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Key to On-Boarding Success: A Solid Relationship With Your Boss

September 30, 2011
Related Topics: Strategy and Management

Earlier this week Ozzie Guillen left his perch as manager of baseball’s Chicago White Sox and embarked on a new job as manager of the soon-to-be rebranded Miami Marlins.

Guillen’s departure from Chicago was significant for me on two fronts. Firstly because I am a baseball fan and I live in Chicago (although I am a Cubs fan), and secondly because I couldn’t help but notice the correlation to on-boarding.

We’ve spent some time the past few weeks addressing many of the pitfalls both new hires and bosses fall into during the on-boarding process. One of the important lessons I learned in writing these posts is that a new hire’s relationship with his/her boss might be the most important factor in that employee’s success with an organization.

Take Guillen’s situation with the White Sox as an example. While much will be made of Guillen asking for his release because he sought more money and job security elsewhere, a big reason he is leaving is because of the often-fractious relationship he had with the team’s general manager, Kenny Williams.

Unlike Guillen, Williams believed baseball games are won with power hitters — players who are able to knock the ball out of the yard. Guillen, on the other hand, believed in a small-ball approach — that pitching, defense and timely hitting, with a team built on speed and base-running, were essential to a winning team.

Despite winning a World Series together in 2005, it was this philosophical difference that eventually created their poor working relationship. The differences of personalities also likely played a factor. And although Guillen was White Sox manager for eight years, he was only able to find limited success — once by winning the World Series, and again when the team won the American League Central Division shortly thereafter. Baseball’s low success rate might have much to do with the struggle, but the poor working relationship between the two unquestionably contributed to Guillen’s departure.

It may be a stretch to compare the inner workings of a major league baseball team to life in corporate America, but some principles are the same.

Guillen’s success was heavily based on his relationship with his boss, what resources his boss provided and how the two got along. The same goes for any working relationship.

When I interviewed George Bradt, an on-boarding expert, for my last two posts, he could not have stressed enough the importance of the boss-employee relationship.

“People don’t leave companies,” Bradt said. “They leave because they don’t get along with their boss.”

Guillen may have had no intention of leaving the White Sox. He was a player for the organization for quite some time and brought the team its first championship in close to 90 years in 2005.

Perhaps his reasons for leaving the team are more complicated — more money, control and job security awaited him in Florida, where he now has to embark on his own on-boarding experience.

But perhaps, most of all, Guillen was escaping a poor working relationship with his boss, which never really got off to the right start to begin with.

Had it, then we here in Chicago may be touting a few more World Series championships on the South Side. Instead we’re left with a fractured organization looking for a new leader.

Point being: make a poignant effort to create solid relationships with your direct reports. Productivity, success and employee retention are all on the line.

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