I live and work in a third-world country. I got scholarships and completed a master’s degree in business and computer science and have an excellent, high-paying job. I have built a strong team of people who work for me. My problem isn’t them, it is the culture we work in.
Many of my employees are very late or miss work completely because the public transportation system is terrible. When it rains, buses get stuck in mud and many of my people don’t even try to get in. One very dependable woman always got to work because she rode a bicycle, but someone stole it so now she walks the six miles to work. The people who have cars often must lend them to family members or must save up to have them fixed. I have tried to set things up so that my employees can work remotely, but the internet is often spotty or nonexistent.
I keep setting goals that I think I should be able to meet, but I can’t seem to make any headway with employees who often can’t get to work. My boss understands the situation, of course—everyone has the same problem. But nobody seems to care much about doing anything to fix it. I was wondering what you would say.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Dear One Step Forward, Two Steps Back,
I very much appreciate that you asked, and I wish I had a magic wand for you. I can hear your frustration; it sounds like you are swimming upstream. My question is: do you care about doing something to fix it?
As with any deep frustration, you have three choices:
- You can decide to do something and act.
For example, you could gather your team (on a good day with no rain) to brainstorm possible solutions. You might lobby to have your company provide transportation for its employees or pay for upgraded, more reliable internet service so your people can work remotely when needed. If your boss doesn’t care about your inability to achieve your goals, this might be tricky. It sounds like he might be resigned to the status quo. If you try some creative problem solving with your team and your boss, perhaps convince your company to make some investments, you might be able to affect some improvements.
2. You can choose to do nothing and accept things as they are.
This is a legitimate choice. Ultimately, you must discern what is within your control and what is not. Then choose how to respond to the inconveniences and vexations that arise.
3. You can leave the situation.
You can look for another job that would not require you to depend on people who can’t get to work. It sounds like the issue is widespread and you like your job, so this may not be a solution for you.
I encourage you to do anything you can to improve the chances of your people being able to do their jobs. Then keep your plans flexible and let the rest go.
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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