The Accommodating Syndrome

There are a number of competing influences that help mold our behavior. One pair of forces that often clash is a desire to do our duty and the need to be liked and fit in. Youth often grow up in subcultures where succeeding is simply not fashionable. They quickly learn that achievement often brings envy and disdain. Stories abound of young people who have buried their talents so as not to appear too successful, talented or intelligent in the eyes of their friends.

Sooner or later these individuals enter the workforce, where things are not much different. Individuals who are perceived as working too hard are often targeted for punishment by co-workers. When employees become supervisors, foremen or crew leaders, these challenges are compounded. As supervisors, such individuals seek the approval of subordinates rather than their own supervisors.

Even though the boss might clearly explain why a task needs to be done a certain way, when it comes time to explain it to the workers, this supervisor is more likely to just blame the change on management. I like to call such behaviors the accommodating syndrome. These supervisors want to be seen as one of the gang. When a person decides to favor subordinates without regard to the situation, sooner rather than later she will hurt the enterprise.

Supervisors who yield to the pressures of the accommodating syndrome may lose the respect of both the boss and the employees they manage. 

Where Loyalty Lies

I am not suggesting that supervisors should only be concerned with the needs of the enterprise without regard to the employees. Such individuals are often autocratic and self-serving, prone to abuse of power and authority. They are willing to climb the organizational ladder at the expense of those they step over. Sometimes they work very fast to impress those in management, but then cannot sustain the pace they have set for themselves. Their loyalty is to themselves. It is not surprising that supervisors who only look at their own needs or those of management are greatly detested by employees.

Instead, what is needed is a supervisor who carefully seeks to understand the needs of both management and workers. It is clear to such individuals that effective policies must benefit both the enterprise and the employees if they are to be sustainable. This supervisor is loyal to both the worker and the organization. He is kind but firm, and above all, fair, honest and full of integrity. Such a person is not afraid to take chances and help management or employees understand the valid concerns the other may have.

This foreman or crew leader does not take pleasure in the authority she has. Sometimes she will have to take flack from employees. With time, subordinates will often come around and not only recognize that she acted fairly, but even defend her when she is not around. Certainly, it takes time and effort to become such a supervisor. The good news is that at least some supervisors are able to leave behind the ugliness of the accommodating syndrome. If you have found such an individual among those who work for you, it is worth going out of the way to retain him. 

Gregory Encina Billikopf is Farm Advisor, Labor Management at the University of California. You can e-mail him at
gebillikopf@ucdavis.edu or visit www.cnr.berkeley.edu/ucce50/ag-labor/.

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