In my book, “How Dare You Manage?”, I look at the sacred relationship in any organization. This is the relationship between a manager and his or her direct reports. Studies show that a poor relationship with an immediate boss is a key reason employees leave a company. Managers need to stand in support of their employees, especially when those employees get themselves into trouble.
To help ensure good management, I believe there is a key management principle that needs to be in place which underpins all successful management. It is that managers are accountable for the outputs of their direct reports.
What are the implications of this statement? It means that managers are held accountable by their immediate manager for their employees’ behavior, effectiveness at delivering results and for them getting work done on time. This makes the workplace a fairer place. There is no room left for the “teflon manager” who tries to defer blame on to their employee when things go wrong. The manager’s manager will respond to such a blaming and scapegoating statement with: You are accountable for the results of your employees – what management actions did you take to ensure success? Did you set adequate context for the work? Did you monitor the work frequently enough? Were you clear about the values and behavior you expect when doing the work?
The manager should always know what is going on and be able to redirect accordingly to get the results they have asked for from this employee. It is their accountability to be aware what employees are working on and how effectively they are working on it. If the manager is not aware, how can they legitimately be the boss?
So, keeping this fundamental accountability in mind, we then look at Mr. Harper’s management of Mr. Wright. Mr. Harper is, supposedly, the most senior manager in the country. And how does he behave? He accepts Mr. Wright’s resignation, distancing himself from anything Mr. Wright has done. He figuratively drops him down the well! If that is not enough, he then further absolves himself, saying Mr. Wright was fired and did not resign. It is like returning to the well and dropping a grenade down it to ensure the employee is dead! By removing himself from the equation, Mr. Harper breaks the sacred link between the manager and direct report and fails a basic tenet of being a manager. Mr. Wright’s failure and ineffectiveness is Mr. Harper’s failure and ineffectiveness in management.
The glory of management is to accept the accolades when your employees do well and stand with them and accept the blame when they do poorly. After doing this you may choose to fire them. Not before. If the manager has not taken accountability for their direct reports’ outputs and failings, they themselves have failed in the fundamental role of managing.