usually the same. Dad was upset because other departments were able to purchase new equipment and his department just got their "hand me downs" and worn out equipment.

I have thought about this many times over the decades between then and now. What I think is true and what Dad missed was this: the company's actions were a great compliment to him. Dad could fix anything and make any piece of junk work--and work better than it ever had before. Dad's department got the junk because they could get a few more years of life out of it. What senior manager would not love a department head that could work this magic?


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In my own career, I have seen managers suddenly become friendly and happy around certain employees when they were not this way before. Why this change of mood and friendliness? They had finally decided they needed to fire the employee. It was a great relief to them to know that soon they would not have to tolerate this person any longer.

Another manager I know would occasionally appear to go berserk for no apparent reason. I thought about this for a long time and finally confronted him. He said that if a manager gets upset about predictable matters, his direct reports will learn not to bring up those subjects that cause a bad reaction. His intent, when he used this technique, was to be totally random, thus demonstrating his ability to act a bit irrationally while at the same time leaving everyone scratching their heads as to what set him off. In this way, he kept everyone on their toes all the time.


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In my own case, I know that I often come across as being brusque and cold with employees. Actually, I swing from being brusque and cold to being overly friendly. The first mood is just me being all business. The second is me feeling guilty about being brusque and cold. In reality, neither is a good read on where I am at any given time. In my case, watch me over the very long haul. I stick with people and concepts I believe in and I separate from those I don't. We don't have an employee here today that has been with us less than four years, some over twenty. That is a message for those looking for a message.

I suspect what I have said about myself is true of most managers. Many employees spend an inordinate amount of time trying to read the "tea leaves" of the boss's behavior. Most of this effort is a waste of time. Everyone has good days and bad days. Everyone experiences ups and downs. Don't read too much into the shallower interactions. Look for the results and reactions over the long haul.

For safety this week, in the midst of safety incidents, many people say things they wish they hadn't. Forgive them, there is a tremendous amount of stress in an active safety incident.

Be safe and we will talk next week.


Nip Impressions has been honored for Editorial Excellence by winning a Tabbie Award!


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