George is a 25-year employee who has steadily risen through the organization to become a General Manager of one of the company divisions.
In the last year, George’s behavior has become more combative with his fellow peers on the leadership team, and he is showing more outward frustration with the employees in his division.
His HR business partner reached out to us for support. She indicated she had tried to speak with George on many occasions and he just commented that ‘young people today don’t have any work ethic’ and ‘this pandemic is giving people an excuse not to come to work’.
George was reluctant to make the initial contact with his coach as he thought his coach would be reporting back to the company on what he talked about.
After assurances our conversations would be 100% confidential, George finally agreed to book one session.
“Tell me what life was like for you pre-pandemic, “ I began.
George visibly relaxed and shared a picture of his pre-pandemic life that included being fully staffed most days and having more congenial relationships with his peers and direct reports.
As we moved the discussion to what has changed over the past year I could hear the tension in George’s voice and his words became more terse.
“I can’t rely on people anymore,” he began. “It seems like all I am doing is fire-fighting. Every day there is another issue around someone not showing up for work which leaves us short-handed. And it seems like it is mostly the younger people who don’t’ show up. I really don’t’ know how to work with that generation, their work ethic is so different from mine.” He shared.
“Were there issues before the pandemic or did these particular issues just start within the last year.” I asked.
“Well…”, George paused for a bit.
“I guess we had issues before the pandemic, but they didn’t seem as challenging. These young people nowadays just don’t seem to want to work. They will use any excuse and now they have one I can’t fight against,” he went on.
As we explore the differences between pre-pandemic life and now and the differences between the generations that make up his workforce, George finally said, “I guess what is most frustrating for me is that my trusted and reliable employees are all getting tired and frustrated from the amount of extra work and hours as they pick up the slack.”
“And what is it like for you seeing your trusted employees frustrated and tired?” I asked.
“It’s terrible! I feel bad! I feel so useless!” George replied in rapid succession.
Then he went quiet for a few moments. “I guess what it really boils down to is that I feel like I am letting them down and I don’t know how to help make it better for them. I’ve always prided myself on being a servant leader. My goal has always been to serve my employees, make their lives easier, remove obstacles so they can be successful. I honestly don’t feel like I know how to do that anymore.” He shared.
“Over the last year I feel like a big fat failure in that department, and it is eating me up!” he concluded.
With this admission out in the open, I could see a visible difference in George. It was like releasing the truth had released a huge load of tension.
From that moment, George and I were able to work together over several coaching sessions to put an action plan together to support his continued success.
The action plan included sharing his frustrations in a constructive way with his fellow leaders and asking for help from them. It also included have some ‘all employee’ huddles to more openly talk about the staff shortages and challenges this created for everyone.
By including the employees in coming up with some solutions, George was able to tap into their experience and ideas and he began seeing a higher level of engagement and enthusiasm, especially from the younger, newer employees.
George admitted after several coaching sessions, “Things are far from perfect, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel which gives me hope that we are on the right track.”
What’s different for you over the past year?
Who do you have to share your frustrations with?
Who provides you with an objective ear to talk through solutions and offer up different perspectives?
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