During my stints as a senior manager or executive, I frequently used the tagline, “You should never resolve a leadership issue with an administrative action.” We’ve all see it happen numerous times. Example: one or two employees are late to work a few times. Talk ensues among the others. Instead of addressing the issue one-on-one early on, the manager publishes a policy applicable to all employees stating hard and fast, progressively onerous consequences for violations. That’s not leadership. That’s not even management. That’s administration. The manager has transferred the issue to HR where it becomes but a matter of counting times late, issuing stock warnings, and eventual termination. Not a morale booster.
Then, in the mid- to late 1980’s along came technology and computers on each desk. I had to expand my tagline: “You should never resolve a leadership issue with either an administrative or technological action.” Senior managers (school administrators also as pertains to students) desire that employees not be sending and receiving personal email or text messages, be on Facebook, or otherwise surf the web for other than organization purposes during business hours. This is akin to prohibiting personal phone calls and reading magazines at work in the pre-technology days. Common sense, given that the employer does not wish to compensate employees for time and activities not in her best interest. The non-leadership way to deal with this issue is to transfer the whole mess to the IT department. Block and filter. Ah, but employees and students are technically savvy and will find ways around the blocks and filters. So IT joins forces with HR by spying (reviewing logs) and reporting suspicious activity to HR. HR combines a restrictive administrative policy intended to curb the inappropriate usage of organizational property with the technological reports to again relieve the manager of leadership responsibility. Now we all have smartphones that are not tied to our organizational networks. At this writing, management has two options. The first is to illegally jam all cell phone signals emanating from within the confines of the organization. The second is to employ individual and group leadership.