Monday, December 20, 2010

Manager of the Year

This year, Manager of the Year was decided by employee vote. One manager was slighted by not being included on the ballot. One name on the ballot was not technically a manager. Most employees did not even receive a ballot, and only those employees with company email accounts were ever aware of the voting arrangement. But that is typical method of operation at our workplace. The whole thing being a popularity contest--and poorly orchestrated at that--destroyed any honor that might have otherwise been assigned to the award. Bottom line: no one cared about winning. No one except for my boss who daily finds reasons to remind her staff that she is their boss as if they haven’t known the fact for years. She is anxiously awaiting the results of the vote, which much to her dismay would not be announced until the employee meeting. And she had scheduled a vacation day on the day of the meeting. When her best friend, who is the HR manager insisted that she attend the company meeting even though it fell on her day off, she began to expect to receive the award. (I’m sure her ego had convinced her that she deserved it long before her friend ever hinted at the idea.) Well, another well-liked manager, who was recovering from back surgery, was also emphatically encouraged to attend in his delicate condition, he also expected to receive the award. When the award was presented to a manager that had been hired only 7 months ago, my boss turned beet-red. Rage shown in her eyes (she despises new people, especially capable ones), and she slid from a standing position against the wall, into a sitting position on the floor. She stayed slumped there on the floor with her jaw dropped and eyes wide for several minutes before she could compose herself. In fact, it was some time after his acceptance speech before she could be coaxed up off of the floor. The girls on her staff darted glances at each other and then low giggles and comments. None of them had voted for her.

The next day, a coworker complained about the choice for manager of the year. He thought the man with the back problems should have won because of his seniority. I argued that the award ought to go to someone who could point to tangible accomplishments specific to this year’s business. I pointed out that the recipient had saved the company thousands of dollars by getting to the bottom of an issue with the facility that his predecessors had ignored for years. The man clung to his original argument, insisting that manager of the YEAR shouldn’t go to someone who had served less than a year with the company. I said, "the man accomplished more in 7 months than all of the others did in a whole year." Then he told me how several people from that department wanted to honor the senior manager’s assistant, so they staged a write in vote for her instead of casting their votes for him. I asked, "what does that say about a manager whose employees would rather waste their vote on someone who would be disqualified rather than vote for their own manager?"

What I found most interesting is that the man who did win is not the nice manager who tries to be everyone’s buddy, and it was not one who has been their the longest, or even the one with the most responsibility. It was the military man, highly organized, exacting, demanding, who runs a tight ship and holds everyone to a lofty standard. He is universally hated by all other managers because he shows up their complacency. I would have expected the majority of employees to prefer the complacent, lazy managers who cut corners and allow slacking, but I was wrong. I hope this sends a message to the other managers that we expect them to push us to succeed.

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