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Beware Managers Bearing Gifts

January 31, 2012
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I have been laid low.  Some sort of cryptosperidian-esque illness or something that has just knocked me out for several weeks.  Other than going to work and the doctor’s office, I’ve barely been out and about in public because all I want to do is sleep.  One good thing?  It brought to mind this old story….

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Early on in my career job history I had a super glamorous job as an office assistant/receptionist at a staffing agency.  It actually was a pretty fun gig and was my first leap into HR and recruiting.  We were the satellite office of a larger entity and the staff was comprised of a temp-side recruiter, 2 Sales Managers, 4 recruiters on the “perm” side, and myself.  We had a new-fangled fax machine, kept our client information on index cards (it was my job to keep them organized), and usually had a box-of-wine chilling in the refrigerator at all times.  The recruiters ran their desks with precision, phones rang off the hook, fools were not suffered, and ashtrays overflowed.  We rocked and rolled at that office.

One day the owner decided that it was time to add a Branch Manager to the mix so into this happy little group strolled a beaming ray of sunshine named Suzi.  With an “i.”  She was freshly scrubbed and perky and arrived with a few years experience under her belt working in staffing and sales.  She held some sort of degree in business but this was her first job as a manager-of-people and other than me, she was by far the youngest one in the office.  But wow was she earnest.  For which none of us blamed her – after all, she had been given some pretty deep responsibilities and took her role seriously. 

And, as newly minted managers often do, she worked hard to find her way and define her style.  She said she wanted to give us autonomy and let us run our ship as we had done, but she also believed that being the manager meant crafting rules and policies and procedures.  Suddenly we had charts and processes and more charts and more processes.   Her need to know what was going on (certainly valid) turned into micro-managing and approving every little item.  We had to sign in/out for lunch.  She questioned every move we made and made us feel as if, well, she didn’t trust us to do our jobs.

And then one day I was sick.  Laid low.  It was a sinus/sneezing/head cold sort of thing with all the accompanying chills and fevers.  The ability to navigate in an automobile let alone sit in the office and answer phone calls, process job applicants and administer typing tests on the IBM Selectric was just not in the realm of human possibility.  So I called Suzi and told her I need to take a sick day and stay home and sleep.

Which I did.

Until about 2 PM when my doorbell rang.

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I looked out onto the front porch and there stood Suzi, bearing a giant gift basket filled with tins of cookies and cheese and crackers and all sorts of things which, at that particular moment, made my stomach churn at the mere thought.  I contemplated letting her stand there but remembered she was my boss.  Sigh.  So with my flyaway bed-hair and in my best flannel pajamas and well-worn bathrobe with wadded up Kleenex oozing out of the pockets, I opened the door and ushered her inside.  As she clucked and cooed and told me how she hoped I was feeling better, a knot of cynicism festered deep in my gut.   She really wasn’t stopping by to see if I needed anything – she was checking up on me.  Her lack of trust in her employees not only manifested itself in a variety of ways in the office – it trickled over and invaded our home life.  To the point where the woman got in her car, stopped off at the Swiss Colony kiosk at the mall, and drove 20 minutes to my home to make sure I was really and truly sick.

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Almost twenty-five years later this still rankles. 

I sure hope Suzi (with an “i”) has had a meaningful and successful career. 

And I sure hope she learned to stop doing this kind of crap.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura Wolfe - Cultivate Coaching and Consulting permalink
    January 31, 2012 9:41 am

    Bummer to hear you have been feeling puny Robin.

  2. February 4, 2012 6:49 am

    I hope you’re feeling better … And I hope Suzi with an I has stopped this.

    Employees know when a managers concern is sincere versus double checking or setting them up. It does everyone a disservice and could get a manager in more trouble than just allowing the situation to play out. Managers should be focused on work product and results. The rest will fall into place.

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