(THE ASSISTANT) SAYS:
"I don't have the
decision-making authority I need to do my job well."
(THE MANAGER) SAYS:
"Frank, as much as I'd
like to give you more authority, some things need to be decided by my manager
or me. We all need to follow the chain of command here."
The employee wants to have more say in how he
performs his work. The manager feels she needs to maintain control.
Frank is an experienced administrative assistant in the
purchasing department of a small family-owned manufacturing firmwho has been
supporting Sandy for two years. One day, while working at his desk, Frank
received a call from a new long-distance telephone company. They said that they
could save his company 50 percent in long distance charges.
Frank gathered all of the
information to make this important decision. He talked to other phone
companies, called the Better Business Bureau, and talked to his friends that
work for other similar companies in the area.
Although Frank did not
normally handle matters such as this at work, he felt comfortable doing so
because he had made a similar decision for his home telephone. Armed with the
results of his analysis, he then went to Sandy and said: "I think we should
change our long-distance carrier. Here's why." Sandy listened patiently and
then said, "I appreciate all of the good work you've done, Frank, but this is
really something that I should handle." Frank leaves Sandy's office extremely
frustrated and later returns to her office to ask if he can take the rest of
the day off because he's not feeling well.
SOLUTION: WHAT THE ASSISTANT CAN DO.
Frank needs to change his approach with Sandy and clarify with
her his level of decision-making. Right now he feels rebuffed and frustrated.
Here are three things that Frank can try for now and in the future to gain that
- Recognize Sandy's needs.
Frank can recognize Sandy's need for control and
plan a strategy for working more effectively with her. The next time he
approaches her on a similar matter, he can be more sensitive to Sandy's
personality and initiate the conversation with something like, "Sandy, I've
been paying attention to the deals available with long distance carriers. I
don't believe we've been getting the best deal. Would you like to see some
information I've gathered for you?"
- Initiate a meeting to gain clarity.
Frank and Sandy need to sit down and make clear
the level of Frank's decision-making authority. In other words, determine
decisions that he can make on his own, and decisions that need to be made by
- Offer a trial.
Frank can Offer a trial on a specific
decision-making area so that Sandy can gain confidence in his abilities. He can
review specific situations and present his decisions to Sandy. Sandy can
accept, reject or accept them with modifications. They can both use this as a
learning experience to improve their team-of-two effectiveness.
SOLUTION: WHAT THE MANAGER CAN DO.
Our employee survey research, with over 40 participating
organizations, shows that 39 percent of all employees do not feel they have the
decision-making authority they need to do their jobs well. Here area some
suggestions for how managers can empower their employees.
- Recognize that part of the problem is you.
Delegating authority and empowering others is
one of the keys to successful management. Sandy needs to take a hard look at
her management style and ask herself, why she is reluctant to delegate
authority? Is she concerned about losing control? Does she perceive Frank as a
threat to her job security?
- Clarify the situation.
here are clearly some aspects of Frank's job
over which he can have total authority, and others that he can not. Sandy
should explain to Frank where the line falls and why. These decisions should be
based upon what's best for the business.
- Learn how to delegate.
Sandy needs to attend a training session, read a
book, or talk to other managers to learn how to become a better delegator. She
must learn the benefits and techniques of empowering her employees.
Managers should continually focus on how they can push
decision-making authority down the organization. Power is not a zero-sum game.
If more authority is exerted by employees at lower levels, the organization as
a whole will be more powerful and effective.