Story Time: I was out at one of our projects recently with another engineer. That day he was taking care of some data collection while I was checking in on the project. At one point during the day, I was standing with the project’s Superintendent and we were talking about what was coming next. The Super was concerned about where he was going to be positioned next. We have several projects of a similar nature going on at once and we shift supervisors and laborers often depending on need. I could tell that there was some urgency in his voice in trying to get me to keep him in a particular location; the reasons why are irrelevant. I emphasized to him that I don’t make those decisions and while he understood that, he was hoping my influence could sway the minds of those that do make those decisions. I told him that I would look into it but only from the standpoint that it made effective sense to me as far as the project was concerned. When I said I would look into it I did exactly that, I started with a group email reaching out to those who were in charge of personnel. I didn’t wait and was proactive about the circumstance. Feeding this guy some lip-service would definitely haunt me and by delaying an answer could have adverse effects on the project.
Expert’s Input: In If you’re going to be a project manager, be a proactive one, Tom Mochal puts it very plain: “The very good, proactive project manager has internalized these project management responsibilities and makes them a normal part of the project work.” Wow! That’s the type of manager I want to be. I’m not there yet, where I’ve internalized these responsibilities and they become automatic, but I’m working on it.
The Story Continues: At the end of the day when the other engineer and I were headed back to the office he admitted he had overheard pieces of my conversation and wanted to know what came of it. I openly obliged and gave him a little background to the situation and followed up on how I handled it. I told him the reason why I was pushing the keep the Super on that project and also the reasons for my transparency in how I was conducting my push. I also told the engineer that if I felt the Super’s presence was needed else ware more, than I would contend to tell him that he was needed more else ware and that he needed to be prepared to leave.
Expert’s input: Andy Makar hits on 4 Benefits of a Transparent Work Environment and I’ll list them real quick because these little statements say a lot:
- Increases performance and accountability
- Eliminates bad surprises before it’s too late
- Gets buy in and ownership from the entire team
- Builds trust with your clients and peers
Andy expounds on them and I’ll leave for you to read if you like but the one that strikes me the most number 4. And specifically in this situation I established and built upon a foundation of trust with both the engineer and the Super.
The Story Concludes: Before we left the project site, I was contacted by those in charge of shifting around the personnel and the outcome was that the Super would leave but after a short stint, he would come back. Also before we left I passed on this info to the Super and while he was a little dejected at having to leave, he was very content at the fact that he got to come back so soon. More than all of that, he was appreciative of the effort I openly gave in trying to get something worked out; that I was proactive about going the extra mile.
I told all this to the engineer and the point I was trying to make to him was that there is no need for favoritism in any workplace atmosphere. Granted, I didn’t have the authority to play favoritism but the reason why I pushed for him to stay were because it was in the projects best interest. Through the whole process, I maintained transparency and kept an open dialog with everyone concerned.
Expert’s Input: in a blog by Andreea Hrab concerning the FAVORITISM AND NEPOTISM: DEALING WITH UNFAIR TREATMENT IN THE OFFICE she lists the negative outcomes due to favoritism and the positives when you can avoid them. One Positive she lists is: “Foster professionalism. At its very core, favoritism is unprofessional behavior. A first step to avoiding it is to foster and promote professionalism in your organization. They say the best offense is a good defense. Defend your company from potential favoritism by creating a professional environment that actively discourages any kind of unfair treatment.”
Wrap Up: By the way I proactively acted, I was able to effectively handle the situation in a professional light. You may have read that and thought: “This guy didn’t hardly do anything at all.” And you know what, you’re right, I didn’t. And what I hardly did went a long ways. Minute actions like this throughout your day will foster professionalism throughout your project. Now, would someone please come up with a different name for transparency in this context? I get it, it’s descriptive. But it’s so saturated in every part of toady’s culture I can’t help but cringe every time it’s used.
Image Credits: Sketches by Author