I am repeatedly left stupefied by the number of managers who sit by and let minor staff issues fester into clusterf**ks.
Let’s start with a few examples:
- A young, rockstar programmer who’s acerbic wit is off-putting to the business and even his own managers.
- The new guy who – while competent and reliable – doesn’t realize that he needs to take the time to learn the team coding standards
- The property manager who does her job thoroughly but is in danger of losing two buildings because her communication style is so impersonal.
- Finally, the dependable technical manager whose avoidance of confrontation keeps him from giving honest feedback to his staff.
These people do not realize there is a problem with their behavior. Either because (1) they, themselves, are not even aware they are doing something incorrect or (2) while they recognize the behavior, they honestly believe it is not causing harm to themselves or others.
Without feedback, each of these individuals will eventually hit a wall. When that happens, everyone will feel the repercussions. The property management firm may lose one or two large buildings. A client could get peeved enough at a snarky-sounding comment to take his software development work somewhere else. Or one of the above people may be fired. And have no illusions here. A firing has significant impacts on a team and even the organization as a whole.
Each of these examples is a staff-development opportunity. (And I really do mean opportunity. This is not just spin.) As managers, we need to get in front of these issues. We need to do the right thing for our teams, the organization, and these individuals. By giving feedback and helping direct reports polish their rough edges, we enable people to contribute and collaborate at the best of their ability.
So don’t simply clean up the new guy’s code without telling him. Talk to him. Acknowledge that there may have been no coding standards at the last two development shops where he worked. Or, at least, no one took the standard that were there seriously. Explain why it’s important. Detail the benefits, to both the organization and the individual. Follow up on progress. Ultimately, develop your staff.
One parting shot to consider. By not giving this feedback to the individuals in question, we are doing them a serious diservice. Specifically, we are impeding their professional growth by not identifying the obstacles they must overcome to take on greater responsibility and further their careers.