Q: My boss is always telling us that her whole job is about "putting out fires." However, when "fires" erupt that have to do with people, she tends to avoid the issue. How can we help her take these employee issues more seriously?

A: Certainly a manager’s main duty is to solve problems, regardless of where they occur in the landscape of the business. While many managers talk about “putting out fires” some of them would make poor firemen since a core competency of all firefighters is the ability to run into the flames when everyone else is running to safety.

Something you can do to help your manager is to let her know the effect that her inaction is having on the other employees. Remind her that when she does not take action she is, in effect, saying that the person’s behaviors or actions are acceptable and appropriate. When poor employees misbehave, create conflict or simply fail to do their jobs, the manager is the person that the other responsible employees look to for leadership. 

By reminding her that you all consider her leadership an important aspect of the operation’s ability to function, you can put a positive emphasis on your message. In reality, it is a leadership test that managers cannot afford to fail.

If you have questions for Dear Boss, send them to:

Don Tyler, P.O. Box 67, Stockwell, IN47983or e-mail to don@dontyler.com.

Your letter will remain confidential, and may or may not get an individual reply.