Passing the Buck

I am talking to a consultant who was hired to help an organization convert their Customer Relation Management system (CRM). Everything went well. About 90 days after the conversion they called him back and asked him to work with one of their employees who was just having a hard time with the system.

They said, “Steve is a valuable employee. He has been with us for more than twenty years. We really want him to get on board”.

The consultant sat with Steve for two weeks. When he came in on the third Monday Steve had had enough; he quit. The Consultant though “Oh #@%$^”. Sure enough when he was called to the executive office’s there they were. He said, “I am so sorry, I know Steve was important, I was taking my time…” The CEO interrupted and said, “We’re thrilled, we were hoping he would quit.”

Does anyone else notice the disconnect in this dialog? Let’s pick a few areas:
–    Honesty (or lack thereof)
–    Transparency (or not)
–    Clarity of communication
–    Cowardice

We all hear stories like this playing out every day in the workplace. Someone isn’t playing nice but because the manager is afraid of the fall out, they pass the buck to a consultant. The end result is Steve moves on thinking he has done nothing wrong and another employer hires Steve.

What would happen if instead, Steve’s manager was clear from the start with expectations surrounding the conversion, the learning curve and the attitudes? Why does this kind of dishonesty take place?

I think it is because some managers are not really meant to be managers. I used the word cowardice earlier. That may be strong. But one of the most important duties of a leader is to be clear with expectations and communications. If I am not performing to expectations, it needs to be front and center of the conversation.

That doesn’t mean it has to be contentious but it does need to be clear, direct and no misunderstanding. There are livelihoods at stake.

I would like to tell you that I have never been asked to leave a position. There was a time when things just did not work out. I didn’t believe, the culture didn’t fit and neither party was experiencing success. There were no secrets leading up to the separation. There were no conflicts, raised voices or any of that other stuff that scares a manager. Rather my boss was very clear from the beginning with expectations, where I was in relation to them and he offered support where possible to help me close that gap. There were no surprises.

Contrast that to a boss that asked me to “mentor” two senior sales people that were not working out for him. I had no authority but was supposed to ride with and coach these guys. They quit within 60-days. My boss said that he had expected that.

Have you had a boss that was less than clear in their expectations for you? How did that feel?

Do your employees deserve any less?

One Comment:

  1. Hi John,
    I wish we could pretend that this was somehow unusual, but you know that it is not. Too many managers are unprepared for the most important part of their new role, leading the people. Leadership is important at all levels of the organization. At the levels described here, it’s not about a lofty vision of the future but about being able to have those difficult conversations that are so necessary as a manager.

    For leaders at all levels of the organization I really recommend communication and coaching courses to help make those conversations more manageable.

    Thanks for a thought provoking article.


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