Does this situation sound familiar?
You are on leave or on an assignment which takes you away from your workplace for a few days, only to discover upon your return, that all hell has broken loose.
A customer, vendor or a key member of your team was tackled inappropriately or that substandard product or deficient service was delivered to a customer and finally some kind of financial irregularity has taken place.
No amount of screaming or wringing of hands can undo the incident or the damage of actions arising out of those inappropriate actions. A well managed organisation would have a system with checks and balance that would prevent the likelihood of such mishaps. In most organisation at best you can go in for damage control to minimise the negative impact of poor decisions or improper actions.
It is unavoidable that people do leave their work positions for personal or professional reasons. The absence may be of a temporary or even permanent nature. The question arises; How best to manage in the interim?
Many organisations will simply ask a junior to fill in for the position " until further notice".
We too adopted this approach. One day we found a junior person handling matters which were three levels above him simply because of vacancies, and absenteeism. This was an extremely dangerous situation.
Junior people are happy to perform at a higher positional levels, believing they are making progress and are rising in the hierarchy. They agree and often too eagerly, accept additional responsibility. They also tend to get carried away by the prospects of wielding greater authority and power of the position.
With additional authority also comes additional responsibility. Often people are not yet ready for that additional responsibility and falter if not fail miserably.
This is neither good for the individual nor the organisation.
It is appropriate that organisations review the practice of how they cope with such vacant situations.
Each organisation has to decide for itself what is appropriate, but here are some guidelines that work well. If the temporarily vacant position involved;
- Dealing only with internal elements, that is people and functions which have an impact only within the organisation, then it is normally acceptable that a subordinate team member fill in the position left vacant temporarily until a replacement was found.
- When dealing with external elements such as customers, suppliers, government regulators, or third party agencies then it is essential that the senior team member fill in the vacancy. This in fact means that the boss is temporarily demoted to handle both his or her own responsibilities and that of their junior. This is also applicable when dealing with the critical functions such as design, legal, quality, marketing, purchasing, finance.
- Sometimes the arrangement that worked best is to assign responsibility to the senior colleague and also ask the junior to assist him. This way the junior receives vital training and exposure and also the senior and junior both are not unduly overloaded.