Monday, March 4, 2013

What are you doing to help Cinderella Employees?

Cinderella is a story familiar to many around the world.  A young girl is swept away from a comfortable home and placed in a terrible environment where she is worked like a dog and hidden away from view.  Her giftedness is known only to those who exploit her abilities.  Her giftedness is used only to benefit those who manage her daily activities.  But she remains hidden to the rest of the world. 

Consider her plight.  She grieves daily because of the trap she is in.  She cannot escape, and her only means of reward is to work even harder.  Deep inside she knows she is smarter, more capable and more intelligent than her taskmasters, but no one else knows.  Her silly, mediocre peers enjoy the comforts of the favoritism shown by a manager who lacks integrity.   And her greatest bitterness is her awareness that her overseers take credit for everything she has done, with no word of thanks, and no chance for escape.  This is unimaginable desperation.

But this is not mere fiction ... it happens in the work world every day. 

In your organization you will find taskmasters who have placed team members into this "Cinderella" role.  Those who do this unknowingly do so simply as a pragmatic way of getting work done.  They know that John Smith can do a task better than anyone else, so they keep him in that role.  This is not a bad thing, but John Smith is still encumbered by a manager who does not have his interest at heart.

Then there are the more sinister 'stepmother or stepfather' types who willingly hide good employees from others.  They do so for many reasons:
  1. They are jealous of the person's abilities.
  2. They are intimidated by this person's skills.
  3. This person is making them look really good.
  4. If they lose this person, they will look really bad.
  5. If they lose this person ... people will find out the truth about this manager/leader.

As a leader, one of your tasks is to create an environment where these employees can break out of the trap they are in.  Build them up, raise them up, give them high levels of visibility ... especially the very gifted ones who overshadow you ... they will love you for it.

When you have released an employee from their Cinderella bondage,  their very freedom will energize them like nothing you've ever witnessed.  And they will thank you, and their work lives will be better ... and you will have made their lives better. 

If you are one of those managers who has hidden employees and placed them in a Cinderella role, I assure you that one day, someone will find the glass slipper of evidence.  And your reputation will be damaged, if not destroyed.  That's how the story ended for Cinderella ... she wins. 

Can there be a a greater goal for a manager than to improve the lot of their people!?

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