“Do you have a minute?”

– Every boss in the world

Who did not experience this situation? A boss or an HR representative wants to talk to us, and asks, “Do you have a minute?” as he heads towards a conference room or an office. Aren’t these the worst 30 seconds of our life? “What have I done wrong, what will he tell me, I will have to update my resumé“. There’s a lot going on in someone’s mind between this question and the moment they sit on the chair. And in the end, he just wanted to know how you were doing.

The reflexes of the world of work

The reflexes of the world of work have corrupted the manager-employee relationships. So many people are met by their boss only to receive bad news or “constructive criticism”. It’s now a reflex. My boss wants to talk to me, it can only be bad.

Except that…

Not all work environments are like that. Where I work, managers care about their people. It’s my job to care for them. My title (which I myself chose) is People Manager. My role is to create an environment where everyone can be at their best. And by that, I don’t mean “making the most out of them”. I mean them being at their natural best.

In short, I make sure that everyone:

  • Are satisfied with their work
  • Are motivated by their work
  • Feel in control of their work
  • Are going in the direction they wish to go

To this end. I asked everyone what they need to be at their best. I know their criteria of success on topics such as culture, the work itself, the physical work environment, and working conditions. In short, what they need is known to me, and it’s my job to make sure they have what they need, or that they can get it themselves. It is a common understanding that we have. And despite that…

Guilty of caring for people

A few days later, our Human Resources Director meets with the same colleague.

“HR. Oh oh! What’s happening?”

Our HR Director wanted to make sure he was doing well, after a month with us. She wanted to ask him how the onboarding process was, and how it was going to the colleagues. It was the first time in her life he was asked something like that after a month of work. It was the first time someone from HR was doing a follow-up with him.

But how did this happen?

We are at the point where we have to announce our intentions in advance when we want to talk to someone we care about.

We are at the point where a gesture of good will and caring for someone causes a reaction of fear and anxiety.

“Do you have a minute” is now the trigger of a Pavlovian reflex of fear at work. A corporative and organizational post-traumatic stress disorder. I’m not trying to find who’s guilty. I’m looking for solutions. It’s our job, your job, benevolent managers, to break this.

What are you ready to do to fix this?

Managers of this world, it is your job to destroy this anti-pattern.


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Olivier Fortier
OLIVIER Fortier is first and foremost a believer in human beings. Owner of the blog Primos Populi -- which is Latin for People First -- his focus is to find innovative ways to bring back (and keep) people at the core of businesses, and ensure they can thrive. A manager, agilist, servant leader, facilitator, and former Scrum Master, all of these interesting titles and roles represent only the means to achieve what he truly believes in: cultivating people's awesomeness. His favorite things to reflect on are leader-leader relationships, psychological safety and the right to fail, career and personal development, humanity in recruitment, and how to lower the center of gravity of decision-making processes. Considering that businesses wouldn't exist without people, can one imagine how powerful it would be if all employees wholeheartedly wanted to be in their organizations, and wanted to do what they do? This is the work world Olivier wants to live in, and the goal he set for himself.
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Raissa Urdiales
Raissa Urdiales

This is excellent! Speaks to the need for the use of positive reinforcement which is underused in the workplace or done in a non-human fashion. A simple “do you have a minute” to share positive feedback would go a long way.

Olivier Fortier

Thanks for your feedback!