The Hiders -- Employee Behaviors Managers Hate #6

It's pretty clear what's going through the head of a "Hider" -- they're afraid.  Perhaps afraid of being blamed for the project that's headed for the ditch.  Perhaps afraid of the damage a failed effort will do to their reputation.  Or ego.

So when faced with a project going the wrong way, predictably, they hide it.  Or at the least, they look the other way, hoping an increasingly unlikely miracle will come along to rescue the situation.  Perhaps even planning their exit from the company before anyone figures out what's really going on.

In my experience, the miracle never comes.  As a manager, I knew "if it can go wrong, it probably will".  And the only way to prevent failure, was to become aware of problems early enough to do something about them.  Because of this, the "hider" was one of my worst enemies.  And the worst "hiders" were the ones that worked for me.

Managers do a lot to encourage this behavior.  Many managers (dare I say, most), seemed to be obsessed with what I like to call "the search for the guilty, and the punishment of the innocent".  They seem to feel every problem has a name attached to it, and their mission is to find that name and exact revenge -- public ridicule, formal discipline, firing.  In such an environment, is it any surprise an employee would hide a disaster, and hope for a miracle?

But not all managers are serial punishers, and employees continue to hide things, despite having a kinder, gentler boss.  I can only conclude they fear to admit the situation even to themselves.

In my experience, managers tend to be the most flagrant "hiders", trying to bury their problems to protect their reputations with higher-ups.  When a fairly senior manager engages in hiding behavior, and they ultimately crash and burn, the situation is often extremely ugly.  This is why when a senior person leaves under "stressed" circumstances, you can expect to find a large mess in their wake.

And while "hiders" are one of the more hated behaviors employees engage in, the other extreme is also annoying (although less damaging).  Those would be the employees that see danger at every turn, and doubt any project can be completed as envisioned.

So to walk a path that avoids "hiding" (or the opposite extreme) one must follow the golden mean -- calling attention to real issues, but not going overboard.  Just to be safe, I recommend employees raise issues when in doubt, rather than ignoring them.  If you find yourself needing an unlikely event to happen to save your project, you're in "hider" territory.

If you enjoy my blog posts, check out my novels Leverage and Incentivize.  There I portray some of the management and employee behviors I blog about, including some of the employee behaviors that drive managers crazy.