Offering a solution with a complaint.

by:  Rob Rutkowski

Last year, our new Managing Partner-elect, Scott Weltman, appointed various lawyers throughout our firm to be Office Managing Attorneys (OMAs) to handle local issues that may arise in are particular campuses.  Yours humbly became the OMA for our Brooklyn Heights, Ohio campus.  One of the duties the OMA has is to address employee complaints.  At our holiday party this year, I told the 450 or so employees in my group that they should feel free to email me with any issues with two caveats:  they must offer a solution to the issue in question and that they cannot advocate violence as part of that solution.  

I certainly didn’t invent that concept, and I’ve read enough self-improvement books to know that it borders on the trite at this point, but it still holds up.  It is one thing to vent or complain about something that bothers a person, it is quite another to address that issue with logic and reasoning.  I have to say I had a dozen or so excellent suggestions right off the bat.  

If a person is to be empowered, that person must feel that he or she will be treated with respect and that his or her contributions will be valued and if not adopted, at least reviewed with meaningful consideration.  A leader, then, it seems to me, needs to be able to consider ideas not in line with his or her own preferences.  

Efficiency in business is often cruel.  Even in the credit union movement, a product line that starts out strong can weaken over time and ultimately be eliminated– along with the jobs of the people supporting the program.  It is up to the leadership to be as human as possible in dealing with these harsh circumstances.  But it is also human nature to avoid problems and to try to prop up unsuccessful endeavors.  Some may even double-down on failure.  However, the economy does not care about opinion.  It is what it is and cheese, such that it is, periodically gets moved.  

The credit union movement today is very mixed in terms of those that are thriving and those that are suffering.  In my own practice, I see this every day and I also read about it in CU Times and all of the other various trade blogs and news aggregators.  If I can offer any advice from this and from my own attempts at leadership, I can say this:  when a problem arises, please address it head-on.  Do not bury it or, heaven help you, manufacture documents in the vain attempt to hide the issue.  Deal with it immediately even if you feel (at the moment) that it may mean the end of the credit union.

Humans are lousy fortune tellers.  In my opinion, the best you can do is look at the probabilities and rely on the facts before you and your experience in dealing with issues.  Even the best get blind-sided.  None of us has perfect information, but we can all have integrity if we choose to.  Pursuing a course of action directly, with integrity and with all the resources available will ensure that even if the outcome is undesirable, that the outcome is the best available under the circumstances. 

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