Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bonus Blog: Sometimes You Hire Wildcards

I have several blog posts on the fact that you will make mistakes. Pretty much as long as you are breathing, mistakes are a possible outcome of any action you take.

This particular blog post has been inspired by a situation at a location where I was working where someone had hired someone who seemed to represent themselves as a logical, well qualified applicant, and then slowly melted down over the course of the time on the project.

I was brought in to learn the ropes and to step into at least half that person's job. I was brought in the week that one of the owners was on vacation, and that was the week this particular employee "lost it." Defaming character of co-workers, attempting to enlist loyalty among the team to him only (and not the company), total absorption with investigation of anything that might be going on that he didn't know about because, as the "manager" he should be involved with everything...the list goes on.

Those of you who read my journal probably also remember Fake Brain Tumor Man. A quick summary: an otherwise seemingly hard working, charismatic manager lied to everyone when he faked a brain tumor and then took a job at another company while maintaining his job with our company.

Finally, and very specific to me an those who worked with me, was a man that was almost my boss when I was working for a particular company. He was smart, fast on his feet, and slowly descending into something. Most of us didn't know he had a physical condition that kept rendering him to the ER. None of us suspect his wife had become estranged from him, nor the violent way he would manage it until that day in July when we came into the office and found out he'd shot and killed her and then himself. I sat near his desk, watching the digital photo frame cycle through pictures of him and her together, they house...the empty smiling faces. I couldn't stop myself. I played over the last few talks I'd had with him. There were hushed whispers about what would have happened if he'd come to work first (or before killing himself) with his two guns and a mind full of pain.

The people who interviewed him didn't know that he would snap. Those of us who worked with him daily knew he was under stress, but mostly kept encouraging him to rest and take care of himself; if we'd known, I'm sure we would have been adding "and don't kill anyone" to our litany of concerns when chatting with him. But we didn't. We didn't even suspect.

My point in this bonus blog is to let you know that human beings are complex creatures. You can do everything you can to find a good one to do the job you need done. You can vet them and have them answer technical questions and managerial questions and observe body language...and you can still have heart rending failures. Sometimes, following your gut and, hopefully, some of my advice can route that and make your work place a better place, where people are less likely to go off the deep end or feel so insecure they need to drag the company down with them.

But it still can happen. When it does, you need to look at the situation. You need to spend a day or two on all the "what if" scenarios flooding your head, and you need to let yourself beat yourself up a little for not seeing what no one else saw, either. Then you need to let it go. The what if's and the self flagellation don't turn back the clock. You will be delicate. You will be raw. But you will still be you. Just as smart and with as good judgment as before this person disappointed you. That's because humans are so complex that you can't see everything coming. Doing the best you can is what you are paid for, but is also what you expect of yourself.

As a manager, you need to rebound from these things--and other things--in ways that help you to help your team and co-workers move through an event. My boss when my almost boss went out in a murder-suicide was honest with us: he was shaken. Then he let us know he wasn't planning on shooting anyone anytime soon in case we were wondering. He talked to us. He checked in with us. And we got through it. I aim to be as good a boss as that every day, even when the sky is not falling. I just think its important that you who may someday see something so jarring to reality understand that you, too, can get past it, and help other people past it, too.

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