What DOES your staff say about you?
Updated: Oct 22, 2021
Credit: Anita Kunz
Recently, I was following up on a take-away from an earlier meeting with a colleague. As I approached my colleague’s department, I saw him with the co-workers from his group around the proverbial “water cooler” shooting the breeze. Someone saw me coming and mentioned to him that I was fast approaching them. He suddenly turned around and said, “We were just talking about you.”
I heard his comment, but at that moment his disclosure of their conversation went in one ear and out the other ear. I was so focused on closing out an issue we have been working on together that I ignored his statement and launched both of us into brainstorming a practicable resolution to satisfy a client’s needs.
As I was driving home, I was thinking of his remark. I never asked if the discussion they were having about me was good or bad, or even the nature of the conversation. To me, it did not matter whether it was good or bad. I am comfortable with who I am professionally and the quality of my work. Moreover, I have long realized that people will say good or bad things about you depending on whether or not they like you or their mood at the moment they speak about you.
I have seen “BFF’s” tout the immeasurable qualities and profess undying loyalty of each other to the working world… until one gets a promotion over the other. I have witnessed an associate “diss” his work and drink buddy to another person simply because he did not help him with a project that was due that day or week, even though his buddy had his own deadline to meet.
Most people spend anywhere from a third to half their waking day with their co-workers. They form friendships, relationships and most certainly opinions of their colleagues. It is human nature to talk about the people they work with. This is your office grapevine.
While the “grapevine” can serve its purpose as a tool for management in gauging staff reaction to their past or intended pronouncements, it is more importantly a good indicator of one’s leadership and their effectiveness.  Too often the grapevine is ignored by people in management positions as just idle office gossip when it could help them in gauging their leadership behavior.
My door was and is always open for those who feel the need to express their thoughts and concerns about their work, their boss, their professional future, their personal lives, the company’s future, etc. I was honored that many walked through my door seeking professional advice even during their venting of frustrations with their boss. It is in their venting that I was often exposed to the “grapevines”.
I have heard many things said about the people in supervisory and management positions by colleagues and staff. For purposes of context, the people I speak of are hard workers, who take pride in their work, care about their professions, their colleagues and want both the company and their colleagues to succeed. Below, are some of those comments:
Credit: Mike Reed
They do not have a clue of what is going on.
They provide no guidance or direction.
They play favorites.
They lied to me; they did not keep their promise(s).
They say to do one thing and they do the opposite.
The place is too political. I am not part of the inner circle, “in-group.”
Why do they not see who is working and who is not?
I am tired of doing other people’s work and they get the credit.
My boss does not listen to ideas, recommendations, etc.
They encourage this behavior because they do nothing about it.
They do not communicate well…. you never know what is going on.
They reap the rewards of our hard work.
They waste so much money on consultants, unimportant things instead of giving it to the employees.
They are never around.
This leads back to my previous post on “What Good Leaders Always Knew”. Your philosophy must be “It’s Not About Me." As you focus on the clients, the company and more importantly your employees, I find practicing the following tenets helpful in building a strong, cohesive and dedicated team:
Be real, be open and be honest.
As cliché as this saying is, “leading by example”, your work ethic, your behavior, your attitude and demeanor should be principled and professional.
You must walk the walk, not just talk the talk, so avoid the “isms” (cronyism, favoritism, sexism, chauvinism, antagonism, criticism, etc.)
Get out of your office and see what is going on out there with your staff.
If you are short-staffed, a big project needs to get done, or simply to help out, “roll-up” your sleeves and get involved.
Spend a few minutes each day talking, connecting, with your employees. All have lives outside of the office.
If necessary sacrifice your time to help other managers/department heads or employees from other areas, even if it forces you to work later that day.
Be a coach/mentor to your employees or staff. Find out about what is driving them, what are their goals, aspirations and help them to achieve those goals by working with them. You will understand them better.
Create a positive, enriching environment that your people will want to come to on a daily basis.
Eliminate office "politics." Do not "over-promise."
Listen to what your people say about the operations, the clients, etc., hear them, ruminate, brainstorm, have fun with the creativity and it will pay off.
Have a cerebral file of good clean “Dixie cup” type jokes and use them to relieve stress and tension.
Reward and honor them for all their hard work, even if it comes out of your own pocket.
If you have any additional ones, please share them with us.
Thanks for stopping by.