Friday, July 9, 2010

Making the Wrong Call

We expect our bosses to understand what we do and how well we do it. We expect to be rewarded and compensated fairly. We expect that the decisions made will be the right ones.

We have been trained to expect perfection from our leaders.

And yet, everyone makes mistakes. Yes, even bosses and authority figures sometimes make the wrong call.

Well-meaning bosses have been known to sign their teams up for commitments that they can’t deliver on. They may have appraised one employee unfairly, or promoted the wrong employee. These mistakes often mean very little in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes they can create chaos within a team, or even result in employees losing their jobs.

Recently the sporting world brought us two examples of authority figures making the wrong call. First, there was the case of the “imperfect” game, when baseball umpire Jim Joyce called a Cleveland player safe at first base, upsetting what would have been a perfect game (i.e. no one reaches base) for Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga. Everyone agreed that the replays clearly showed that it should been called an out, but NBC Sports and other news outlets reported that the decision would not be overturned. Sure, the Detroit Tigers still won the game, but the record books will never credit Galarraga with what he accomplished.

Even more recently, World Cup soccer brought us another example of the wrong call when referee Koman Coulibaly disallowed what should have been the game-winning goal by the United States in their match against Slovenia. We all saw it – Maurice Edu’s kick in the 86th minute went straight into the net. Experts agree that Edu was not offside, and yet his goal was simply wiped away with the wrong call. The team was never given an explanation for the call.

What makes the first of these example exceptional and noteworthy was umpire Jim Joyce’s apology to Galarraga. He admitted that he made a mistake.

All bosses make mistakes – even good bosses. One difference between an okay boss and a great boss is that the great boss will admit that he made a mistake and strive to do better the next time.

Have you been affected by a boss or leader who made the wrong call? What impact did it have on you?

9 comments:

SteveB said...

In 42.5 years with a very large I/T systems and service corporation familiar to you, I lost count of the bad calls made by my management that affected me directly or indirectly.
The issue is how one reacts to or recovers from the new circumstances.
If the cheese gets moved then figure out how to find out where it is now using what ever it ethically takes to do so. Management will notice this.

Colette said...

Good advice SteveB!

Anonymous said...

I've been in the situation where a management mistake ultimately resulted in my losing my job. It started when, after I'd been there for a little over a year, I was assigned a newly created function that I lacked the specialized background to handle. (It required the ability to manage 40+ projects simultaneously, many of them complex. *My interview never covered any such function.*)

Additionally, this was a full-time job by itself, and I wasn't relieved of any of my existing tasks. My then immediate manager (who took over only a few months after I arrived) had never sat with me to see firsthand what my desk involved. To make a long story short, after management attempted some adjustments, I ended up out of a job.

Colette said...

Anonymous, it sounds like you were a victim of downsizing -- where work gets eliminated but really just expected to be picked up by those who are left.

Kenneth H. Lee said...

I saw far too many bad calls in my time at IBM. And had too many managers who instead of pushing back on the problems, took on the crap and pushed in onto their staff to make it work. Many times the staff was expected to do the impossible.

The managers were trying to be heroes and instead they were being zeroes in my mind. To scared or stupid to say no.

I have a friend who used to work for a manager who would say something to the effect of YES is only one more letter than NO. She never wanted to here the word no.

Very similar to a senior manager who never wanted to hear anything bad because he did not want to pass bad news up the chain.

All of these impossible expectations made life difficult. On one hand, if you delivered anything less than perfection you would be crucified. On the other hand, if you delivered perfection but were late with delivery you were crucified.

Colette said...

Kenneth, unfortunately, I think first line managers are often 'stuck' -- the same way the employees are -- with accepting impossible missions. It all rolls downhill.

Olivier said...

I was a first line manager for nine years at IBM. Of all the jobs I had during my 21 years there it was the one that most put me out of my comfort zone and the one from which I, consequently, learned the most.
It is one of the hardest jobs in the company and one that, while told by the company is key and critical, one that has no career path associated with it. Too bad as it is a profession in and of itself.
Anyhow.....I am happy I discovered your blog Colette. FYI that I have just published a book entitled "Avoiding the Blues" which speaks to what your blog is about to some extent - how to survive in the corporate world without losing your true self. You might be interested. It is based on my years at Big Blue.
Cheers,
Olivier
http://www.avoidingtheblues.com

Olivier said...

I was a first line manager for nine years at IBM. Of all the jobs I had during my 21 years there it was the one that most put me out of my comfort zone and the one from which I, consequently, learned the most.
It is one of the hardest jobs in the company and one that, while told by the company is key and critical, one that has no career path associated with it. Too bad as it is a profession in and of itself.
Anyhow.....I am happy I discovered your blog Colette. FYI that I have just published a book entitled "Avoiding the Blues" which speaks to what your blog is about to some extent - how to survive in the corporate world without losing your true self. You might be interested. It is based on my years at Big Blue.
Cheers,
Olivier
http://www.avoidingtheblues.com

Colette said...

Olivier, good to hear from you! I do think the first line manager role is extremely difficult -- always stuck between what they feel they should do and what their bosses are telling them they must do.