(How Not to Manage Tension at Work)
“Rod Loy who leads a large organization in Little Rock, Arkansas, says that when he was a leader in the middle of an organization, he kept a file called, “Things I will never do to my team when I become the top leader.” As a leader in the middle, he knew that the natural temptation will be to let off steam with his co-workers. He short-circuited that tendency to vent his frustration to others by simply writing down his observations and putting them in a file. It cleared the air for him, prevented him from violating his leader’s trust and ensured that he would remember the lesson of any mistake made by his leader.” -The 360° Leader by John C. Maxwell
In this piece, I will share a story of an event that happened a few years back. I was going through my highlights from my last study of The 360° Leader by John Maxwell when the passage above brought back memories. I hope you enjoy reading and also get something valuable.
In one of the organizations I worked, cost of operations was competing with revenues. The management decided to downsize the workforce by terminating the employment of a large number of staff in the branches while in the Head Office those who earned high wages were retrenched in order to improve the books.
A young lady was employed in one of the units to assist a senior staff. She was employed on one-third (1/3) of his pay and it was obvious to everyone that his sack was imminent. Management directed him to train her on the job but he refused. He feared he would lose his job if he taught her. The young lady also had the same fear of losing her job if she didn’t learn fast.
One morning the young lady came to me and asked if we could talk. I obliged her. Since we worked in an open space office, we went into the lunch room. She managed to pull herself together after wiping off the tears that rolled freely down her cheeks. “I dread coming to work every day. Since I started work here John (not real name) has refused to teach me or engage me in any task. I sit all day doing nothing. He won’t even talk to me. What should I do?” She asked. I was touched and encouraged her thus, “Be strong in knowing that whoever digs a pit for you will be the victim.”
The MD’s Invite
Few days later, the MD invited them into her office. She asked the senior staff, “Has this young lady learned the job?” He answered in the negative, “She is not competent! She is so dull that she can’t learn. In short, she should be sacked!” Then the MD turned to the young lady and asked, “Does John knows his job?” And she said, “yes he knows his job. He is excellent at it.” “That’s all I want to know”, said the MD. You can both return to work.
The weekend coincided with payday for that month and we were all in high spirits as our accounts have been credited. It was five minutes to the close of work and a mail dropped in for this senior staff; I was sitting beside him close enough to have heard the sound of the notification from his laptop. He quickly opened it to know the content. And suddenly his countenance changed like quicksilver from being merry to anger. He just received his sack letter from the MD. He was directed to hand over the company’s properties in his possession before leaving. The young lady was asked to assume his position. Incensed against the MD, he rained insults on her in her absence as he packed his box.
The Table Turned
In a short while, I resigned and left the organization. I received a call from a friend who was still working there and he said I would not believe what he was about to tell me. That the young lady had turned into the monster that once tormented her. “How?!” I interjected. He continued, “A young man was employed to assist her and she is treating him the same way she was treated; sometimes she yells at him”. I was shocked.
This young lady, now in the position of that former senior staff, felt the tension he felt believing she was about to lose her job and acted the same way he did by venting her frustration on her team member. She missed a golden opportunity to become a better leader from a negative experience. How about you? Have you become the monster that once tormented you?