Article > Opinion

Where Your Manager Is Coming From

By Gerald Wheelus

Gerald Wheelus
Don’t forget! Managers are people, too!

Managers face many issues within a day and many of them are beyond our control. We deal with so many different personalities each and every day and we have to learn to keep our emotions and negative tendencies in check. Because we managers are people, too, we try to avoid confrontation with those we supervise.

Some employees spot a weakness and use it against us. Not all of them are this way though — many of them think they’re doing a great job and in most cases they are, but they have tendencies that need to be addressed.

Managers have families; we have emotions; we have compassion; we have forgiveness and we often have too much understanding with our subordinates. The understanding that we have to embrace our fellow employees, co-workers and/or subordinates can cloud our judgment when it comes to being completely honest. Believe me, almost never will you find a manager who looks forward to disciplining someone.

However, it does not have to be a great ordeal for us to offer constructive criticism. And it does not have to be a negative event each time something is in need of correcting. Let’s consider why some people become managers.

We have earned the right and responsibility to offer constructive criticism. It is our job to train and offer each employee the ability to grow in our organization. Some of us have been in the business a lifetime and earned that right; others have worked hard to learn all they could and took all the training they could. What does it take to be a manager?

Be the Leader: It is hard to be a leader if you are one who leads by the “do as I say not as I do method.” Leaders almost all have to lead by example. No manager is perfect and will make mistakes. But consistent leadership will rarely make the same mistakes over and over. And when they are wrong, they will most likely be the first to notice. In most cases, they know they made a mistake, and therefore  are already prepared for possible disciplinary action. Therefore, rather than again pointing out the error, be the leader and let them know how to fix it and how to avoid making the mistake again in the future.

Be in Control: Sometimes the mistake made can be simple and other times, it can be very complicated. Either way, mistakes are a part of life. We all make them. Yet often, they are habitual, detrimental, insubordinate and/or disrespectful and thus require more attention. Even simple disciplinary actions need documentation and those situations can be difficult. However, we need to leave the emotion out of it and keep it simple and to the point. It makes no difference how insanely inept the mistake was, we have to leave the emotion out of it. Being in control means that we keep the emotion out of it and remind them that we care about them as a person and it has nothing to do with how we view them as a person, only about the incident in question. We remind them we would like to address it to be sure it does not happen again. Once the point is made, keep it simple and to the point and end it in a positive manner.

Finish Positively: Being positive should be part of life, especially in the auto parts business. Finishing a discussion positively — any discussion — is the most important part of the constructive criticism process. First, we have to address the issue in detail. Second, we have to keep it to the point and keep the emotion out of it, then let the person know it is not about whether they are a good person or not, it is about the mistake made.

Then finally, it’s about moving forward. We remind the employee they are a valuable part of the team or that they are important to all our customers. However, most everyone who has written or discussed or is considered an expert in the field of employees discipline conclude that leaving a constructive criticism meeting, disciplinary meeting or a simple evaluation should be done so in a positive manner. The only exception to this rule is when the end result is termination and even then it can end positive if everyone can be mature adults about the situation.

Many will say it is easier said than done and that is very true. Being a manager is a difficult task. The more people you supervise, the harder it becomes and all will agree that there is not a one-size-fits-all for every problem we face.
Gerald Wheelus is general manager of Edgewood Auto Parts, Edgewood, Texas.

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