Managers: Drive out fear—one thing you can do this week
My wife has started a new job recently. Like many people, it involves working in a cubicle interacting with customers primarily by telephone or email. Even though she works in a large office setting, she is by herself for the most part and doesn’t see her boss in person very often except for a short weekly meeting. Most of their conversation between those times is via email only.
A recent customer issue she was working on was something new she hadn’t done before. She did her best to figure it out but couldn’t come up with a solution that satisfied the customer. In the end, the customer spoke those dreaded words, “Can I speak with your manager?” Maybe that was best, my wife thought to herself, and so she transferred the call to her manager’s voice mail. She also sent her boss an email documenting some of the supporting information. Maybe her boss would have some additional resources or ideas on how to handle the situation.
The next morning my wife had an email waiting for her from her manager. Her manager had sent the customer issue back to my wife with the reply, “Didn’t you see the recent company memo regarding the procedure for escalating customer service calls?”
A pretty standard (if slightly cryptic) type of response that goes out from bosses thousands of times each work day. A simple reminder to review some earlier policy memo detailing the steps for handling situations like this.
Off to the races
“What did this mean?” my wife thought to herself. “What was her manager trying to say?” She had seen the memo and it described how to evaluate and escalate calls to supervisors when necessary. She felt she had followed the procedure. She reread the memo, looking for details she might have missed.
By the time she talked to me about it that evening after work, the issue had escalated in her mind. “Why do they make this so hard?” she asked me. “Can’t they see I’m just trying to help the customer?”
“Maybe I’m not a good fit for this company,” she finally told me. “This just isn’t the way that I work.”
“Have you talked to your manager?” I asked.
“I sent her a second email, but I haven’t heard back yet.”
“Okay, let’s wait and see what she says before we get too far ahead of ourselves,” I responded. “Give me a call when you find out.”
I never did get that call, so at dinner that night I asked how it was going.
“Oh, that’s all set,” my wife replied. “My manager stopped by and we talked about it.”
Managing By Wandering Around
Time is a precious commodity at work these days. Everyone has a lot on their plate. Still, managers can do a lot of good for their organizations by occasionally getting out of their offices for a little stroll. In addition to regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings, check in with the people who report to you at least one other time each week by stopping by their desk, checking in with them via telephone, or just making yourself accessible.
Don’t let small things blow up into big things. Nip them in the bud and make it easy for people to get back to work. It will make your company more productive and it will increase your connection with your people too!