Trouble Shoots Tracy

The theme for August has been about HR earning a reputation for being lazy. The Extra Mile isn’t THAT Far, Newbie Schnewbie, Eating Your HR Veggies, Don’t Be a Lazy HR Daisy , Giving Dewey Diligence and When Buzz Met Lazy each address how lack of initiative and thoroughness in administrative tasks gives the profession a lazy reputation.

A couple years ago, we migrated all hourly employees to enrolling online during our annual enrollment. It was a huge transition from the paper forms we were used to passing out and getting back from the 700 eligibles at the plant. For the employees who didn’t have access to the internet, we set up kiosks at our location that they could use on their lunch and breaks to complete the 15-minute enrollment process. For me, it was the culmination of years of work and I was so excited.

The rest of the staff did not share my enthusiasm. Especially Tracy. He was the assistant put in charge of exporting the enrollment data from the carrier’s online system and importing it into our HRIS. From the beginning, Tracy was against the migration. He didn’t feel our hourly employees were ready to take on the responsibility for enrolling themselves. He anticipated having to chase employees down to enroll online just like we’d done with the paper forms. He anticipated the export/import process wouldn’t run smoothly so we would end up doing manual entry just like we’d done with the paper forms.

He anticipated, but he didn’t plan. And when his predictions came true, a frenzy followed. Tracy blamed management and the system and the carrier for the problems.

I blamed Tracy’s laziness.

Our responsibility as managers is to anticipate problems and plan how to overcome them before they happen. Instead of complaining and waiting for things to go wrong so he could say “I told you so,” Tracy should have been trouble-shooting for problems and planning contingencies.

Tracy didn’t feel that was his responsibility because “manager” wasn’t in his title. This is lazy. Regardless of your title, your responsibility is to manage the tasks assigned to you. That’s they way to demonstrate initiative and establish a reputation that will put you in line for promotion into a position with “manager” in the title, if that is really what you want. Tracy said he did — but his actions told a different story.

Tracy wanted accolades and recognition for assisting with correcting the enrollment issues. I wanted to laugh in his face. Expecting a pat on the back for correcting a problem that you knew about and didn’t address on the front end is … well, ridiculous. The goal is always to be optimally efficient and effective in the work we do. Tracy’s laziness was the opposite of this. And, while I know he worked hard to fix the problems once they came up, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of that work would have been avoided if he’d just taken some initiative.

Tracy moved on from our company not too long after that. He said he realized he needed to work somewhere with rules and processes that were more clearly defined. Although in the moment, his words stung a little, I realize now that he had a point. Not everyone is cut out to manage and work without supervision. This is ok because the “hive” needs workers, drones and a queen to survive and thrive. What the hive of our professions, organizations and departments — espeically HR — don’t need is workers or drones disguised or pretending to be queens and/or queens dumbing themselves down to fit in with workers and drones.

Which one are you? Know your position and play it to the best of your ability.


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  1. Hmpf, when reading this one I was thinking, I may have to side with Tracy on this one. What he was really saying was that the work is not worth the reward, he was not feeling appreciated and valued, so it did not surprise that he left the company. Sounds like you got your hands full.

    • Buzz Rooney

      August 28, 2011 at 7:04 PM

      You ain’t never lied about my hands being full! Somehow, I always end up feeling like the lone voice in the HR wilderness. Eventually, I will write about my dysfunctional relationship in choosing jobs — it’s kind of like choosing bad boyfriend/girlfriends. Ha!

      But I digress. Tracy. We all knew the migration was going to be hard the first year. Everyone affected was looking at the things that could go wrong and figuring out ways to either stop it from happening or fix it once it happened and what info was needed to stop it from happening going forward. Tracy anticipated and articulated all the problems … but he didn’t do anything to stop it or fix it. He let the errors happen and then wanted a gold star for fixing the things he failed to prevent. That’s lazy to me. You can’t get credit for the fix without taking responsibility/accountability for the failure.

      In the end, I think he needed more direction or guidance than we were able to provide him. Our department was pretty small (5 people to handle 700 – 1000 employees) so there was no time for hand-holding. Everything was sink or swim — and we all got pretty adept at creating processes to do the best we could under less than best circumstances. Everyone isn’t built for that. Tracy wanted/needed someone to tell him exactly what to do — no more, no less. There are other examples not in this post. It wasn’t a good fit. That probably translated to him feeling undervalued and unrewarded which led to him leaving. It is unfortunate but it happens — and, when it does, is probably best for everyone.

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