You Have Their Backs, Do They Have Yours?

I was reading through this piece by Kris Dunn and it made me start thinking about something we all face at work. Here’s the quote:

So anyway, you’ve got a merit matrix in play at your company for one of those reasons.  With that in mind, your managers deliver an above average review to multiple employees, at which point they are forced to have to tell the employees that equates into a 3.2% raise.

The employee appears unimpressed, and the smart as #### ones get vocal.

At which point your manager utters the words, “I’d like to give you more, but I can’t.  This is all they’ll let me give you.”

“They” means “You” – the HR pro or the company.  It’s called the “manager pass-through”, and it erodes trust and confidence from the employees towards all parties involved.  The manager.  The company. The HR pro.

Those conversations are happening every day.  Find another way soon – because it’s killing you, whether you know it or not.

Most of the time I’d like to think my managers would have my back and take ownership of the process. That’s one thing I tell all of our supervisors: you have leeway in pay, performance, etc. of your people. That’s what we pay you for!

Get managers to take ownership!

There are two basic ways to respond to the top performers mentioned in the quote above:

  • Right: We get x% to spread around, and you’re worth about y% of that. Here’s how you get to be worth more than that…
  • Wrong: Well, HR only gave me this much so I can’t give you any more. If you have a problem, talk with them.

When employees come to me, I almost always go back to their manager to circle back on the issue, check for a satisfactory conclusion, etc. I partner with the managers to ensure that together we are serving our staff well.

However, I know there are probably some out there that are of the mindset that Kris mentions in his article (statistically, it’s bound to show up sooner or later). They are eager to throw the “blame” back on HR, management, the owners, or whoever else happens to be an easy target–as long as it’s not them. Why? Because the manager has to see and work with that employee on a daily basis, and if the employee realized the actual level of involvement and discretion on the part of the manager, that buddy-buddy thing would be out the window.

Anyone have ideas for how to resolve this? I know how I handle it internally, but I’m always open to ideas that might help with these recurring issues…

2 thoughts on “You Have Their Backs, Do They Have Yours?

  1. Kellee Webb

    I actually used KD’s 6 step coaching tool at our managers conference about 3 years ago, and it includes the information about the pass-through. We did the role plays, whole 9 years. Sent out follow up reminders about using the coaching tool that year. This past year, because we have some new managers and the others I thought could use a refresher, I made some updates and did the training again. Before I started, I was waving a GC, and asking who of the old crew could tell me what a pass-through was. Only 2 of about 35 remembered. We spent some quality time on this, discussing how they are undermining their own authority by doing the pass-through, and now our facility directors continue to work to keep this top of mind at their locations. So even once you do the training, must work to keep it top of mind for some.

  2. Scott Ziegler

    I work for a public school division so we don’t have this issue. In my world raises go like this …
    – City council says the schools get $X.XX
    – The School board says that’s not enough give us $X.XX
    – The city says no
    – The board says ok – no raises for our employees
    – The city relents and gives $X.XX + 1%
    – The board says ok employees, thank you for your service, here’s everyone’s raise of 0.005% (yes, that’s half of 1%)

    I’d love to be in an environment wherein merit was taken in to account in regards to pay and I had to teach my managers how to dole out raises effectively.

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