I just finished reading an article on the Harvard Business Review site about honesty. You can check it out here. It immediately came to mind when I saw this note from a reader (it’s a long story but well worth the read):
Years ago, I worked as a department manager. I came into the company unaware of the high tensions and staff issues related to one employee in particular, who fell under my supervision. This employee had been there for many years by the time I came aboard.
After I was hired, someone in administration approached me concerning the previous and on-going challenges with this employee; concerns about workplace performance, time reporting and a whole gamut of issues. Administration wanted to get rid of the employee, but no one had stepped up to enter the fray. I decided to begin documenting the employee’s performance and together with administration hoped to take the issue to the company attorney for action.
The department director at the time was coasting toward retirement and wanted to avoid any and all conflict by ignoring issues. The department was a nightmare of staff doing basically whatever they wanted, knowing nothing was going to happen.
It took a lot out of me, but after 12 months, movement had finally begun within the company to terminate this employee. Fed up and highly frustrated after 18 months, I had begun searching for another position outside the company but ultimately accepted a lateral move to another location within the company.
I have remained friends with some of the employees in my former department. I came to learn a staff member, who is now director of my former department, took issue with my leaving, in essence telling others that I gave up. She’s never broached the subject with me, nor has she ever offered support or criticism.
Now the company has an open position in my old department that I’m interested in, but applications are routed through the director.
My question is should I contact her prior to my application to discuss the past? Is it something I should consider? I would appreciate any advice/suggestions. Thank you.
I could identify with several aspects of this story. The new manager who’s unaware of problems within their department. The problem employee no one wants to hold accountable for performance. The director who has abdicated their leadership role.
If only people along the way had been honest with each other (like the HBR story):
What if the new manager had been told of the challenges facing the department before he was hired, so he could prepare for the tension and challenges? And knew who to contact for answers.
What if the problem employee had been coached about their performance along the way, so they had opportunities to improve? Maybe it wouldn’t have escalated to this point.
My advice to this reader is pick up the phone, call your former colleague and talk about it. Even if you never get considered for the open position, let the person know that having a good working relationship is important to you.
What advice would you give to this reader? Please share your thoughts in the comments.0