This article is dedicated to The Dog of War; the person that is at war with his fellow man in the workplace. He is a destroyer, but presents himself in the guise of a “fireman,” needed and valued by his principals as the one person who can sort through the issues, determine acceptable solutions, and save the day. He is the one who will be known as “…he who put out the fires.”
Unfortunately, in putting out fires, he causes more…
“Good” and “bad” (or “poor”) are moral judgments, are at essence “subjective,” and are wholly judgmental. They are subjective because they result from your [mental] interpretation of propriety; that is, they are your thoughts, based upon your moral upbringing. Your stated conclusion that someone exercised bad or poor judgment reflects your opinion of what “should be.”
Your judgments result from your application of your moral values on to another person’s actions; bringing your moral view of the world into the relationship as the standard of performance. Your verdict of “poor judgment” is therefore based on your moral judgment, your thoughts in your head, not from objective performance criteria.
Your use of your moral judgments in the workplace ensure that you place all others in a position wherein they can only succeed if they meet your moral – that is, political – criteria; else your verdict is that they exercised “poor judgment.”
Your reference to the U.S. Naval Captain who was dismissed from his command, ex post facto, for an infraction committed three years earlier, when it wasn’t an infraction, as “exercising poor judgment,” exemplifies this point.
You have brought your moral judgment to the workplace, and have applied it to the evaluation of performance. In essence, this politicizes performance to your moral viewpoint; and you have turned a performance appraisal into a political appraisal.
Your use of moral judgments is entirely inappropriate within the workplace, within your instructions, and within a performance appraisal; and therefore unacceptable.
Expectations reside in your mind, whenever you think them. Unless people read your mind, they cannot know what your expectations are; and can only know what you say they are, after the fact. Further, expectations cannot be met, because thoughts cannot be met. People can only know that you say they are [or are not] met, after the fact; thoughts contain no objective measurement criteria.
Your use of expectations in lieu of documented requirements in the workplace serves to place others in a position wherein they cannot know what is expected before the fact, only after the fact. They therefore cannot meet your expectations, except by accident; or if you decide to say they have.
Unless you document your expectations into requirements, thereby moving your expectations into something tangible that people can understand, and measure, people cannot know what they are, and therefore cannot meet them.
Your use of expectations – internal thoughts – as a measurement of performance serves only to setting people up to fail, thereby giving you the opportunity to punish them for being caught in that set up.
Is this your objective?
Your sub-optimizing of your political goals at the expense of statutory mandates results in isolating and distancing subordinates from the common goals and objectives required to meet those statutory requirements. You have, in essence, politicized the workplace by requiring participation and alignment to your political goals, thereby placing subordinates at risk of being at odds with statutory requirements.
Yet you hold those subordinates accountable for meeting those requirements; and concurrently supporting your political goals.
Management by Implication
You are very good at taking conversations in circles, being on all sides of an issue, and no side of the issue in the same instant, implying requirements, yet stating no definitive requirements, all the while avoiding going on record with clear, unambiguous instructions or statements.
You are, as they say, very “slick.”
Your occasional disparaging innuendo on requirements serves as your retort against their use.
As a subordinate, I now realize that you will do whatever it takes to avoid being definitive – unless backed into a corner. You will leave me with ambiguous direction, resulting in actions which you may fault at your discretion, no matter what I do. When you are backed into a corner to state requirements, you react with anger and some little amount of hostility, seemingly because you recognize a personal risk of attribution.
When one considers that politics and performance are the “Yin and Yang” of any organizational environment, and that organizations and people have a choice as to which they prefer, and which will dominate their behavior, it is clear that you have chosen the former.
Implication is the primary tool of politics, and you use it well.
Management by Indirection
Coupled with your penchant to evade the responsibility and accountability inherent within the principle of Unity of Command, except when you choose to exercise it to your advantage, you are very skilled at removing yourself from active management of subordinate processes, and management of subordinates. Yet you behave as if your management mandate is to criticize functions within your responsibility, which you choose not to be involved; that criticism is a core and primary management function in of itself. As if you consider finding fault the core mission of a manager.
And you are very good at finding “nits to pick” to find fault in subordinates.
Then you charge subordinates with failing to bring matters to your attention.
You not only actively “disown” subordinate processes and functions, and by extension, subordinates, but disown in an accusing manner, accusing subordinates of having responsibilities for processes and functions delegated down through the organization (and yourself); as if it is their fault the processes and functions fall to them. This behavior, you refer to as “delegation.”
To use a metaphor: You are the coach, but sitting in the bleachers (or boxed seats), not actively involved with coaching of the game in progress on the playing field; but ready, willing and able to criticize, castigate, and throw eggs at the players on the field when they do not produce the outcome you “expect.” Yet, you are not actively involved with managing your expectations to fruition with your subordinates.
Management by Innuendo
Your use of innuendo to dissuade subordinates from normal, natural, and lawful relationship-building behavior serves to seed additional distrust in your relationships.
Informing subordinates in private and off record that others are “talking about” the subordinate in negative terms, and using innuendo to dissuade presumably undesired behavior which you do not define, is destructive, and just another form of intimidation. Further, privately informing a subordinate of other subordinates’ difficulties (perceived or real) in relationships again is destructive and intimidating.
If you have nothing tangible to present to an employee, why broach the subject? Why not deal with other employees’ concerns at the source?
Rather than foster a harmonious workplace by actively resolving the underlying tension, you leverage the tension; and stoke it.
Management by Interrogation
You engage in interrogation techniques as both negative reinforcement and positive punishment to dissuade active discourse by experienced subordinates, causing them to discontinue and silence their qualified advice, to not ask questions, and to view discourse with you as a trap.
When engaging in your interrogation techniques, you actively evade answering questions that are posed within the conversation, and immediately respond to a question by either positing another question as a riposte, taking your discourse in circles, or moving on without a response. Sometimes, you just leave.
Basically, you wield questions as a club, or as a technique to take people off topic, or wear people down, and you evade providing answers. Then again, you charge subordinates with failing to bring matters to your attention.
Although you are exceptionally competent with these techniques, you should realize that these are techniques that characterize adolescence.
Management by Isolation
You subtly drive wedges between people and groups within the workplace, thereby isolating them from forming effective teams, and destroying active collaboration. When normal and natural inter-working tensions arise, you actively avoid engaging your implied management responsibility of promoting a harmonious workplace by actively helping individuals and groups work together. You evade responsibility of promoting a harmonious workplace, implying that resolving these tensions are the responsibility of subordinates alone.
You have inverted the principle of Unity of Command as a tactic to evade management accountability. Rather than enforcing use of the Chain of Command as an organizational and functional operating structure, and sound operational process, including reliance upon the principle of Unity of Command, you undermine it when a subordinate needs the support of that chain. Yet you selectively exercise it to your advantage when you seek advantage. This actively isolates the subordinate.
In essence, you use the Chain of Command as a one-way street: down.
Then again, you charge subordinates with failing to bring matters to your attention.
Management by Intimidation
You use your position, and that of your principals, not as enabling authority and power for subordinates to leverage to achieve statutory requirements, but as a threat and club to wield against those who are not with your program (whatever it may be). You do this by leaning into implied or real authority selectively, when it suits you.
You promote a subjugated, sullen, fearful environment; wherein the smart players learn to keep their mouths shut, and avoid visible engagement. Those that ask penetrating or inconvenient questions are subjected to forms of Operant Conditioning to dissuade their behavior, and used as examples to others to discourage asking such questions.
Going along to get along – docile obedience – appears to be a behavior in your subordinates that you value highly, which you obtain through effective use of negative reinforcement and positive punishment techniques.
Complex organizations require active and involved management, at all levels. Yet you pop in and (mostly) stay out of the day-to-day management of the business. You manage “by exception,” meaning that you manage only when you can no longer afford not to; when you are forced or feel you need to intervene.
This is exemplified by your penchant to insert Drive-By Comments into a conversation, and then immediately leave, leaving subordinates with the (again) implication of a requirement, and having to take the risk of incurring your displeasure should they approach you for clarification or direction stemming from your comment.
In such a situation, should they decide to forego incurring your displeasure, then should some untoward event occur, they are held at fault for not checking with you.
They are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
You have established an environment wherein you select what requirements shall be pursued and met, based on your political drivers, or sub-optimized goals. You accomplish this by picking and choosing those extant mandates that support your goals, and ignoring those that do not.
This was evident with a recent communication to an agency, disapproving action on their part, after you received timely and informed advice that under the governing policy, the determination of action rests solely with that agency.
You use this selectivity to great effect when enforcing discipline upon your employees, to the extent of accusing subordinates of violating requirements which you have a history of ignoring.
This includes selectively interpreting attached forms as part and parcel, and subject to governing procedures for changing policy instruments. Attachments such as forms and criteria lists are made attachments specifically to allow for updates without recourse to policy instrument processes. You are aware of this, you have approved this, and you have mandated this use; yet you have accused subordinates of violating procedure by altering attached forms, when you are inconvenienced. This is nothing more than a double standard; applied selectively.
Some of the above paragraphs are labeled with headings containing the word “Management.” But in truth, these are not management functions; they are “manipulation” functions. That is, they are techniques used to manipulate people. As such, they are exceedingly destructive in any workplace that consists of anything other than obedient drones, whose role it is to be manipulated.
You regale in chaos as an “opportunity,” as you have alluded to multiple times within your staff meetings. You rely upon the chaos of hard times to “get things done,” as you readily admit in those staff meetings. But you seem to not be concerned that although you may personally prosper in chaos, the remainder of the world views it as destructive, for good reason; and those that propagate chaos to advantage, as destroyers.
As a result of working with you directly for a number of years, I now know that you will step on anyone, at any time to gain personal advantage; that you require obedient drones for subordinates, and the only parties for which you demonstrate some semblance of respect, are your politically powerful patrons.
From a business perspective, because of the above, you will need above normal (i.e., more than competitive) incentives to maintain a present workforce. (I will not use the word “effective,” because you destroy effectiveness in others; presumably so that you appear relatively effective.) Your predecessor used fiscal incentives to great advantage to maintain a present workforce. Whereas, to date, you have used fear and manipulation to great advantage. But fear and manipulation are debilitating and destructive, and it remains to be seen how long a workforce may be maintained, as the debilitation and destruction continues, and indeed increases, and takes its insidious toll.
If chaos is what you value, then you’re doing an effective job to promote that value.
But perhaps you want the ensuing chaos as your next “opportunity.”