Q: A senior executive has had to quickly fill a mid-level management position – and they've done it badly. The person appointed is clearly underqualified and incapable, but the successful candidate thinks they're doing well. They push back on everything we suggest or question, and generally make our lives difficult. My colleagues and I all agree on this, but we don't know what to do.
Should we take it to the senior executive, even though it's clearly their mistake?
A: This question goes to the heart of your company's culture. The biggest influence on business success is your people . The loyalty and talent of colleagues can make a crucial difference between one business and another. So, to be great, an organisation must recruit great people, give top class training and help every colleague to enjoy coming to work so they can become the best they can be.
To be happy, an employee needs to do a job they enjoy alongside a helpful set of colleagues. They also need to have a great boss and be part of a company with a positive culture. This sounds pretty straightforward, but it's much easier to say than achieve.
Your company has a problem. The senior manager has promoted the wrong person and probably knows it's a big mistake, but shows no sign of putting things right. You have several choices: take the risk and raise the problem with senior management; look for a new job that promises to provide you with your happiness elsewhere; or do nothing and see how things turn out. It's your decision, but if you continue working for a fifth-grade manager, don't be surprised if your working life goes from bad to worse.
By openly criticising your new boss and having the courage to challenge the senior executive's wisdom, you could be doing your firm a big favour. But it may be difficult to get anyone to take note of your advice. Your company probably follows the conventional "command and control" culture that gives top management the authority to make all the important decisions. They seldom recognise that people on the front line know more about the day-to-day business than executives sitting in a big office (or, these days, working from home). Most managers find it difficult to admit they have made a mistake.
You're about to discover whether you're working for a broad minded company who cares about its people, or one who considers staff to be numbers on the payroll who are expected to turn up on time and follow company policy. If, despite your current experience, you feel that you're part of an organisation who cares for colleagues with trust, kindness and a sense of responsibility, stay in your job, but be honest and become a whistleblower. Complain about your new boss in clear terms and don't pull your punches. If you're ignored or, worse, put permanently on the naughty step, it's time to look at the job market for a better kind of employer.
Too many firms fail to recognise the influence their colleagues have on corporate success. I was thinking about this a fortnight ago, when I hosted Timpson's long service awards . It was the 45th year I had presented the awards to those who had completed 25 and 45 years. They all had great stories to tell and made a major contribution to the development of our business. It would have been tragic if an ill-considered management appointment had brought any of their careers to a premature end (when a colleague leaves, it's usually because they don't get along with their boss rather than disliking the business).
We learnt a big lesson a few years ago, when we appointed a highly-rated manager from outside Timpson whom we felt had the potential to accelerate the growth of our watch repair business. It all seemed to make sense: she recruited a talented team of horologists who took our expertise to a new level. We invested over £1m in state of the art technology and strengthened our ties with quality watch brands who had previously been reluctant to talk to a cobbler.
But it was an expensive failure. The new team knew a lot about repairing watches, but failed to understand our culture. They didn't trust our front line colleagues, who were told to send every watch straight to the workshop team who made all the decisions. Our branch colleagues felt undermined and after six months, our watch repair sales were falling by over 5pc.
That's what can happen when you lose the dressing room.
Sir John Timpson is chairman of the high-street services provider, Timpson.
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