Q. A key position in my department has gone through three employees in the last year. These people have chosen to leave because of the unreasonable expectations for the position and the abusive treatment from the manager. My boss is that manager. He treats me well and seems oblivious to how he’s treating others. This mess is taking its toll on me, and making my workload unmanageable. Should I speak with him, go to HR or do nothing?
A. The kind of turnover you have outlined should be sending big red flags to Human Resources. Most people choose to leave jobs, or stay at jobs, because of the relationship with their manager. If one employee left in short order, a mis-hire might have been the case. But if three people make a voluntary decision to leave the same role with the same manager, there are most likely other issues at work.
At this point, since you have a good relationship with your manager, it is best to try and keep it that way. An employee relations issue like this should be one that human resources or his manager has already looked into, or is asked to review. This is the kind of situation exit interviews with human resources are made for. Do you know if the employees who left had that opportunity?
I encourage you to meet with human resources to review key facts. Let the HR representative know you would like to discuss staffing issues in your area. You can start by reviewing the turnover. “We have lost three people in less than one year in the XX position. Having this much change in my group has led to a significant increase in my work load, and the stress of training new people. Can you tell me if you had the opportunity to conduct exit interviews with the people who left?” If yes, the question to be asked is “What are your plans for the area based on the information they provided?” If they did not conduct exit interviews, it may not be too late.
If HR doesn’t get the information they need from your former colleagues, it will be up to you to suggest that your manager has some opportunities for development. Explain that while your manager is able to work with you successfully, he is challenged by new employees, or other employee styles. Perhaps you know how he works, what he is looking for, and thus he has confidence in your capabilities which allows for a good working relationship. He may not be able to develop new employees and turns into an unreasonable and abusive manager when frustrated. Based on the information HR may have from former employees, coupled with the insights you can provide, they may believe your manager has the potential to be coached into becoming an effective manager. If the behavior is truly abusive HR should make another decision.
Often managers don’t recognize their behavior and actions impact all employees, not just the individuals they treat poorly. An effective coach can offer insights into blind spots, and effective tools to deal with frustration on the job.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
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