We all arrive at adulthood with some things we believe as absolute truths and firm rules. Some of these we learned from our families. Perhaps some were learned in religious training or in educational programs. For example, you may believe all people are basically good, and that forgiveness is a virtue. You may believe that everyone deserves a second chance, or you may think some actions are so egregious that there is no recovery from them. Similarly, you may or may not believe people can change or can be rehabilitated.
You carry these beliefs into your work setting where they may not always match the philosophy of top management, your boss, or your human resources department. For example, you may think everyone makes mistakes and should be given a second chance. Your organization, however, may be concerned with possible litigation and is quick to dismiss someone who makes a serious error.
In addition to major beliefs, there can also be minor differences that create discomfort for you as a manager. You may see punctuality as an important employee attribute, but your organization offers a flexible start time. You know some staff take unfair advantage of this perk, but it is difficult to document or manage without appearing punitive. Or there may be a system in place whereby there are only two or three reasons–stealing, insubordination, workplace intimidation or violence–where an employee can be fired outright. Other issues, such as job performance, repeated tardiness, or unexcused absences, require a staged approach where the employee has the opportunity to improve time after time, and you find this tedious and non-productive.
Many talented individuals get ahead in their careers because they follow the rules. They do what is required and asked, often going beyond the basics. In so doing, they may become rule bound and have little tolerance for employees who cut corners or constantly try to bend the rules. If you fall in this category, you might wish to take a firmer stand than that which is acceptable in you organization. This can create issues for you.
Becoming a manager often requires a reassessment of what you believe are black and white workplace issues. Start by checking the employee policy manual, and then talk with a representative from human resources. Get advice at the first sign of difficulty with an employee. It would undermine your credibility to go down a disciplinary path and find out that management can’t, or won’t, support you.
As you become a more seasoned manager, you will learn several important lessons. You will find that there are many, many grey areas in the workplace. These will challenge your thinking and sometimes even cause you to temper your belief system a bit. You will also discover that some things that initially seemed important to you simply aren’t worth your time and energy.