47. Annual Reviews Done Wrong + Boss Struggles with Peer-Turned-Employee

Episode 47: Annual Reviews Done Wrong + Boss Struggles with Peer-Turned-Employee (Summary)

It’s time to stop all the ways that bosses make annual reviews awful for employees. Plus, an early-career manager asks for help with a former peer who is now a game-playing direct report. We’re diving in now on Boss Better Now.

Links:
To learn more about Joe Mull, visit his website ​Joemull.com​.
To hear more from Joe Mull visit his YouTube channel​.
To learn how to invite Joe to speak at an event, visit ​Joemull.com/speaking​.
To check date availability or to get a quote for an event, email ​hello@joemull.com​.
To explore options for coaching from Alyssa Mullet, visit ​Joemull.com/coaching​.
For more information on the BossBetter Leadership Academy, visit Joemull.com/academy.
Email the show at bossbetternow@gmail.com.
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Transcript – Episode 47: Annual Reviews Done Wrong + Boss Struggles with Peer-Turned-Employee

Joe:
It’s time to stop all the ways that bosses make annual reviews awful for employees. Plus, an early career manager asks for help with a former peer who is now a gameplaying direct report. We’re diving in now, on Boss Better Now.

Alyssa:
You’re listening to Boss Better Now. Please welcome speaker, author, and pen-hoarder, Joe Mull.

Joe:
Greetings, BossHeroes. Thank you for being with us this week. Wherever you are – and however you are listening, we are delighted to have you back once again for your weekly dose of boss advice, humor, and encouragement. And in my little opening script here, I actually misspelled the word boss. I left an S off. So, thanks for joining us for your weekly dose of “bos” advice, humor, and encouragement. Anyway, we’re off to a good start. Please welcome my cohost, professional coach extraordinaire, Alyssa Mullet. Hello, my friend.

Alyssa:
How pathetic am I? That I didn’t even notice that. I was like, oh yeah. I, you know, I skim the parts. I’m like, yeah, it doesn’t matter. We can, we’ll make it work. Whatever you’re talking about. I’ll figure it out.

Joe:
Hey, we persevere here on “Bos” Better Now.

Alyssa:
Now is, is maybe “bos” is like a receptacle for all of the pens that are lying about? Is that what the hoarding is? Is that you have pens…?

Joe:
Wow. Did you pull a muscle on that stretch? That was a… Like, wow, that was a reach. I am a pen-hoarder. I don’t know why I have; I can’t throw away pens. I look at them like, but the pen works fine. And I don’t know why I accumulate so many pens. But in my office, I have like two coffee mugs full of pens. And I have drawers full of pens and I have pens everywhere. Are you…? Do encounter this? Have you experienced this, or do you have like one favorite pen and no other pen shall come to your grip?

Alyssa:
No, you know what I, I have done is I eliminated my pen. I don’t know… Hoarding. Isn’t the right word for me, but there was never a pen where I needed there to be a pen and the pens that were in the various places that they were in were never the right kind of pen for that task. Okay. So, what I ended up doing, I think this was like maybe six months ago or something I got like, I don’t know, two dozen of the same pen. Right. And I was like, I’m worth it to all of these pens rather than just being dependent upon some various organization or business for, for the, the dribbles of pens that I might get from the outside world. I was like, no, you can buy your own pens now.

Joe:
Gather around kids. It’s a big day. Mommy broke through. She bought new pens.

Alyssa:
Isn’t that something it’s like, there’s, I’m sure there’s some deep psychology in that kind of whacked-out brain hole of mine. But in any case, I bought all the pens and now I have all those pens and all the places that I need them there, beside my nightstand there beside my books on my book tower, in my living room, they’re in my kitchen there in my office. They’re all the places I need them to be.

Joe:
And is there like a don’t touch Mommy’s good pens rule in the house?

Alyssa:
No, because I, I, this is how giving I am. I’m like, I will share my pens with the family. That’s, that’s how I want to share my wealth. My riches of pens.

Joe:
That’s right. It’s like the good towels. It’s like, no, those aren’t for actual drying. Those are, those are for very special occasions. They only come out when there’s a specific function. Right. Some people have pens like that.

Alyssa:
Oh my gosh, if you don’t know how true that story is, it’s so funny you say about the towels because my husband, uh, just saw this big sale at Macy’s and he’s like, oh, they have towels for like $2. You know, they’re the big ones. I was like, okay, yeah, go ahead. Grab them up. She’s like, so super excited about these towels that we got. Right. They come and they are like… a vanilla wafer is probably thicker than these towels. Okay. He’s like, oh, well these will be for the guests we don’t like. Yeah, those are not good towels.

Joe:
For the guests we don’t like, that’s great. So, if you’re listening, friends and family of the Mullet family and you go to their house and you feel like this towel is lacking substance, that tells you something about how they feel about you. If you get a big fluffy towel, on the other hand, you’re… You’re in good

Alyssa:
Tell might be fluffy, but it’s going to be discolored. So, you just pick your poison there.

Joe:
Wow. We’ve gone way off the rails here. We’ve gone from, uh, pens, “bos” and pens and, uh, towels. Why don’t, why don’t we let’s get back on the bus friends — or the “bos”, depending on how you want to spell it. Well, we are going to start this week. I mean, we’ve kind of already started, uh, but we are going to make your time with us worthwhile this week, uh, with a segment that we love around here called “Stop It”.

Joe:
So, Alyssa, a lot of bosses right now –not all — but many are in the throes of writing their annual performance reviews. Um, if your organization, BossHero, is on, uh, you know, a calendar review system November and December is often the time when we are sitting down and going through what is often a painstaking process to document and capture, uh, the performance of the people who report to us so that we can then deliver those in a review meeting. Sometimes those are held in December. Sometimes they’re held in January, but I continue to see a litany of errors and issues with how bosses write and deliver performance reviews. And so, in this week’s episode, I wanted to start out Alyssa — I have a list of eight issues, eight things that bosses have to stop doing when it comes to writing annual performance reviews. I thought we could go through that together.

Joe:
All right. The first thing that bosses have to stop doing in annual performance reviews is including something that the employee has never heard about before. This is malpractice. If you sit down across from somebody and you say, hey, listen, I have concerns with, uh, how disruptive you are at staff meetings and the way that you shoot down other people’s ideas. And we’ve never spoken about this before, but I have placed it in this document, which will go into your appointment file in perpetuity for all time. That’s fair, right? No, it is absolute malpractice. If you have not had a conversation with an employee about a performance concern you have before ever putting it in the, in the review. If you have an issue and you’ve talked to the employee about it and they haven’t corrected it, then it goes into review. That’s fine. That’s appropriate, but you cannot surprise someone. Spring something on them, in the paperwork, in the, in the document. It’s malpractice. What say you, Alyssa?

Alyssa:
Well, I, I think if we need to look to the name of the process, it’s called a review, a performance review. Therefore, in, and of its name, this, the contents therein should be a review of everything we’ve already discussed throughout the entire freaking year. Right?

Joe:
It’s not a performance debut. It’s not like the premier. Like here’s, here’s everything I wanted to say to you all year long, but never worked up the courage or the time to do. So, I’ve decided to write it down…

Alyssa:
And now hold you accountable to it.

Joe:
And yes. And, and, you know, as historical documentation. No, that’s, that’s crappy. We got to stop. All right. The other second thing on the list, uh, failure to support ratings with examples. So, a lot of performance review instruments use a ratings system. And so, some of you who are writing reviews or are using a numerical state, a numerical scale, easy for me to say a numerical scale. Sometimes it’s one through five. Uh, sometimes there’s a point system involved. Sometimes you’ve got to rate people from 2.5 to 7.25. There’s a lot of weirdness out there. But across, or sometimes the organizations ask you to use a descriptive rating scale, right from a, does not meet expectations, meets expectations, exceeds expectations, kind of sort of, maybe touches expectations, but doesn’t embrace them fully. Like there are a lot of interesting written, you know, descriptive, uh, rating scales that are out there.

Joe:
But in any case, if you have to rate your employee across a set of competencies or, or job duties, and you rate that person for something outside of meets expectations, you absolutely have to support that rating with examples. If you’re indicating to somebody that they fall outside the bell curve of performance, and you don’t tell them why in the document, you’re abdicating your fundamental responsibility as a leader. We have to stop just plowing through the review, plugging the numbers into the boxes, and clicking save because it doesn’t give the employee any insight into what has happened in the year that we’ve had and what you expect from them in the year to come.

Alyssa:
Well. And I know some of these as, uh, you know, again, recovering HR person. Uh, and for those of you that are in the current HR function for your organization, I, I remember the pain so deeply that these, some of these processes are, uh, so entrenched with nuance that like now they won’t let you move on from the field. You know, because it’s electronically based and you have if you select something that is, you know, anything other than meets expectations, let’s say, then it will require you to put something in there. And so, a lot of times you’ll get like, oh, I just want to get this done, right. Because you have 50 more to do. And I totally feel you. Um, and so you put in a “see prior” or see you know, “past experiences”.

Alyssa:
You know, just anything to put it, uh, get it away from your screen, right? Make your life a little easier. You know, this process is going to happen every year. So, what I would invite you to do is when you’re in the midst of those sessions of feedback continually throughout the year, mark that down, right. Or keep a copy of the performance review out. And then when you note examples and you’ve discussed them with the employee as to whether that falls outside of the expectations of that particular, um, role or ex you know, uh, for the job description, or if they’re exceeding expectations in some manner, again, that’s related to the performance, then write that down in the moment. And then lo and behold, whenever you go to do that process again, this year, you pull that out and you go, oh, dang. I just have to type cause I’m that good? Right. So, you know, help yourself out.

Joe:
Well, and you, you alluded to the, uh, the reasons why some of these things happen, right? If people are, are trying to zip through and plug the numbers in quickly, that that’s often a symptom of a larger problem, which is that a lot of leaders have way too many reviews to write. It’s nearly impossible to write a rich review that is reflective and has utility for the employee. If you know, if you’ve got 52 of them to write and you’ve got a month to write them. It’s, it’s just nearly impossible. And we see so many organizations who continue to streamline reporting structures and assign more direct reports, more and more direct reports to a smaller number of people. Um, I’ve been in the room with leaders who say, yeah, I’ve got 89 reviews to write. And that’s, I mean, it’s, I would just tell the organization, why are you doing them?

Joe:
You know, that’s, that’s a, that you’re, you’re, you’re literally wasting time. That is not going to be a review of value for the employee. You are asking the manager to spend time doing something that has no value. You’re wasting two people’s time. Just don’t do them. Come up with a different model for how you’re going to evaluate performance and give feedback. But to ask a single person to write 89 performance reviews is absurd. Um, you know, and the other underlying problem is that leaders don’t get training in how to do this. They don’t get training on how to write about performance. They don’t get the training and how to use a rating system. Uh, we just did our BossBetter Virtual Summit for our, uh, our Leadership Academy subscribers in October. And we did three hours of training on how to write and deliver performance reviews effectively.

Joe:
And this is why, because we, we aren’t teaching managers how to engage in these processes in ways that are effective. And so that actually is tied to two of the other items on my list, Alyssa. Um, one of, one of the things we have to stop is ratings inflation. Where we, uh, give everybody all fives, right? And sometimes that happens because we’re, again, we’re, we’re plowing through quickly. And we want to say, well, all my people have done great this year. And they put up with so much crap during COVID and I want them to get the highest merit increase possible. So, I’m just going to give them the highest score possible, uh, because I care about my people, and I want them to get everything that they can get. But, you know, that undermines the process. It doesn’t communicate where people actually stand. Uh, because when you think about performance, it is a bell curve.

Joe:
The majority of people meet expectations. If you think about, you know, the center of the bell curve or the center of your ratings scale, whether it’s numerical or descriptive, that’s the “A” right. If you were giving a letter grade, like we got in school, the middle of the ratings scale is the “A” it’s you’re doing it. You’re doing it. Well, I have no concerns. Keep on keeping on, go on with your bad self. If you have folks who are exceeding and performing, beyond the scope and scale of the ratings scale, then we can add ratings there that are above that meets expectations center point of the bell curve. But then we have to support them with examples. Um, everyone listening to this who has been a manager for even a couple of years, has probably had the experience of replacing someone who did this. Of, of, um, replacing a manager who last year gave everybody on their team, all fives.

Joe:
And then you sit down and do reviews and you’re giving people, you know, 3.5 or four on a scale of one to five. And those folks are going, whoa, this isn’t fair. Why do you think my performance took a huge step back since last year when I got all fives? And as the manager, you’re going, but that’s not what I’m saying. We need to recalibrate our expectations and understanding of how the scale works because it wasn’t used properly. And so, this is one of the things that happens when you don’t give leaders, the training, and the proper support they need, and how to write reviews.

Alyssa:
You know, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on this, Joe, because this is something that I struggled with a lot, um, in my leadership roles, um, in a very, very large organization, I was a part of. The highest increase anyone could get on my team was 3%. A 3% raise that, and that was, if I, and then that subsequently meant I had to manage everyone else’s performance to that budget that I was allowed in order to give out to my entire team. Yeah. How do you not become a leader who does those things like ranking everybody, according to the budget of what you have? When that’s seemingly again, this is how it felt to me, that’s the way the system was set up.

Joe:
Yeah. Yeah. So, so two things, the first is this is why it’s so important for departments to collaborate around performance reviews because if the organization is mandating a range and the organization demands that there is equity around how the available funds are distributed, uh, then left to our own devices, we will scratch and claw and fight for everything we can get for our people. And that’s great. That’s advocacy for your people. And we want bosses who show up like that, those are BossHeroes, um, but we will have a much more equitable distribution of those funds. We will have less infighting if we can pull the leaders of those departments or teams together and say, hey, listen, that we have a pool of money over here for X. Uh, we need to find a way to equitably distribute to the, you know, to the highest performers and within the range.

Joe:
And so, we need to be communicating. We need to be all working off of the same playbook for how these ratings work. We have to calibrate the ratings collectively across the organization so that the available funds can be applied, um, in the same manner to everyone working in the organization. So that’s the first point. Here’s the second point though, which is just a fundamental acknowledgment of what you said, Alyssa. Uh, let’s, let’s, let’s name it. If I’m an employee, my raise this year is not based entirely on my performance. My raise this year is based in part on my performance, but also in part on the organization’s desire to spread monies around to other departments. And if my team has, let’s say four top performers on it, and there’s a team across the hall that has one top performer on it. It is really hard to expect that more monies are going to be devoted to my team than yours, because we know that there are leaders and organizations who say, no, you’ve got a pool of money.

Joe:
And this group over here has the same pool of money. And this group over here at the same pool of money. So, it is an act of empathy for us to acknowledge even explicitly to employees that you’re right, your raise this year is not based entirely on your performance. And that sucks, but that’s also the way that performance reviews work in business. They are, um, performance reviews are a, a fundamentally flawed way of doing capturing and discussing performance. Um, there are a lot of different models out there. People were still working on ways to come up with, to do them better. But for now, this is the long-standing thing that a lot of managers are asked to do. And so, we have to acknowledge that… Yeah, it’s not just based entirely on your performance. There’s a, there’s a financial component, a budget component, um, and organizations who say we have to equitably distributed across the organization before they evaluate the performance– are limiting the available funds, not dependent on performance.

Alyssa:
Yeah, I think that’s, uh, uh, that really helps me recalibrate, you know, in my head and what my heart says is fair. Right? Is that … that’s speaking it into that conversation so that, that everyone understands there is only so much that is truly driven by your performance in this equation. And so that’s part we’re going to discuss today, but we’re going to still name this over here.

Joe:
Yeah. Yeah. And just to just be able to look at people and say, you’re right, it’s an imperfect system. Um, but you, me, and everybody else are, are forced to operate within it. So, let’s do the best that we can. And let’s have an honest dialogue about what really went well last year and what we want to carry over into the next year. Let’s treat the review as a bridge between these two years. And if you’ve done all the other things as a leader to cultivate trust and respect, to nurture a relationship with your people. If you’re showing up as an advocate, as a BossHero, then they are going to, in most cases, understand and work with you. And this can still be a positive experience for everybody involved. I have a couple of other things on my list. I want to get to, to make sure we get through before we run out of time on them.

Joe:
Cause … cause there are other things that need to be stopped. Um, a couple of things that need to be stopped around ratings. Um, one is being unable to describe the next ratings level, right? If you identify somebody as meets expectations in a particular competency or in a particular job duty, and that employee says to you, okay, what do I need to do next year to get an exceeds expectation in this area? You got to be able to answer that question, boss. Now you may not be able to answer it in the moment and that’s okay. You know, you may not on the spot, be able to come up with the answer. Um, but it is completely reasonable for that employee to ask that question and it is reasonable for them to expect you to articulate here’s where you are this year.

Joe:
If you wanted to score an exceeds expectation in this area next year, uh, you, I would need to be seeing things like A, B, and C. And so, you may have to say to the employee, if they ask you that question, um, that’s a fair question. Um, let me give that some thought so that I can come up with some, some clear guidelines for you and I will circle back to you by date. And then when you share that feedback with them, boy, howdy, you better write that down! Because if next year they show up in that way, you’ve got a promise to keep. Otherwise, you will destroy your credibility. Uh, the other area in ratings that needs to be stopped, right now, is rating employees in areas where they are not yet trained. And so, I saw this constantly, you hire a new employee.

Joe:
They’ve been there for four months, but the company mandates that everybody gets an annual performance review in December. So, you’re sitting down and you’re writing a review and you come to an area of the job that they really haven’t been asked to do yet. And so, you say, well, I guess they meet expectation or, or this happens too often you say needs improvement because they don’t know how to do it. So, I’m going to rate this as needs improvement. How are you going to ding someone for something they haven’t been trained in yet? Stop it. That is, that is inappropriate. So, a couple of things here around ratings, um, couple other aspects to the annual performance review process that we need to make sure we put a stop to. Um, no meeting to discuss the review. Like you write the review and then you email it and say, hit me up if you’ve got questions. That is not an annual review. Have you seen that, Alyssa?

Alyssa:
Oh my gosh. Yes. Especially, especially this happens to the leaders themselves. Right. You know, everybody else you think, okay, well, I got all my reviews done. And then whenever it comes time to actually get your performance review done by your boss, then you’re just the afterthought, you know? And that’s truly what that feels like. So, if we value ourselves, we need to self-advocate in that and say, no, let’s, you know, I’ve put this time on our calendar to discuss this. Thanks so much for your time.

Joe:
And you know, the number of leaders who are listening to this podcast right now who have to write their own review every year is way too many to name, right? The Senior VP or the, or the doctor, or, you know, they, they say, okay, write your review and send it to me and I’ll sign off on it. That’s not a performance review. That’s a love letter to yourself. And we have a lot of folks who are listening to this podcast. People who listen to this podcast, by their nature are interested in personal development. And so, they’re probably high enough in their own emotional intelligence that they don’t give themselves all fives. Right. They sit down and they say, okay, here’s what I did. Well, here’s what I want to improve on. And so, they do the work for that leader. And, and I understand why that has to happen in some places, but it’s, it’s damaging. It doesn’t foster the kind of support and leadership development that that boss needs that boss’s boss has no idea what that boss does every day, deals with every day. I would dare to suggest that some of those leaders who are just signing off on those reviews, aren’t even reading them.

Alyssa:
Mm-hmm. It’s like the whole saying, you know, you have to put your own face mask on before you put somebody else’s, you know, the whole, whatever falls down from the airplane. I don’t know the flight travel. I haven’t been on it. And so, so, so, so long, whatever the thing is that comes down. You got to put it on yourself, demand that you have that review process with your boss. You are worth it. You need to fill up your own cup. This is a process by which that can happen. You deserve it.

Joe:
And you can ask for that outside of the construct of the instrument, right? If your boss is just wanting you to fill that out, if nothing else schedule some time with that person and say, um, I want to get some feedback and come prepared a couple of very specific questions. You know, what, what would you say are the strongest characteristics or personality traits I bring to the work? Um, w when, if you were going to describe my work to somebody else, what kind of language would you use? What stories would you tell about, um, the most significant contributions I’ve made in the past year? What would you like to see me do differently in the year ahead? You know, these are all questions you can ask to draw out some of the very feedback that a performance review should give you. Absolutely. Um, I think I’ve got one more on the list here doing reviews late or not at all.

Joe:
So, if the organization’s timeline says that, you know, reviews are being written in November and December and meetings are being delivered in December and January. And you are so overwhelmed with the number of reviews that you have to do. And the number of other things that are, are demanding your time, that you constantly go back to employees, and you say, well, we’re going to have to wait on this. We’re gonna have to wait on this. All of a sudden, you’re doing a performance review in April. Three, four months into the new year that was supposed to be delivered in December. Here, again, I say, just don’t do it like you’re wasting. That’s a waste of time. Hey, let’s talk about the year ahead. That is four months old, right? It’s insulting. And it sends a message to the employee about what you value. It sends a message to the employee that you’re too busy to carve out time to talk with them about how they’re doing. And, and you know, if you want to know why people are leaving jobs, if you want to know, um, what leads people to feel demoralized at work, that’s a part of it.

Alyssa:
Yeah. You have to prioritize it. And, and I get it, we have so many competing priorities at this time. But this is where the priority has to lie is giving the people, the strength, the tie, the connection to want to commit, to giving you more time and commitment in the coming year. This is what strengthens or breaks those ties over time. So put the effort in.

Joe:
And I get it. I haven’t met a boss yet who rolls out of bed on a Tuesday in November and goes, oh, yes, I get to write reviews today. You know, they’re cumbersome. It’s not a process that’s enjoyable. They require a lot of thought. They require time. They require it require intentionality. And most of us are, are busy enough all year long that to try to carve out the time and space and the energy and focus that is required to do this well, most people don’t have a bunch of extra time and resources laying around, uh, to devote to this. So, I get it. Uh, but if we’re going to do it, let’s make sure we’re doing it in a way that doesn’t make our jobs harder, that doesn’t cause pain and suffering for employees, that doesn’t undermine the very commitment you’re trying to nurture and cultivate.

Joe:
And we do that by making sure that we — here comes the recap. We don’t include something that the employees never heard before. We don’t, uh, forget to support ratings with examples. We don’t inflate ratings. Uh, we make sure we always have a meeting to discuss the review. Um, we don’t rate people in areas where they’re not yet trained. Uh, we are, uh, able to describe the next ratings level if asked, uh, and we make sure that we don’t end up doing them late or not at all. These are the things that make annual performance review is problematic and they got to stop.

Joe:
“Stop It.” Well, we’d love to hear what you think. BossHeroes, both your reactions to what you’ve heard in our discussion about performance reviews and your questions or ideas or issues around them for future episodes. So, drop us a line or a note, send your questions to us via email at bossbetternow@gmail.com or if you’re streaming this episode online, pop a comment in the box below the episode. We’ll see it there, pass it along, and queue up or tee up your question for a future episode.

Joe:
And we come now, of course, my friend, to the Camaraderie Question of the Week. Bosses build camaraderie on teams, by making it easier for people to find things in common with each other. That’s why here on our little show, on our little corner of the internet, we give you a question every week that you can use at meetings to facilitate connection and build camaraderie. And our question this week, Alyssa is as follows. What is the dumbest way that you’ve been injured?

Alyssa:
You know what I wrote down on my little run sheet, I just wrote this word bathroom question mark? I am sure. I mean, I, I, I don’t lack, you know, injury in life, obviously not significant, thankfully knock on some wood, but I think that it would have to be tied to some kind of embarrassing act in order for me to have blocked it out the way that I do. Like I have no memories, they’re all repressed. I, I can only assume that I have like pulled a muscle, you know, getting up from the toilet or like, you know, slammed my head into a door just because I wasn’t paying attention.

Joe:
So, there’s not like a specific event that you’re thinking of. It’s just that you have a consistent pattern of injuring yourself in the bathroom. Is that what I hear you saying?

Alyssa:
All repressed and blocked out. I have no memory, no memory of them. And if I did, I am not sure I am brave enough to air them.

Joe:
Okay.

Alyssa:
What about you? Are you brave enough? Does it have something to do with embarrassing? Because for me, it’s probably all embarrassing. I don’t know.

Joe:
The dumbest way I’ve injured myself was bowling. I tore my meniscus while bowling and I am… The only reason I am sharing that on this podcast is because I wouldn’t want anybody listening to think that I’m cool.

Joe:
True story this, this was just four years ago. It was not a long time ago. So, I think I’ve talked about this. I have had a grand total had six knee surgeries. I have had, uh, three surgeries on each knee. I have chronic long-term, uh, knee issues. Uh, and six years ago we were bowling for somebody’s birthday, one of the kids or an aunt or something like that. And you know, when, if you watch somebody, you know, they do that like one, two-step, and then you roll the ball and like your right leg kind of comes up and goes behind you. Well, because I had so many knee issues for years, I don’t do that. I kind of just walk up on two feet and roll the ball as hard as I can to terrorize the pins and have them go falling down, both out of fear and violence. I’m not afraid to admit that that’s how I bowl. And on this particular day, for some reason, it still defies expectation. I had that thought of, well, I’m going to try to do it the proper way. I’m going to do the one, two, walk, slide, pick up the leg full of grace. And I did. And the pop that emanated from my knee when I did that was my meniscus tearing. (Alyssa: Wow.) Yeah, that was, that was not good.

Alyssa:
No sir, no grace for you.

Joe:
You want to hear the funniest part of the story though. (Alyssa: Please.) Three days before it happened, I was booked by Siemens to be the keynote speaker at one of their imaging conferences in Las Vegas. So, they booked me to speak three days, and this was the month. And so, they, they called me in, in October to speak at a conference that would be in, in April. So, I, then I tear my meniscus and, and the next day I am laying in an MRI tube. And all I’m staring at is the word Siemens, which is put on the MRI machine. Right. And I’m in there thinking, well, I guess I got to use this. And I ended up doing this opening story at the conference in April about, um, about my knee. And it was actually really funny. I had, I created this whole custom, really funny opening about, um, radiology. And, um, I tried, like, I tried to take a picture of all of them, and I kept telling them that the room needed to be colder, and they needed to take off all their jewelry. And it was funny. We had a lot of fun with that. So, I was able to leverage it for a good piece of material for the stage.

Alyssa:
That’s excellent. I love it.

Joe:
So that’s how I, the dumbest way that injured myself. Um, I think friends, BossHeroes, this is a fun question. If you’re looking for something lighthearted, um, and here’s a piece of advice when you ask this question, ask them to answer it by telling you the story. Try don’t and don’t let them answer it with just one word or one sentence and say, I want you to answer this question by telling us a quick story. This is a storytelling answer. What is the dumbest way that you injured yourself? And as always, if people want to opt-out that’s okay. Right. We want to protect people’s boundaries. Uh, but by asking for the story, you could get some real color and some really interesting things from people. Uh, so what we’ve learned today is Joe is dangerous while bowling, and Alyssa is dangerous in the bathroom.

Alyssa:
That’s right and don’t you forget it.

Joe:
That’s the Camaraderie Question of the Week. All right, Alyssa, we have a question that has come in from one of our viewers. So, let’s do some Mail Time.

Joe:
Dear Alyssa and Joe. I became a boss a little over one year ago. I have two reports that have been with the company for many years. I joined three years ago. I started out at the same level as them. And then after two years became their manager. I am 25 years younger than they are. One of them seems to respect me quite a bit, but the other addresses me by using my first name, then a period in chat messages, which they never did this before. And when I give him a project to help him move up in the ranks, he asks me so many questions that it makes me wish I just took it on myself. His questions seem to be a way to delay the projects until they never get done. Then every time I tell him something he could use some work on, he seems to feel personally attacked. For his review, I used the “sandwich method” with a whole lot of bread and only a little bit of stuff to work on. Yet, he just focused on the “bad”. What is the best way to handle going from being a friend to being a manager, especially when you got the job over someone that has been with the company for so long. Lots going on here, Alyssa, where do you want to start?

Alyssa:
Well, so I would start at the end of that sentence where you, you got the job over those two individuals. So, my first question is, did anyone outside of you, who has that job now, communicate to this individual why he did not get the job? Because it sounds like the feedback that he needs is still outstanding. Um, anything that you say good, bad, indifferent is going to be met with resistance if he does not truly believe that you are the best person for that job. He’s still envisioning himself there, right. Rather than supporting you in your role. So, this kind of competition, undercutting, you know, the, the whole thing, um, you have to breathe life into it in terms of saying it out loud. And maybe that is to either ask your boss, you know, when he applied was he given feedback as to why he did not receive the promotion?

Alyssa:
Okay. Number two, if that, you know, this happens to maybe that person or whatever the pro the process is kind of diluted into you’re unsure, ask him, did anyone tell you why I was chosen for this job, and you were not? I would like to understand from your perspective, do you feel that you received feedback as to why you are not in this job? Uh, and then listen, right? Um, the whole thing about, you know, addressing you by the first name, kind of, I get w which, what is being said is that, you know, that was never done that before. Um, I don’t know, to me kind of seems antiquated in terms of like, maybe there’s different levels of, um, civility that we’re accustomed to, that we kind of might need to think about truly, is that a form of disrespect or what is that? And I would just, again, encourage you to ask, ask like, hey, I noticed that this is the way we’re talking now, you know, like that, wasn’t the case prior, like, I’m just trying to understand, is that a reflection of our relationship or what, or is it meant to…

Joe:
What’s that about?

Alyssa:
Yeah, that’s, that’s a much better like…you don’t have to assume anything.

Joe:
Hey, I notice every time you type my name in this way, you kind of put this period thing. What’s that about? Because here’s, here’s what I think, Alyssa, I think that what, what Rhonda is saying is, and I’m sorry, I maybe didn’t say that at the beginning, this email is from Rhonda, um, I think what Ronda’s communicating is at least with that aspect of this, maybe it feels like some kind of mocking. Like with like, I’m typing my name with a period, like Alyssa period. Um, and so yeah, being able to just ask, Hey, what’s that about? Because here’s how I’m experiencing it. I am experiencing it as this kind of subtle mocking. And if that’s not what you intended, then I want to make sure we talk about it so that I don’t, that’s not the story playing in my mind. So, what’s that about? Um, you know, there’s a couple of questions buried in here, you know, questions about this kind of mocking and undermining.

Joe:
There’s a question in here about youth, right? And working with supervising, people were so much older than you. Um, how do you make that transition from peer to manager? How do you overcome somebody who thought they should have got the job? How do you deal with somebody who gets defensive when they get feedback on what they need to work on? Uh, but I think that the macro question here is actually, um, something that she said very early in the email, it’s about respect. She said, one of these people seems to respect me quite a bit, but the other, and then she lists all this stuff that’s going on. And so, I actually would encourage Rhonda to think about that conversation. And you’re right, this, this we have to ask, we have to go to this person and say, I’m experiencing what feels like a lack of respect.

Joe:
And here are all the ways and why here. Here are all the reasons why here are all the ways that I’m experiencing this. Um, and I think that there are a couple of factors here that will determine what kind of approach Rhonda takes with that conversation. Because one approach is collaborative, right? One approach is sitting down and saying, Hey, Alyssa, I’m going to ask you a question. Can you help me understand why you don’t respect me in this role? And then you wait a beat because that’s going to land. That’s, that’s going to be like a whoa, like we’re not talking about like, what time is the meeting? This is a grown-up conversation now. Um, so she might want to sit down. This is, this is gentle. This is warm. This is a genuine, sincere desire to understand. Alyssa, can you help me understand why you don’t respect me in this role?

Joe:
And let me tell you why I’m asking you. Because here’s what I’m seeing. I get in this kind of weird mocking thing on the chats with the name. And you ask for feedback on how you can move up and I give you suggestions, and then you constantly bring me questions that come on. I mean, I know, you know, the answers to these questions. And so, it feels like it’s just this sort of on-purpose disruptive thing. Um, you know, and any time I give you feedback, you kind of have these, um, melodramatic reactions that are bigger than they should be. And so, at the root of all this, it feels like for one reason or another, that you’re not able to respect me in this role. And I want to understand why. What do you think? What’s that about? There’s a new BossScript. “What’s that about?”

Joe:
Um, so that’s the kind of warm, friendly, collaborative approach. There is another approach. It’s the direct approach now that that actually might’ve felt kind of direct for some folks, but it is not. Um, and it’s funny when I saw this email, I thought of a scene from one of my all-time, favorite movies. Uh, one of my all-time, favorite movies is A Few Good Men with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. It was written by Aaron Sorkin, who is as brilliant a writer of movies that is out there. And Sorkin wrote this great scene for Jack Nicholson in the middle of the movie, um, where he is, um, confronting one of his subordinates about something that they did in a meeting in front of somebody else to undermine him. And he says this great line. He says, you know, we, we went to the academy together. We spent a lot of years working together.

Joe:
Uh, we are friends. We know each other’s wives. We… we’ve been, we’ve been together for a long time, but you know what? I have been promoted up the chain of command with greater speed and success than you have. And if that’s a source of tension or embarrassment for you, well, I don’t give a “—“, and he basically says, we have a job to do here. I’ve tried to give you the space to get used to it. We’re done worrying about that. Now let’s just forget for a second, that Jack Nicholson is the horrible villain in the whole movie. Let’s set that aside. But the sentiment of sometimes you have to sit across from somebody and say, listen, if this is a sore point for you, it time to get over it. And that might be the case around what she needs to do with this person if they’re still twisted in knots about not getting the job, right.

Joe:
She may have to sit this person down and say, especially if, if we’ve tried the collaborative approach that I just described, if we tried that and this stuff still persists, we may have to sit down with this person and say, you know what? I get that you wanted the job, but you didn’t get it and I did, and I am doing my level best to make this a place where you can thrive and you’re doing everything possible to undermine that. And so, we are having a come to Jesus moment right here, where we’re going to decide together, whether you can stay. We’re gonna decide together right now, whether there’s a future here for you, because everything that has happened up to this point is done. Now it’s done. It’s not going to continue. If it continues, you can’t stay. And we will come up with an exit plan for you.

Joe:
I have tried to give you the space and the support that you need to get used to the idea that a person younger than you, and with less experience is now your boss. And I get that, that might be a sore point. But my fear is at some point you got the impression that the things I am asking you to do are optional. They are not. As for all the questions, if when I give you projects, as for all the questions, if you genuinely don’t know the answer, then we will work together, and I will coach you as much as I can. But if you’re just delaying the project so that you can play victim, then this is a pattern. And that is a problem. And again, we have to ask ourselves some questions about whether or not you have the capacity to continue in the role. (Alyssa: Wow.) That’s a much more direct approach. And sometimes the only way that we get respect from folks is we have to set down harder boundaries and command it. And that might be the case for Rhonda here. I don’t know. We’re just kind of throwing some things against the wall to see what sticks Rhonda.

Alyssa:
Hmm. I, I just had an internal conversation with myself. And so, I can only imagine that Ronda is going to do the same when she hears this episode. But I, I think both of those approaches are, are so worthy in their own right. And I, I just would encourage you if you’ve already had that conversation about, you know, if he has gotten the feedback as to why he does not have your job. And the answer is, yeah, he’s gotten that feedback and he’s done exactly what you are experiencing, where he’s not able to move on from the negative feedback and is just stuck in that loop…. and this is his way of undermining you and you know that kind of thing. Then there is a huge amount of power and respect for yourself that comes from acting in either of those two ways that you just outlined. Yeah. You’re going to be able to find that…

Joe:
This is not okay. It’s important. Yep. And setting that boundary.

Alyssa:
Yeah.

Joe:
Absolutely. Um, uh, one other thing, Rhonda, um, we didn’t get into the whole overcoming the defensiveness to feedback. You talked about the sandwich approach, right? Which we’ve affectionately referred to on the podcast as the “shit sandwich”, right. Where you put the crappy thing in the middle and you try to put a lot of bread around it. Just, just do the crappy part. Like you don’t have to, you don’t have to, um, couch it in any kind of niceties. You want to do it where you preserve their dignity. Um, we got onto, we got into that with a much greater level of depth on this podcast back in episode 42. So, I’m going to point you back to episode 42, about overcoming defensiveness and feedback conversations. I think there could, there could be a lot there for you in to help you with those specific kinds of circumstances. And so, thank you for your mail.

Joe:
And that’s our show for this week, friends. Hey, if you like what we’re doing here, would you tell others about it? We’d really appreciate you sharing the podcast, consider sending a link to your management team so they can check out the show or post a link and say some nice words about us on your LinkedIn or Facebook status. We even make it easy for you. Just point people toward the podcast website, bossbetternowpodcast.com. Thanks for listening. And thanks for all that you do to take care of so many.

Alyssa:
This show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Remember commitment comes from better bosses. Visit joemull.com today.

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