Tell Him?

©2006 Steven M Smith

It’s ironic that the Baseball Writers Association of America named Joe Girardi the National League’s 2006 Manager of the Year. Giardi was recently fired by the Florida Marlins despite managing a young, low-rated team into contention. It seems his problem wasn’t performance but rather communication.

Baseball reporters speculate the Marlins fired Giardi because of a run in with owner Jeffrey Loria. During a game on August 6, Loria made his outrage about the calls of home plate umpire Larry Vanover loud and clear to both Vanover and everyone near Loria’s seat behind home plate. In the dugout, Giardi heard Loria chewing out Lanover. He leaned out and yelled to Loria, “You aren’t helping.”

When asked about the incident, Loria replied, “Everything is, you know, fine. But I don’t want to talk about it.” After the incident, Loria talked about the success of the organization but never about Girardi’s role in it.

So what does that story have to do with management? For me, it highlights a typical communication problem.

Reading between the lines, I interpret that Loria was mad that his behavior, which most people would agree is bad behavior for an owner, was commented about in public by someone who worked for him. If Girardi would have made the same comment in a private meeting, Loria may have taken no offense.

Loria may have been upset that Girardi, a employee, made any comment at all to him about his vitriolic display. Some executives never, ever want the hear anyone “beneath” them make a negative comment about whatever they do.

If a manager above you wants to hear neither public nor private comments about their inappropriate behavior from subordinates, you already know what to do and don’t need any suggestions from me.

I do, however, have suggestions about a situation where you have complete control. Consider what comments you will or won’t accept from people who are below you. If you are behaving inappropriately, is it okay for them to inform you?

For instance, during a meeting, you loudly argue with a client. Is it okay for a manager in your organization to say to you, “You aren’t helping.”? How about an employee? Should they let you keep arguing? Will you be embarrassed about being called out? Does your personal embarrassment require retribution?

I suggest pondering these questions:

  • What are you willing to hear from subordinates in public?
  • What are willing to hear in private?
  • What communication is out of bounds whether it’s public or private?
  • What are you willing to hear from an employee that you
    aren’t willing to hear from a manager?

Answering these questions will enable you to gain clarity about the types of communication you desire from your managers and employees. That knowledge will enable you to craft and communicate your desires.

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