I was raised by parents who believed, “If you’re not five minutes early, you’re late.” This mindset has served me well and I value punctuality. However, I now work for a manager who writes up employees for being as little as three minutes late, no excuses. What makes this so frustrating is that he regularly strolls in an hour late. (He verifies everyone else’s arrival by our timecards.) Not only that, when he leaves early, if his boss comes looking for him, we’re supposed to say he had an off-site meeting. Someone once had the nerve to call him out and he told us he had worked hard to earn his position so he could come and go as he pleased. Needless to say, morale is suffering in our department. How do you suggest I deal with this hypocrisy?
-Don’t Do as He Does
Dear Don’t Do,
While punctuality is crucial, especially in business, the bigger issue here is your manager’s lack of speaking his truth, as his thoughts, words and actions are far from the same. His “Do as I say, not as I do,” mentality is guaranteed to lessen employee engagement. Soon enough, if not already, that will be reflected in your department’s numbers.
This type of hypocrisy has to be addressed by his supervisor. For you personally, your options are as follows:
1. Speak Your Truth. Risk having a sit-down with your supervisor and say, “As your employee, my goal is to support you in any way possible to make our department successful. I also realize there are times when you choose to be out of the office, and if another asks where you are, I’m encouraged to say you’re at an off-site meeting. I need to let you know, saying this makes me uncomfortable and I’d rather not.” Of course, what you need to determine upfront is which price you want to pay – the internal discomfort of continuing to tell white lies or possible repercussions from your supervisor.
2. Transfer out of his department or change jobs. I realize this option isn’t easy or desirable, but the truth is, you can’t change anyone, only yourself. Again, is the price worth it? Only you know.
3. Make a game out of it. Rather than let morale nose-dive every time your supervisor comes in late, holds another accountable for their tardiness or someone covers for him, create a ritual. Perhaps it’s a silly comic or motivational saying that gets passed around within seconds via text or email – without naming names, of course, to protect the innocent. “Sorry, I can’t hear you, your behavior is too loud!!” Consider providing everyone a silly looking stress ball. When the action goes down, meet in the break room, set the clock for a minute and throw them against the wall until you end up laughing. You get my point. By gathering together as a team and releasing the frustration, you can all bond at the same time you let it go and get back to what’s really important.
And someday, when you’re the boss, you can carry this experience with you and become an effective leader who knows that leading by example is not only a powerful motivator, but a necessity if you want others to follow.