On Thursday at my weekly Rotary lunch, I listened to Jathon Janove give an employer management presentation, which I found quite interesting. Janove has recently published several books on employment law-related matters, and works for Ater Wynne, a very good Portland law firm.
The most memorable concept Mr. Janove discussed was “misguided benevolence.” When he first used this phrase, I admit I was a bit skeptical, imagining he was a Ayn Rand disciple opposed to charitable acts. What Janove actually means by “misguided benevolence,” however, is that a manager may subconsciously shun difficult interpersonal interactions with employees, and explain it away as “being nice.” For example, if an employee is not performing a particular task very well, the manager may fail to bring the issue to the employee’s attention. The manager may justify this failure to take action under the guise of benevolence, but actually the motivating factor is fear of confrontation. The problem may then grow over time, causing the business organization, and its constituent employees, to suffer.
Having managed several different law offices since 2005, I can easily discern my own tendency to want to avoid difficult interpersonal interactions, although I am hopeful that I have, more often than not, overcome misdirected benevolence. In any event, it is something I will be more conscious of in the future . . .