At the Heart of People Skills

October 8, 2007 at 10:14 am 1 comment

Consider these situations;

• One afternoon three people, out of a remaining staff of five, hand in their resignations. The resumes of the other two employees are already in circulation.

• An employee who used to be reliable, pleasant and productive is now missing deadlines, surly and doing the least amount of work possible without getting fired.

• An individual, who was once creative and innovative at every opportunity, now never offers an opinion or an idea.

In each case, the manager has no idea what is going on. That ignorance of cause, won’t stop the managers from taking action:

• The manager will complain that employees have no loyalty. He will come to the conclusion that good help is hard to find and isn’t looking forward to the cost and effort necessary to replace the three departees.

• As soon as he can, he’ll find a reason to fire the individual in question. His reasoning is simple, “We’re responsible for our own attitude” and “bad attitude can’t be tolerated in any organization.”

• He expects that this individual will progress beyond silence, into full fledged bad attitude. He begins to document why he’s forced to terminate the employee.

The sad reality is that these are all real life examples, and the managers in question were directly responsible for their own pain.

Here are the three causes; they share a common theme “Poor People Skills”;

• The employees had worked on a priority project for two months. They worked 10-12 hours everyday, including weekends, ultimately the project was a success. At the end of the project they were given one day off, and then one of the employees was ‘let go’ for financial reasons.

• Management made a promise to the individual that when a particular position opened up, they would promote that individual. The position went to an external hire.

• Credit for an idea offered to the company and adopted with great enthusiasm and success, went to the manager. He never mentioned the employee’s role in the process.

If these situations, and their many variations, weren’t so common, they wouldn’t attract attention. Yet, they are common and even though no reader of this article will admit to being guilty of these offences… they’re worth discussing as a symptom of a management failing.

We know that if we impose on people, then we should go out of our way to compensate them. If we don’t, since people don’t like being taken advantage of, they’ll leave at the first opportunity. The best leave first.

We’ve known since kindergarten that a promise is a promise and going back on our word, results in dire consequences. People are trusting until we prove to them their trust is undeserved.

We know, because we don’t like it being done to us that we shouldn’t take credit for work done by others. Theft of credit is considered a crime by all except the courts.

Why then do we choose to treat people this way? More to the point, why don’t we understand that treating people unfairly inevitably works against us?

I suspect, but cannot prove, that the answer is embarrassingly simple. Managers don’t really perceive their staff as “People”, they’re merely “Resources” which are deployed like machines to accomplish tasks. The fact that most companies have a Human “Resources” department, lends some credence to this suspicion.

If we accept the proposition that managers don’t think of their staff as people, that would explain some of the reasons justifying working people until they drop, breaking promises and treating their effort as if it was our own.

That’s a ludicrous proposition of course. I’m not aware of any manager, even those guilty in the above situations, who would admit to treating their people as “resources” and not as people.

Yet… despite their denials, the actions described make sense only if we assume managers perceive their people as nothing more than machines.

Is there a solution? There isn’t a reader of this article who doesn’t know what the answer is… treat people as people. A simple, obvious solution, begging the question… why don’t we do that?


Entry filed under: Change Management, Communications, Leaders, Leadership, Management, Managing, People Sklls, Problem Solving, Soft Skills.

Expanding Cogito Ergo Sum Confessions of a Change Inflictor

1 Comment Add your own

  • […] technobility wrote a fantastic post today on “At the Heart of People Skills”Here’s ONLY a quick extractConsider these situations; • One afternoon three people, out of a remaining staff of five, hand in their resignations. The resumes of the other two employees are already in circulation. • An employee who used to be reliable, … […]


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