View Full Version : Management issues - long and a bit rant-ish!

1-5-11, 8:28pm
I am back in a (contract) management role and although there are parts of the job I like (setting standards, documenting processes, improving procedures), there are parts I don't like. In particular, I don't care for the "conflict" parts of the job - having to make staff do things they don't want to do, such as change their work hours or "how they've always done it".

Now, here's my situation. The field I work in involves (often) long hours, urgent deadlines, and (to top it all off) I'm on the east coast and my staff have to provide support to east *and* west coast teams. Historically this has been achieved by assigning after-hours tasks to whomever is on call, but we're getting to the point where this is no longer satisfactory. Also, all three of my staff work the same hours, and all leave on the dot of 5 (well, within 1/2 hour of 5).

They are paid reasonably well for the location and they all know that it is not a 9-5 job. And yet, as part of overall staff changes, I am getting serious kickback on shifting ONE person's hours by ONE hour. We're hiring a fourth person to cover the west coast, but we still need one person to stay a little longer in the evening. They get to come in one hour later, and leave one hour later. By industry standards, that's pretty cushy. But not one of my staff is willing to shift their hours. One person has good reason (6 kids); the other two . . . not so much. One of them essentially point-blank refused to even consider it today.

Now, I know that I can put on my Big Management Hat and simply say "sorry, gotta do it". But I am a big believer in leading with consensus and collaboration, and it goes against the grain to just impose something like this on someone. Especially as it doesn't exactly fit in with SL ideals which, yes, are important to me. OTOH, they chose to get into this line of work and really, a 40 hour work-week is unusual. And if I don't get this done (more or less voluntarily), my manager will simply do it for me, and that will be bad for me and bad for my staff (I can guarantee I'm more sympathetic to their work-life balance than my workaholic manager).

So, I'm not really sure what my question is other than looking for insights/advice/sympathy. This is the bit of management I dislike - getting people to do things they really don't want to do.

Zoe Girl
1-5-11, 8:52pm
Hmm, that stinks. I can understand the parent of many children but if it is part of the job then someone had better do it, especially one hour. I work odd hours because I do before and after school care, so that means 6-9 am and 2-6 pm.

Here are my ideas,
* make it rotating on a weekly basis,
* make it rotating with only the 2 people who are not parent of larger families
* pick a name out of a hat, promise to do it again in a certain amount of time
* have everyone stay until 6,

I read an awesome book about thos difficult conversations we often need to have, There was a section on decision making i thought was great. As much as I am a consensus person I agree with the writer that it does not always work for every situation. Sometimes depending on the time length and the agreement of the group you need to just be the boss. I think it is fair to take into consideration everyone's input but make it clear before you start that you will make the necessary decision in the end based on the needs of the company if no one can provide a workable alternative.

The name of the book is Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when stakes are high

1-5-11, 11:11pm
And if I don't get this done (more or less voluntarily), my manager will simply do it for me, and that will be bad for me and bad for my staff (I can guarantee I'm more sympathetic to their work-life balance than my workaholic manager).

Can you present it this way to them collectively -- as a team -- and make it clear that success for all of you depends on working out a solution -- as a team? Get everyone working toward the same collective goal, which is a reasonable work-life balance for everyone, and ensuring that everyone stays on the team and gets the work done that needs to be done?

As someone who understands the "you gotta get the work done" part of my job but wants to defend my personal time pretty fiercely after working for many years in a very dysfunctional environment that didn't respect those boundaries, I can sympathize with your staff's individual reluctance to accept this kind of change, especially if any of them feels they might be forced into it against their will. There might be resentment against the parent with 6 kids because they seem to get more allowances, for examples -- we had discussions about that whole issue at length on the other boards, I recall. It is important that you don't automatically assume that the people with no kids don't have important commitments, too. Maybe someone needs to attend church, community or recovery meetings. Maybe someone has an ill partner or elderly parent they need to care for. Maybe they have important personal goals they are working toward. I would give them time to talk about how they perceive the issue and what their individual concerns are. Just letting them feel that they are being heard might be important, and it could point out some things that aren't immediately obvious about how to address the issue. Collectively brainstorming about how to cover the time needed might give you some alternatives -- for example, could it be done on a day of the week basis (which would allow people to work around their individual schedules more easily), or instead of coming in one hour early could they take a longer break mid-day on the day they are on call?

I am guessing they are probably testing you to a certain degree. Testing your authority, certainly, but also maybe testing the waters to see how you are going to deal with issues like this. If you can start building a sense of teamwork (assuming that the prior work environment hasn't totally destroyed their abilities to work together already) around this issue, it might help all of you to establish that as a pattern for attacking difficult questions in the future.

If they really won't work with you then maybe you need to let them know pretty clearly that in the current market you would not have trouble finding other employees who would be wiling to work the required hours. I wouldn't play that card until absolutely necessary, though. Even if it gets them to cooperate, it is going to put tension into the relationship that may be difficult to overcome.


iris lily
1-5-11, 11:50pm
You know, most reasonable employees just wish you (the general "you") would make a managerial decision and stick to it.

"Consensus building" and the like is nice, especially when approaching detailed problem solving when each employee has insight and can bring a suggestion to the table.

But when it is this simple--you know the problem, you know the solution and so do they and they don't "want" to do the thing that is the solution--you simply have to assign work coverage during the needed hours. End of story.

1-6-11, 12:56am
You could go by seniority if everybody is going to cross their arms and shake their heads. I use the rotation solution. I post the blocks of time in advance and folks sign up for them. If nobody has signed up by the last minute it goes to the low man on the totem pole.
Having children taken into consideration comes from posting it in advance so they can make arrangements. Kids or no kids, everybody has a private life that is important.

1-6-11, 8:03am
Get the team together, lay out the problem as succinctly as you just did, and then offer the team a choice:
1) you'll assign people to the work on some basis which attempts to be fair, but probably won't be
2) they can plan their schedules individually to cover the hour needed. If they can't keep this option working, you'll fall back to 1.
Either way, the work has to get done; the *work* is not optional. How they respond to it as a team is optional.

If they really just want you to assign the work, well so be it.

1-6-11, 12:39pm
Having children taken into consideration comes from posting it in advance so they can make arrangements. Kids or no kids, everybody has a private life that is important.

The one thing that will definitely breed resentment is if the person with 6 kids is given "special" consideration. So that is the one way I would definitely not handle this! "Why do they get to go home early and I have to stay an hour later, when they are in the same pay grade as me" (they may or may not *actually* earn the same pay, but as that info is kept secret ....). "Oh because they couldn't figure out how to use birth control, well excuse me for actually planning my procreation ....."

Really don't go down that road. You don't know who might have elderly parents they are taking care of or whatever in addition to work (you merely know that they aren't using their elderly parents as a bargaining chip to try to get out of working more).

The Storyteller
1-6-11, 1:41pm
I have been managing people most of my adult life. I would say that as long as you know you are being fair, and you believe it is necessary to accomplish the mission, just make the decision you need to make and stick to it. I would encourage you to do get their input and seriously consider it, and then give them ample notice prior to changes, but do the changes all the same.

When I was promoted to my current position over previous equals who had been here considerably longer than I had, the changes I implemented were not well taken by any of them at first. I had one staff member slamming things on her desk and practically cursing when I changed our work area setup, setting her desk in a nonpublic area so she could have some off desk time. Within 6 months that same employee would whine when she couldn't get enough off-desk time.

As to clock watchers who are exempt employees, those people get under my skin. As long as you are giving them the perks of exemption (and you should), you should be expect them to put in overtime when needed. Clock watching was another thing quickly killed in this department when I came on board.

I can tell you from years of experience, you will never make everyone happy, and sometimes you will make nobody happy, but that's why you get paid the big bucks. Sometimes it is lonely at the top.

1-6-11, 2:29pm
When we hire people we let them know up front that it is shift work. At one point or another they will work all the shifts. 24/7 means you will work holidays and shift minimums means that overtime and shift adjustments are going to happen. They all say they understand it and then seem to think it isn't going to really happen to them. Although I am sympathetic to home responsibilities it is what the job requires. We give as much advance notice as we can but you are going to have to have a plan B because you may be scheduled to come in at 7am but get a call at midnight to be in at 4am.
When I started I was single with a cat. Then I was a single mother and now I'm married. I take care of my son and my parents but when duty calls there is always a plan B. If you can't respond to the requirements of the job then it isn't the job for you.

1-6-11, 6:03pm
I also advise against giving some of them special treatment because of family size. This is the kind of thing that almost always breeds resentment. Give a reward to the person willing to take on this new schedule. Money, extra time off, title change, etc. I know I would jump at the money or the extra time off.

1-6-11, 6:19pm
Is there any fat in the budget at all? You might get a bit less flak about an hour of overtime than simply insisting people upheave Both ends of their day. I too would rotate that extra hour without preference, but with the option of trading - if person A wants the extra hour of overtime and person B doesn't, let em work it out between themselves (but if it's person B's turn and no one wants it, then they're stuck).

1-7-11, 5:48pm
I agree with Iris Lily and Jonathan. If you're in charge, BE in charge, or people will be walking all over you. I also agree that showing any favoritism to the person with six children would create resentment. I've been married twice but never had kids because I didn't want any, and I would really be ticked off if I was forced to work hours I didn't like to cover for someone who chose to have lots of them.

Anne Lee
1-8-11, 10:25am
I doubt you are going to get any volunteers to raise their hands unless there is money involved since in their minds "this is not what they signed up for". In fact, I can even hear one of them posting on this board about the change in work requirements and everyone telling them to make an exit plan.

Tell them they have a week to come up with a rotating schedule - be clear that you will not be responsible for making sure shifts are covered. If they don't or won't, then pick someone based on some criteria other than whether they have long term, personal commitments such as children or elderly parents. Seniority is probably the least offensive and will get you the least amount of pushback since everyone knows it all rolls downhill in the workforce. But don't tell them that.

The Storyteller
1-8-11, 11:16am
Been thinking about the particular problem and here is what I would do.

First, I would include myself in any scheduling rotation. That is a sign of leadership. I don't believe in asking anyone to do anything I wouldn't be willing to do myself. If you put yourself into it, you also have a stronger argument to make everyone else do it

Second, I would set it up as a rotation. It could either be a daily rotation or weekly. In other words, set each employee up to work the late shift (a whole one hour late) the same day each week. They can always switch off when someone has something that comes up.

Another sort of scheduling is schedule a person an entire week, and rotate that.

As to taking into account people's personal lives when scheduling, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. Being sensitive to those needs is the sign of a good manager, whether those needs be based on family, religion, the singles scene or whatever else, as long as you are willing to do it for everyone and not just those with children. I give one Muslim employee a split shift on Fridays so he can go to prayer, another assists in baby sitting for her grand child so is scheduled accordingly, and still another has night blindness problems and prefers not to have to drive out into her country home at night. Employees appreciate gestures like that. Anyone should. It also allows me to keep very good employees when difficulties arise, which saves time and money in training.

1-8-11, 3:55pm
Thanks everyone for your input. I really appreciate the different viewpoints and advice.

Ironically the one person who is willing to meet me halfway is the one with six kids ("hey, my wife doesn't work Thursday or Friday nights, so I can work late then. Not a problem.") The other two are both married, no kids, but as a child-free person myself I know that doesn't mean "no obligations". I don't see the need to formally put myself into the rotation as I already work 8.30 - 6.30 (and beyond) and am on call 24/7.

I was thinking of simply telling the team as a whole to find a way to cover the extra hour and to do it however they want, as long as it's fair. The deadline for them to do that is two weeks prior to the time our (as yet unhired) fourth person starts. And if they can't figure it out then I'll simply assign days to each person. I am more than willing to take into account people's personal lives, but I am not willing to accommodate someone's insistence that they must go to a Zumba class that starts at 6pm five days a week. Or someone's desire to go to the opera while on call (sorry, but we have a 1/2 hour response time, so a 3 hour opera is not going to be part of your on-call weekend). I had also thought of the rotation idea, probably the same days each week for each person so they can plan. And going by seniority is also an option.

IL - I think one of the major problems I face with this team is that they don't perceive a problem. So I'm trying to implement a solution to a problem they don't even admit exists. I've made a decision - cover this hour. I'm trying to give them the freedom to determine how to do that themselves. So I guess I'll just have to lay it out again that they can either figure it out themselves or I'll arbitrarily do it for them.

OK, done ranting. :)