Our CRM was showing dated and inaccurate information on our financials. The sales head flagged it to the CFO. The CFO promptly wrote an e-mail cc-ing all of us titled “Bandwidth crunch”. The gist of his message was that our attrition was high and we were unable to find replacements in time.
Rather than holding him accountable, he was asking us to sympathise with him. The lack of people was a constant refrain with him. If it was not attrition, then the excuse was that people were calling sick frequently when there were tight deadlines. Now, imagine if in a team sport like cricket if the coach or captain blamed a loss on the fact that a key player was unavailable. Would that be acceptable?
Warner and Cummins
Sports teams have an advantage; replacements are immediately available when their members are injured or unavailable for personal reasons. The current visiting Australian cricket team may miss David Warner, and also captain Pat Cummins who is out of the third test, but there are ready replacements. By contrast, how would you manage office work if your key members go on extended sick leave frequently? Beyond a point, productivity would suffer. As a manager or leader, would you make an excuse that your team members were unavailable, hence the work suffered?
But there are some who stretch personal/health struggles to the extent that it not only affects their work but also appears as a shield for lack of effort or delivering results. Therefore, it’s time to examine how our personal context hurts organisational performance. Life is not always kind, and we go through various challenges, ranging from health to relationships, that can adversely affect our work. All these get accentuated in the remote working world where our home is the new workspace.
Pressure on Bosses
Many of our bosses can’t relate to this struggle beyond a point as the organisation deliverables get compromised due to extended empathy. Some managers try offering long breaks, flexibility in working mode, more resources, extended WFH and financial aid, though patience is stretched beyond a point.
Often, when managers take two steps back, it affects the team’s performance. As they provide more time to their team (if they really trust their colleagues), they also struggle to bring in the performance they have committed to their supervisors.
A recent study by Microsoft said that 87 per cent of employees surveyed feel they are productive at work and only 12 per cent of the leaders said they have complete confidence that their team is productive. The extended remote work over the last three years has further decreased this trust between managers and their teams. Some of these trust issues stem from trivial incidents around the timing and frequency of leave or the current confusing hybrid mandate.
I remember years ago, when we called a manager to report sick, we would simulate a groggy voice. Some of us would ask our best friend or family member to call the boss to demonstrate that we couldn’t even get to the phone. Imagine in today’s world you logging on to a Zoom call with your manager with your video on, showing that you are unwell.
I don’t know why our managers end up embarrassing us, but the obvious reason seems to be a lack of trust. This mistrust could have developed due to:
* A small percentage of employees violating the psychological pact at work or stretching the benevolence of the managers
*Your frequency of sick leaves during Mondays and Fridays or when you are put under pressure for critical deliverables
*Perhaps the manager himself used the ‘sick leave’ hack during his junior days.
Trust issues linger throughout our careers due to various baggage we carry. Often, managers tend to ignore these personal contexts due to the pressure of the organisation and the demands of their roles or even trust issues.
But then, you might also feel your boss is heartless as they are not empathising with you enough; you end up thinking there is no trust!
One of the toughest challenges I have faced in my professional life is managing the trust.
I wish, like sports; we could hold ourselves more accountable for our results than bringing our personal challenges every time we miss our commitments!
Kamal Karanth is Co-Founder of specialist staffing firm Xpheno.