Helping supervisors and managers has turned out to be pretty direct and straightforward, especially compared to the more complex cases involving mental illness, addiction, and multiple, intense emotional encounters that marked the early part of my career.
The practical, “here and now” nature of workplace problems, along with the pragmatic focus managers must have when dealing with situations on their plate now, means there’s a mutually beneficial tendency to get to the heart of the matter. It helps to have a specific, actual work product, with money invested in outcomes, requiring adequate job performance all around.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the actual human condition magically disappears from the workplace, or that emotional intensity, addiction, and mental illness are somehow banished from the workplace. But the need to be clear-eyed about the mission of the organization, and to address problems and difficulties, obligates and incentivizes getting on top of things, resolving problems as quickly, and as well, as possible.
That’s why I found workplace “problems” not that complicated, and managers pretty well motivated to dialogue about getting on top of those problems. Even in “employment at will” situations, when a manager could simply get rid of someone they identified as a problem, almost never was that the first option. Most organizations have policies around performance issues and discipline for good reasons. Being arbitrary and capricious generate their own problems, and are seldom part of any healthy workplace culture.
Often, a manager might ventilate his or her frustrations about the situation, but then on their own show that they really already knew, without much coaching from me, what needed to happen from here forward. It mostly ended up that conversations – crucial communication – needed to occur at the workplace directly with the employees regarding the problem at hand, and that the role of manager evokes competent managerial behavior.
Needless to say, consultation with, and support from, “above” helps a lot. Most often it’s there. But sometimes it isn’t, and that’s where things can get sticky. And that’s also where, fortunately, I’ve been able to be helpful.