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 I just want to share with you a cautionary tale.. and ask some advice of what an outcome may be...

I had an interesting situation where I was mentoring a younger person in a new management role and I suggested that they try O3's as a way of meeting their staff and understanding some of their abilities and needs.

He took the idea to heart and has been running with them for a while getting good feedback from his workers and raising morale...

Being younger, and tech-savvy, he has taken to keeping notes on a tablet device - placing a PDF 'background' file in an application and overwriting it with a stylus - taking hand-written notes digitally. Creates a PDF composite file at the end...very neat solution!

The other day, I happened to pass his desk when he was discussing with a person and I noticed that the 'Application' he was using was able to take audio recordings and he was using that function - unawares to the speaker.

If you are like me, you may use the O3 as a 'stress relief' in situations and you may not always be on your guard for 'loose words, said unguarded, meaning something else'. In the O3 situation, the boss might note - 'unhappy with present work resource situation' rather than have an unguarded 'rant' recorded in mp3 high definition fidelity.

I went back after the meeting and gave my feedback - 'Can I give you some feedback? You know when you record these informal O3 meetings unannounced in an audio format, it could be quite dangerous since it breaks trust, has the potential to cause industrial action and is probably a little unethical in terms of our workplace 'environment', what do you think you could do about it?'

His response was 'I don't feel there is a problem - I re-listen to them in the evening to make sure I missed nothing - and you recommended that I do it this way!'

While I recommended he do O3's, note down issues and follow-up on them, I certainly didn't recommend he 'record' the exact words of the participants. I pointed this out to him, to which he responded 'I'm just improving the process efficiency by recording it.'

So, I have given feedback to him 2 more times about this - be he doesn't see a problem. But remembering back to IR disputes in the not so distant past, this type of activity could well be the catalyst to trouble.

I am loathe to tell others affected because it will cause friction and upset his career. But I feel that the risk of him continuing this path is greater since it will eventually destroy trust in the team, especially if any are 'leaked' or played back in public.

I also am wary of going to his boss about it - I think his response will be to stop the O3 process...

What do people suggest?

 

mattpalmer's picture

I assume that you've investigated the legal aspects of this, so presumably this isn't a problem in your location, but recording a person without their consent is a serious crime in some parts of the world (mine included, as it happens).  Even without that, though, your intuition is correct about the destructive influence of those recordings on morale and the effectiveness of one-on-ones -- not just in this person's team, but across the company.  I know I would feel my trust had been betrayed if what I thought was a private chat was actually recorded by my boss. It's not that I don't know that nothing's truly "private", but certain expectations have been set, and this is destroying that.  It might even be worse if I happened to hear that another manager had done it to their directs -- "is my boss doing that?" would rocket through the entire company.  I'm having trouble imagining a more effective way of destroying trust.

I think your feedback needs to step up to the next level -- making the direct aware of the consequences of his actions.  I think the potential consequences to the company, from both a legal point of view and otherwise, justify having "the talk".  The outcome may be that he stops one-on-ones, but quite honestly, I think that's the lesser of the available evils here.  However, I would seriously question the judgment of any person who continued in this sort of behaviour after you've given clear and consistent feedback on the negative implications of the behaviour -- "when you record a discussion with a direct, you leave the company open to legal action / you risk destroying the trust and morale of everyone in the company" (delete as appropriate).  The consequence I'd lead towards  would be "you won't be doing this job any more, bucko".

SamBeroz's picture

He's increased his efficiency at the cost of his long term effectiveness.

Have you listened to the cast "There's no why in feedback"? His answer focuses on his reasoning, not on what he plans to change.

The real issue now is that you've given him feedback and he's not changed his behavior. This itself can be the topic of more feedback.

Hope that helps and good luck - Sam

mkirk's picture

 I agree with Sam and Matt in that the issue is that your direct is prepared to continue with this activity in spite of pretty clear feedback that his actions may have serious negative consequences. The issue is not this tablet recording device, it's your direct's decision to ignore a clear and serious message; a course of action which is not effective (or even acceptable) behaviour in an executive.

But I would like to suggest that the right thing to do is to get this across to your direct whilst he is still a young and can get away with it. It might produce plenty of short term problems, like stopping O3's, but you have an opportunity to take a stand and provide real leadership. Don't hesitate to have the conversation about the consequences of his decision.

Good luck

Matt

naraa's picture

I think he has forgotten the key point about O3´s.  It is all about them (the directs).  About making them (the directs) more effective so that they can accomplish more.  Sounds like this guy is a bright young guy very focus on being effective through the things he does and not through the people he works with.  He is too focus on improoving the process that he forgot about people.  He also is very narrow minded in the sense that he cannot see lateraly the implications of what he is doing.  It sounds like he hasn´t made the turn from one  that accomplish things through his own work to one that accomplish things with and through the work of others.   He has a lot to learn, and he better do it sooner than later.

I agree with all that has been said by others here.  You must correct this (for his own sake, that of the company and for the sake of the people he is taping) even if it is at the expense of him decreasing his effectiveness in the short term by not being able to do the O3´s any longer.

If I understood correctly he is not actually your direct, right? In that case you are going to have to use a lot of persuasion to change his behaviour.  Perhaps invite him for lunch of coffee and talk about how he needs to learn that sometimes what is more effective (like him taping) is not really what is correct and best in the long term (the risks are too big).  There is the risk that the taped material could leak and even if people don´t say anything harmfull in the one-on-one, sentences could be taken out of context.  But the most important issue is one just doesn´t tape people without their concent.  Period!  That is common sense, even if not criminally illegal.  I agree with the above comments, no why, no explanation needed here. The problem is he is not your direct.  So I would try to give him the why.  Do that in the first meeting you have with him.  Then, a week later or so ask him if he has stopped and if he hasn´t, tell him that in that case you want to let him know that you are obliged to go to his boss and inform him about this, because ultimately he is responsible for his behaviour and the consequenses of them and he needs to be aware and take a decision on it.  I would give him a week between the two actions (convincing him to stop and going for his boss) because some people need some time to think through and finally see that what they were doing is wrong.

You must also do it, because he actually told you he was doing it because you told him to do it, he just "improved" the process! I don´t know what the relationship with you and his boss is, but if something does get ugly here (like someone finding out as you did he is taping without permission), it could back fire to you.

Nara

aussieghump's picture

 Problem solved through technology!!!

In a recent meeting I recommended the ManagerTools App for his tablet computer...

Your recommendations appear in recent forum notes and he 'got the message'...

Thanks everyone