One area of middle management responsibility where the virtue of patience is required in abundance, is in acquisitions and dismissals – otherwise known as hiring and firing. If you happen to be one of the fortunate individuals who are employed by a company large enough to boast a human resources department, then feel free to skip ahead. However, even in large corporations, human resources often act only as an occupational filter when it comes to these essential (and most often unpleasant) duties. They recruit individuals from outside the company but it is often still up to supervisors, department leaders or foremen to sit down with the prospective employee and hammer out the details of employment. And since it often falls upon the same people in leadership to initiate the process of employment termination, they are often considered as management’s representatives on the ‘front lines’.
Both of these activities (especially dismissals) are delicate areas that require forbearance, rationality, planning and above all, patience. All of these are people skills recommended in the proper execution of middle management. Acquisitions and dismissals both deal with individuals in high states of emotional turmoil. It is recommended by employment experts then, that management operate on a dispassionate and professional level to preserve as much equilibrium as possible.
Employee Management: Incoming
Examining the realm of hiring new employees is probably the easier way to begin. Whether the recruits come to middle management partially screened by human resources or directly off the street, deciding to bring them on as a permanent addition to the team can be a lengthy process that is not without its own hazards. Patience is a vital people skill needing to be applied in liberal doses during these events. Because the new hire is really a reflection of the recruitment and management skills of the leader who has hired them, it essential that the individual performing the hire get things right.
This factor alone can cause pressure to be placed on middle management. They are in fact, ultimately responsible for bringing motivated, productive and skilled people on board the company ship. This is precisely where patience in the process must come into play. It has been known to happen that middle management have received resumes that are deceivingly padded and statements of technical skill exaggerated in the prospect’s favor. So although everything might appear to be above board and smelling of roses, it is always recommended to exercise due diligence: be patient and check all areas that can be accessed. The internet has of course streamlined this process somewhat as it allows potential employers to easily access people’s background information.
Employee Management: Outgoing
Middle management, regardless of whatever people skills they have employed, are at the end of the day human, and fallible. Not all new hires will become a story of success. Employees may simply opt to move on to a new career. Although they themselves might believe at the time of being hired that they can excel in the industry at hand, many will come to realise that their happiness and talents lie elsewhere.
Some leave of their own accord to seek out new horizons. Many individuals however, hang on to their position beyond reason, becoming bitter and miserable. Often people can’t move on because they are trapped in the lifestyle provided by their salary. Others fail to seek new opportunities because although they dislike their present job, it does provide a sense of security and routine. Many times, people in middle management simply misjudge the new employee and make the mistake of hiring them anyway. Whether through purposeful deception or simple professional mis-step, a mistake has been made and needs to be corrected. Either way, we move on to the second of our two activities required of middle management and their people skills: Dismissal.
Although firing employees is arguably less difficult in terms of time and effort, it can be much more draining emotionally and more precarious. In this area more than among any other, it becomes absolutely essential for individuals in middle management to act professional, keep their cool and exercise patience. Because termination of employment, especially when the decision is not mutual, can trigger extremely strong emotions in the person being let go, it is crucial that whoever is in charge of the dismissal not allow themselves to be dragged into the emotional cauldron that is potentially boiling away inside the terminated employee.
But what does that mean? It means that this situation has the potential to test your people skills – patience being foremost among them – more than at any other time in your career in middle management. Regardless what type of response you may experience from the person being terminated, it is important to remain calm. You could experience any range of emotional (and non-rational) behaviors upon delivering the bad news: guarded threats, yelling, crying, throwing objects, outright threats, name calling.
Actual bodily endangerment aside, it is vital to remain patient, aloof and not take the abuse personally. Leaders cannot under any circumstances allow themselves to be dragged down to their employee’s emotional level of anger and despair. Allowing something like that to occur opens up the leader personally and the company in general, to a potential world of hurt.
It can be seen then, that in the uncertain world of middle management, professionally employing people skills, both taught and learned in situations fraught with emotion and consequence is a highly desirable aptitude to possess. When it comes to the volatile job of relieving an employee of their responsibilities, patience moves quickly from the realm of essential tools of success, to that of professional necessity. So, be cool!