The Other Side Of The Desk

I’ve often commented on those “well-intentioned amateurs,” those newly promoted managers who now hold the keys to the kingdom – the ability to spend the organization’s money.  Usually I’m lamenting their lack of training and their lack of knowledge of the organization’s reward programs.  These are folks typically promoted primarily because of their individual contributor qualities, not their leadership.

Following the promotion party no one seems to take the time to explain the how and why of the reward programs that these sparkly new managers are now charged with administering for their staff.  This presents the organization with a target rich environment for mistakes, inequitable actions and costly precedents. Not to mention the slow creep of an ever growing payroll divorced from an ROI.

And Another Thing

As bad as that scenario can be to an organization it is often compounded by a painful lack of understanding by managers regarding their employee’s perspective on those same reward programs.  Who is actually explaining to managers how to relate to their employees regarding pay issues?

In most cases the answer is, no one.

However, this additional problem is not confined to only the newly promoted, but also for those long serving managers who have lost sight of what it means to be on the other side of the desk.  They’ve been drinking the kool-aid that says they’re part of management and have to play the management “line.” Which usually sets up an attitude of us vs. them.

What are they thinking? Being part of management doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean that they should ignore what their employees are thinking or feeling. Or what employees value.

I once consulted with a CHRO who seemed to view his own employees as the enemy, and proudly utilized various tactics to gain what he perceived as “wins” against them.

So perhaps it’s that management attitude thing again, but in my view employees are part of the organization’s “family,” and should be treated as such.  You don’t gain “wins” against your family, even if they are represented by a union. You and the organization only lose when you think and act against your own employees.

What Is Your Job?

As a manager you’re not just part of Management, but of Leadership as well (admittedly a distinction not often made).  And effective leadership requires an understanding of both sides of an issue; that there is more than one side of a coin, and that other opinions have merit.  Lacking that balanced view labels you as narrow minded, self-centered and arrogant.  Whoa!  That’s not who you are, is it?

You need to get out of your office or cubicle and learn what it means to be an employee impacted by your organization’s reward programs. You need to talk with your employees, to get a sense of where they’re coming from.  Don’t assume that they think like you.

But please don’t start by going around asking, “Are you satisfied with your pay?”  Most employees realize that there’s no gain in saying yes, no matter the truth of it.  They know that if they say they’re unhappy, maybe something will come of it.  But if they say they’re satisfied, end of story.

This perspective from the other side of the desk is not rocket science.  Employees tend to have four critical wants when it come to your reward programs:

  • Competitive pay:  You underpay employees at your risk.  At best only Joe Average will appreciate you.
  • Recognition and reward for their performance: Pay for performance, based on individual achievement, still remains the primary engine to encourage lasting personal effort.
  • An opportunity to gain more (pay and / or higher level):  No one likes being in a dead end job.  Picture Joe Average playing solitaire on his computer, waiting for the clock to strike 5:00.
  • Fair treatment: Equity of pay, of opportunities and future growth should be based on performance, not special treatment of so-called special cases.  It’s not only the sales force willing to chase that carrot.

Do your reward programs offer your employees each of the above?  Do you know that they do, or do you assume that they do?  Big difference.

Whatever is going on in the heads of your employees, you better find out.

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoe and see if your feet hurt.

Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations.  He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant.  Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation.  He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.

Creative Commons image,”Happy Cat,” by Trish Hamme

This post originally appeared on Compensation Cafe
Author: Chuck Csizmar