Myopic manager doesn't see the big picture

Dear Joan:
I am very disheartened by a situation here within my corporation. We have imposed a "no increase" rule until our profits return and the economy stabilized. My head accounting manager submitted a request for increase for one of her employees to which we reminded her of the "no increase" rule. She was not happy and began to immediately be negative about our lack of concern for the accounting department.
Shortly thereafter, another very valuable employee, not in the accounting department, reluctantly gave her resignation to go to work somewhere else for more money. She didn't want to leave but she is a single mom, etc. Losing her would have been a disaster for many reasons.
Upon careful and much consideration, the Chairman of the Board, the Executive Director and I decided to offer this person health Insurance to try to keep her. We asked the accounting manager what she thought and her disheartening comment was, "If my accounting assistant gets wind of this and leaves because of its unfairness, then I am leaving, too." (I have to mention that we gave this assistant a huge non-monetary increase last May 2008 when she returned from maternity leave, which equates to $5 per hour...all legal)
So, we retained the excellent employee, who was going to leave for more money, and the other two accounting staff are still here. The manager continues to be bitter. The assistant doesn't show any bitterness but did mention preferential treatment towards certain other staff members in her year end review.
I am reviewing the entire accounting staff soon with a hired consultant. I am afraid that I do not have the right people in the right positions. This accounting manager is not showing the executive skills she should have, with as much information as she is privy to in her position.
Ironically, our accounting department has been in turmoil since our former long—time accounting manager left for more money in October 2007!
Your thoughts?
I agree with your assessment of the accounting manager. She is myopic in her view and isn’t exhibiting the maturity and big-picture thinking required in that position. This would be troubling behavior from anyone at that level, but the fact that she is the accounting manager makes it downright dangerous for several reasons:
  • She has access to company financial results and knew about the “no increase” policy, yet demanded an increase for someone in her department.
  • Her employee has already received a substantial increase, yet the manager is asking for more.
  • Her threat to leave if any of her employees leave, suggests that she identifies with her employees in her department more than she identifies with the leadership team.
  • It appears that the accounting manager’s bitter attitude is trickling down to her direct reports. How else can the employee’s comments about “preferential treatment” be explained? Even if she isn’t sharing specific confidential information, her attitude is poisoning the department.
The outside consultant may turn up some additional information that will make clear the decision on whether or not to terminate the accounting manager. As it stands now, she may be putting the organization at risk. 
I hope the outside consultant is also going to help you with salary administration policies and practices. It can be a tricky business, as you have discovered. There are some signals that suggest you need to do a salary survey to determine if your organization’s compensation is at the right level. You have already lost the former accounting manager and you had to manipulate the salary rules twice—once for the assistant returning from maternity leave and now for the key employee who was going to leave.
If you keep on manipulating the salary levels to accommodate a few people, you will see an escalation of demands and threats to quit. In spite of the immature behavior on the part of the accounting manager, perhaps she is shining a light on an uncomfortable truth.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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