Corporate E-Learning
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Chain Letters from the Boss - cont'd

Dealing with a conflict with the boss is not easy and there is NO ONE solution. Different circumstances call for different approach.

Another thing I need to make clear is that the solution suggested below is from the point of view of human resources. It is more about improving whole organisation rather than solving the grief experienced by any particular person.

When there is a conflict between a senior executive with a lower level manager/worker or a breach of policy by a senior executive, it is easy, from HR's angle, to lean towards the senior executive, or do nothing. The post yesterday described a situation in which OneShoe's HR department seemed to have chosen the "strategy of doing nothing".

In the case described yesterday, HR cannot claim ignorance. The chain letters originated from the CFO must have included HR department, if not, it will soon arrive at some HR staff inbox anyway.

Chain letter of this kind also falls into the category of "crime without obvious victim" and hence HR cannot expect any formal complaint from anyone. OneShoe, as the Network Admin, felt annoyed. However, it is also pointed out in the first post that OneShoe has no desire to make a major issue of this.

Choosing the "doing nothing strategy" is like burying one's head in the sand and hope that the storm will move away and things will get back to normal. In some situations, this is exactly the best strategy.

The "doing nothing strategy" also demonstrates the weakness of the HR department and damages the morale of the company. Waste of resources aside, it also created a precedence for further break of corporate rules and policy.

Confronting the CFO is not a strategy any HR should consider without significant evaluation of the situation. While many leaders claim to accept criticism, the chances of find one who can REALLY accept criticism is near zero.

The inspiration of a solution comes from the scenario of a role play we called "xmas party from Hell", this link to a particular instance of that role play.

Here is a brief background of the role play. Mick Malloy is the Managing Director. He has a young Personal Assistant Josh. The public description of Josh is
Josh is an ambitious sort of bloke and he must be to take on the job as Mick’s Personal Assistant. Everyone can see he's too good for that job. No-one expects Josh to be around for long. He's aiming for higher things, so is trying to keep his nose clean. Some say he only got that position as a reverse equity thing. When the Equity and Social Justice Manager Anna Leska heard that, she squashed it real quick, making it clear that all processes were followed and Josh won that position on merit.

In the scenario, it was the xmas party when John would be given a gift for his retirement. Here is that part of the scenario
Then it's John's turn. He gets up, faces the crowd, sucks his gut in, gives his bum-bag a surreptitious scratch (lucky it wasn't his bum this time) and after a few mindless words, he blurts out....

"Thanks for the kind words and the bummer of a gift Mick me boy!

The one thing I like about Mick is that he never changes. He always calls a spade a spade.

Whether it's Genghis Khan or Marilyn Monroe, his personal assistant will always be 'Girlie" to him.

What you got to remember is he means well..

So, in the role play, the managing director has been calling his male PA my girlie. This is a clear case of harassment. What should Josh do?

Isn't this a similar situation to OneShoe, only many times worse. But, here, there is a clear "victim".

Knowing how effective "xmas party from hell" has been when it was played (at least 5 times now), I suggest a solution to any HR department when faced with similar problems, is to get a role play simulation running, invite a broad representation of the staff to participate (and participate in groups to play a role, e.g. 4 staff to play one role) including teams with board range of seniority. The scenario does not need to address the situation directly. By playing a role play, people will step in the shoes of other and see things from a different angle. Best of all, by playing in team, the pressure of squarely pointing at any particular person is minimized (artificial objectivity!). A solution suitable for the organisation will evolve through the role play and the implementation will be swift and effective! (or the problem will "just disappear")!
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