Skip to content

Signs You’re A Bad Manager #3: You Refuse to Correct in Private

July 21, 2015

“Praise in public

Correct in private”

It’s a phrase as old as management classes themselves. Even first year managers know that you don’t correct your employees in front of the team. You praise them in front of the team, but if you need to correct, do it privately.

Everyone knows that. Even I know that. However, you are a bad manager if you NEVER correct in public. This is especially true for second level managers. Let’s talk about the line-manager, or first level managers to begin with.

You have several responsibilities as a manager. You have to set direction for your team. You have to make sure that everyone understands their roles. You have to remove roadblocks to your teams success.

You also have to provide training for your team. You have to provide coaching when team members need it. And, occasionally you have to correct team members.

I had a team member one time who instead of deleting ten names out of a spreadsheet of department names, deleted ALL the names. He wasn’t doing it maliciously. He just got overcommitted and got a little careless.

I pulled him aside and we talked about why he was struggling. We built a plan for how he could better meet his commitments and then we built a schedule to help him stay focused. All of that happened privately.

“If anyone asks you to work on another project, simply tell them that you are working on a project for Rodney and they need to bring their request to me.”

It was important to keep most of the coaching for this employee private. His teammates knew he’d screwed up, and I wanted to keep him as an effective employee.

However, while the coaching was private, the fact that I’d spoken with him was not. The team, who had been required to clean up the mess he made, realized that I, as the manager, was addressing the situation. This gave them reassurance in me, but more importantly, it gave them confidence in their teammate.

Now, suppose I had kept silent about even the fact that I talked to this employee? Suppose no one knew if I’d been coaching him or not? Would they have confidence in me as a leader? Would they trust their teammate?

No. The would have remained unsure if the guy was going to screw up again. They would have considered me out of touch with the needs and the concerns of the team.

After spending many years as a manager, I found myself in the role of an individual contributor. It was a job I loved. I got to do interesting and exciting work. I worked with great people and an engaging client.

After a reorg, I ended up on a team with a manager from a different department. We had very different ideas about not only what the job entailed, but how I needed to do it. This was a much more hand-on manager. Well, she considered herself hands-on. I considered her as micro-managing me, and constantly taking over tasks associated with my account.

I talked to her, but was told, “I’m the boss. We’ll do it my way.”

I talked to her manager and expressed my concerns. “I’m not sure I can be successful with her constantly jumping in and taking over interactions with my account.

From the second level manager, Jared, I got very little encouragement. “She’s the manager and I believe in letting the managers run their teams the way they feel they need to.”

But, after that meeting a funny thing happened; she quit jumping in. She backed off and stopped taking over client interactions. This was a good thing, right? It’s what I said I wanted, right?

No. This was almost worse than before. I had no idea WHY she changed. Did she believe that I was right and she was backing off from running my account? Or, was she simply distracted and might at any minute jump back into micro-managing mode?

I had no idea. And like I mentioned in yesterday’s entry, consistency is critical to running an effective team. What I needed was some indication that the situation was being addressed. I needed some reassurance either from her, or her manager that he had talked to her and they had decided to change her action.

I needed her manager to do a little correcting in public; something to help me understand what to expect going forward.

It’s important to respect people’s feelings. It’s a terrible idea to embarrass employees by calling them on the carpet in front of the entire team. However, you can go too far in the name of privacy.

If a problem has been impacting people publicly, make sure that the solution, or at least the fact that you are working on the solution is communicated just as publicly.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply