Missed Opportunities

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / aaronamat

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / aaronamat

Bobby mowed grass for the park system throughout high school. And after just one semester of community college, he stopped by the field office on the way home and asked if he could be hired full-time. He loved his summers on the mower, loved working outside, and didn’t really feel he was college material anyway. After a few months and a polished resume, Bobby got his wish. At age 19 he was a full-time employee of the park system.

But Bob wasn’t content just mowing. He put together a comprehensive maintenance plan and check-off system to ensure everyone who rode a park-owned machine took proper care of it. His keen eye for maintenance caught management’s attention, and Bob began to advance. As a working technician, he grew more and more familiar with the machines and the people who ran them. The park system decided to issue him his own truck, complete with repair tools and spare parts. Before long, Bob was running all over the park system as staff radioed in their problems, and he showed up as a one-man repair crew. Over the next decade, he was a hero to the blue-collar set, a rare find to the white-collar set, and a friend to all. Good old Bobby—he was a hard-working son-of-a-gun. He was accomplished and barely 30!

Administrators then decided to put Bobby in charge of 10 people at one of the biggest parks in the system. His skill sets, unfortunately, did not include managing, motivating, or evaluating people. In looking over the yearly planner, he thought it didn’t seem too difficult. He decided he would just be fair and his employees would be fair in return.

For 2 years, Bobby did just that. He pushed the employees when he had to, but had trouble getting them to do all that he wished. “The guys and I, we have an understanding,” he explained to his wife.

An Added Wrinkle

One day, Bobby was informed in a managers’ meeting that he would be assigned a new employee beginning Monday. Bob was pleased because having one more guy available to mow in the rotation would free up another person to get the barn painted. The new person was to be Bob’s assistant. He had administrative capabilities, not field-equipment strengths. “Well, now, someone else can take over the paper side of things, and I can start wrenching on equipment again,” Bob thought, whistling all the way home.

When Bob met his new assistant, he noticed that Aaron drove a hybrid car, and within the first five minutes of conversation, Aaron spoke of his ecological concerns. As Aaron talked, Bob further noticed Aaron’s car sitting among the 15 oversized pickup trucks belonging to Bob’s staff. Bob was beginning to dread dragging this poor fellow into the office where the guys gathered to drink their morning coffee. They would eat him alive. And he couldn’t blame them. He thought, “This guy is never gonna be one of us.” But then Bobby suddenly realized that his lack of skills as a manager might truly come to the forefront. How was he supposed to handle this?

Although there was a potential conflict brewing, Bobby knew he had to remain loyal to his long-standing staff. He decided to introduce Aaron with a wink, communicating silently to his “brothers” that this nerdy new guy assigned to him was really not endorsed or wanted. The staff members would thus see Bobby’s real intentions. Bobby could throw Aaron to the wolves, and the staff would either drive him out or make him so miserable he would not want to stay.

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