If you’re a manager, here’s more of what you can do:
One manager we know invited accusations by her actions. Because she operated secretly—her office door was always closed or locked not because she was needed to be closed off to do secret, unethical things but because she was afraid that people would come into her office and confront her on issues. She hated confrontation. She hated interruptions. She was ethical, but those around her took her closed door as a sign that she was hiding something.
Inviting openness seems simple, but I’ve learned the following steps the hard way. I tend to become completely absorbed in projects and single-minded in reaching goals. I’ve had to learn to:
1. Say “hello” to employees when I walk in at the beginning of the day.
2. Eat with employees in the lunchroom.
3. Walk around during the day to sincerely ask how everyone is doing.
4. Not have an office with fixed walls. (I know I’ll get some groans with that one.)
5. Schedule time at my desk when I don’t look so busy that I’ll snap if someone interrupts me.
6. Actually look up from my desk when someone greets me and greet him or her warmly.
7. Stop what I am doing when someone asks, “Do you have a moment?” (Even if it is to say, “Actually, right now I have to get this report out. Is this urgent or can I get my calendar so we find another time to talk?”)
Track the commitments you make. You can be sure that those you made the commitment to are tracking it. Always intend to follow-up. Don’t make promises lightly.
Receive feedback professionally.
Never deflect an accusation by an employee. Your job when meeting with an employee about an accusation is to listen with respect. If you don’t know all the relevant facts after listening without interruption say, “I see how you might have perceived that, let me do some research and get back to you.” Your research could show that a slip-up did occur—it’s not the end of the world if you acknowledge and correct it. If no slip-up was involved, determine the reason why the employee felt there was. For example, the employee may have thought your new policy on delinquent accounts was too stringent and was hurting innocent customers. But after researching the concern, you re-confirm that the process is in place due to valid business reasons.
In all cases, follow up with a conversation during which you either apologize or explain how a misunderstanding may have occurred.
Watch out for the three common ways of deflecting an accusation—they are:
• Claim the accuser doesn’t know enough or is not smart enough to identify Expedient Nod,
• Claim that the fault for Expedient Nod lies somewhere outside of the realm of their responsibilities, and
• Deflect any accusation by saying, “who are you to judge?”
After all is said and done, give yourself permission to be human, one who misses the mark sometimes.
Keep your own emotions out of the mix. If a tape is playing in your head that says “how dare she, who is she to judge, she has never been in this position…” it is a signal to yourself to continue to act professionally. Give yourself permission to be a human being, one who misses the mark sometimes.
If an employee wants to tell you about an argument he had with a teammate but he doesn’t want you to become involved in the solution, then, tell him that you will be glad to help them think through a resolution. If he wants to simply vent about the other person and not take any action to resolve the issue, then you do not want to hear it.
When Employee A knows that Employee B left work early and lied about the reason why; but Employee A doesn’t want to be named as the informant, you need to be careful speaking with Employee A. If the only way you can take disciplinary action is to identify the informant, then you cannot take the information from Employee A because you cannot keep the confidentiality. You would be caught in a bind of knowing something and not being able to take action; the information that you collected would be worthless.
There are times when I have said to a person, “I promise not to reveal who you are. But it may become necessary. If it does, I will come to you first to ask permission.” This way, they never have to question if I have told someone. At times the permission has come with limits, “You can tell Mary, but not Helen.”
If you’re a supervisor, here’s what you can do to avoid Expedient Nod:
Make sure your team members know where they stand.
You may dread giving negative feedback to front-line employees, and your choice may feel good at the time. The employee is not embarrassed and doesn’t feel he is being compared to others. You think that because the front-line agent doesn’t come to you and “measure me, give me feedback” that you are maintaining employee satisfaction. But, the decision not to confront the employee damages the chance of success for the employee, the first-level supervisor, and the company.
You may be wondering, “How avoiding giving feedback be the advice of Expedient Nod?”
Have you ever withheld a piece of negative feedback to someone, whether out of personal dread or fear of their reaction and your choice felt good at the time? The person may have been happy for a while in his ignorance. But, I’ll bet somewhere along the line the shoe dropped. It caught up with you or with the employee. Somewhere along the line someone said, “I don’t understand, I always got good performance scores and good reviews. Everything was always okay. Why did this happen?”
Expedient Nod makes it worse downstream. People need to know where they stand now, not later. The decision not to confront an employee damages the chance of success for the employee, the manager, and the organization.
Be a “know it all”.
Let everyone know you want to hear the bad along with the good. Let them know you are willing to face whatever music is out there. People will talk to people who take action. Ask your employees, “What’s putting us at risk?” “What are you hearing?” Take action on what you hear.
Too little communication is not Expedient Nod.
Telephone agents receive a memo telling them that the shipment of a certain product has been delayed.
The manager receives an updated memo telling her the product will be delivered on time. She orders the agents to tell the customers that the product will be delivered on time without communicating the updated memo information. They believe they are being asked to lie.
No Expedient Nod here, but the manager should communicate updated information and ensure that two-way communication occurs freely and without fear.
When you find Expedient Nod, whether he comes from within or without, discipline yourself not to let him escape. Go back to the source and determine what happened. Ask questions like:
• “Did I stop listening to my internal voice?”
• “Did I stop listening to my teammates?”
• “Did this begin when we brought in a new process?”
• “Did I first notice this when Product XYZ was introduced?”
• “Was the economy causing us to fail and to excuse expediency in our panic?”
Face why Expedient Nod seemed an acceptable decision at the time.
The ideal state is not that Expedient Nod disappears from your company. He never will. The ideal organization admits it’ll never be able to let its guard down. Managers are careful not to be comfortable, and react appropriately when they must.
Think of it this way: lack of corporate ethics is a hammer that can kill a company in one blow. However, the constant chiseling of the expedient behavior damages the corporate framework. It just may take a while to see it. In the meantime, controlling Expedient Nod will improve the morale and work life of all employees (Gray, Dory, Martha, and Ruthie included). When you make the commitment to face expedient decisions your internal voice has permission to speak. All you do is pay attention. You’ll become more and more sensitive to it as you listen and respond. Slowly you will root out your personal lapses into personal integrity.