It’s not fair. I hear it a couple times a day. Sometimes they are right, sometimes not, but it’s how they feel and that is real enough. The first thing I do is listen, because that’s the first thing they need. Once they’ve explained (vented!) then I can tell them what I think:
- I agree, let me work on fixing it
- I agree, but I don’t think I can fix it (and why I can’t, or won’t)
- I don’t agree, and why
I find they have a hard time with anything except the first answer. I get it, it’s human. They get to decide what they think is fair and it just makes it worse when the boss can’t (or won’t) act to fix it. I can’t change how they handle it. I can try to have a good dialog because sometimes it does make a difference.
You might be curious about the “can’t fix/won’t fix”. Often that is based on an understanding of the organization – politics. My job is to have the relationships and understand all the challenges so I can decide which fights to fight. Maybe that other manager who isn’t being helpful is under stress from another source, maybe they are short handed, maybe they just suck. Sometimes I know that I could win, but it would spending juice I’m going to need for other,larger issues. Most people struggle with that too,if it’s wrong it should be fixed, end of discussion. The world just isn’t that simple, but the only way to see that is to grow a larger view than just you, just your team.
That doesn’t mean it’s not stressful for me to listen to the “its not fair” conversations. The tendency is for me to absorb their stress. They work with me, I want to see them treated well and I want them with low stress levels so they can do good work. I’ve had days where afterward I had to go for a walk, or turn around and vent to whoever I was working for. Human, but not productive. My job is to listen, try to have this image of them projecting this cloud of stress that washes over and past me, but doesn’t hurt me and doesn’t stick to me.
There’s plenty of days when I think things aren’t fair either. Some days it makes me mad, but usually being mad doesn’t do much to change things, and it tires me, makes me less effective all around. A better response is to realize that I can fix it or I can’t, and go from there.
This is a hard one to learn.