Being Up Front

Does anyone you know enjoy being lied to?  I suppose there are the harmless lies you hear such as “you look great today” when you really don’t or the benign praise heaped on a host’s tasteless food.  But I’m not thinking about those.  Instead, I’m thinking about the destructive lies told in business, particularly the ones that involve managing people.  Let me tell you what I mean.

Sometimes I would have job openings in my department and very often I would fill those openings from within.  If you’re doing your job properly as a manager, you should be preparing your staff to step up to the next level.  However, despite your best efforts, sometimes a candidate just isn’t ready to fill the open job. Sometimes it’s timing (they don’t have the experience yet), sometimes it’s skill set (they’re really introverted and the position requires an extrovert). That’s fine – there will be other openings. What you can’t do, however, is lie to them or, much worse, say nothing.

If someone is not going to get the job, tell them up front.  I can’t say it any more simply.  Don’t put them through the interview process, don’t let them think they have a chance.  Sit them down, however uncomfortable that is, and let them know why this time they’re not right for the job.  It’s a great opportunity to build trust, help a subordinate think about their career path, and improve the organization overall since the fact that you were upfront and honest will spread.

I know of places where people hear of openings in their own department only after the jobs are posted.  Sometimes those postings go up well after the hiring manager already knows who they’re bringing in (and don’t think that doesn’t happen much of the time, kids).  That’s just poisonous.

“What can you do, that’s just how this place is,” I hear you thinking.  You’re so wrong.  If each manager would step up and behave correctly, it would stop.  That’s the problem – people blame “the place” – there is no “place.”  There is you and you fellow mangers.  With authority should come responsibility.   If the entire organizational culture isn’t supportive, is treacherous, and poisoned, what kind of folks are going to want to work there?  Maybe only those who fit that description?


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