Too big for your britches…

Empower your employees, don't rule over them
Empower your employees, don't rule over them
Empower your employees, don’t rule over them

Some companies are complex, highly diverse workplaces with a lot of people to manage.  A host of different departments to oversea a multitude of tasks.  You can’t negate the fact that companies and their departments, their divisions have territorial tendencies.

Cue Elf:  Buddy (Will Ferrell) in mail room.

Buddy (Will Ferrell) in the mail room.
Buddy (Will Ferrell) in the mail room.

That scene from Elf and others, hint at the reality that is our workforce and its continued hierarchical, top down approach.  Very rare is it a company that has a bottom up approach.  You can say it, you can articulate it, you can communicate that you do, but if it isn’t readily apparent, it is all just glossy shine on the outside and misery on the inside.  Case in point.  I won’t mention any names or companies.  A few years ago, I was with a host of friends enjoying a welcome respite from the day-to-day.  Eventually, our conversation turned to work.  This person was a bit down in the dumps, and I asked why?  They hadn’t received the commission they normally received during the holidays.  This was during the hard time of the 2006-2009 recession. I asked them to explain.  Apparently, during the previous get together by all staff for their annual party, the company had to downsize the festivities.  Usually, everyone got a bonus, even those non-sales jobs.  The previous year the company decided to discontinue these bonuses to all of their employees, except their sales staff.  Someone found out, and complained.  Long story short.  Someone felt cheated.   A person who didn’t work in sales and didn’t receive a commission went to the powers that be and called them on it.  Times were tough too and the company decided maybe it was better not to give anything out.  I asked a few probing questions of my friend.  Needless to say, we didn’t talk for a few weeks after it.

I’ve worked in an industry for regular hourly pay, salary, and salary and bonuses.  More than likely it was a turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Sometimes a gift card.  Not much, but I was grateful.  It helped.  All the Christmas parties were the same.  A few had raffles of cool prizes.  But our management staff wanted any bonuses or extra pay to be equal for all.  We worked as a team in hotels.  Everyone is rewarded for their hard work.  It may not have been much, but it was something. Sometimes a word or your name on a plaque got us through the hard times.  So back to my friend.

I asked the person to put their feet in the shoes of the individual in that ‘mail room’.  They may not have the education you have or the experience or the job title, but they do the same hard work as everyone else.  Interruption by my friend, saying that their job wasn’t equal.  No, they aren’t equal, but they still do hard work.  Define work.  What is work?  What is their job duties?  Could you do their job?  Do you know how to do their job?  They do their job for minimum wage or just a bit above.  Shouldn’t they be rewarded for their devotion just as much as you.  They came back with the argument that their job captured revenues for the business that allowed those in the mail room to be paid so that they could put food on the table, pay their bills.  Yes, I agreed.  Yet, if they didn’t do their job or aid you in doing yours, you couldn’t close on a deal with the delivery of that parcel with important signed contracts.  You couldn’t do your job without the delivery of office supplies.  You couldn’t do your job without them running their butts around town, when you had to get a contract out yesterday.  You couldn’t do your job if they didn’t fulfill that order made.  The two jobs are linked.

They again argued about working hard and about revenues.  I asked, “Is it?  Are revenues the only important detail of a company?”

The look they gave me could cut glass in two.

I smiled.  “It isn’t always about the bottom line.  It isn’t always about making a profit.  Sure profits are important and we do need to pay bills, but we cannot get to that profit without thinking and addressing the process and people who get us to that profit.  If one cog in the wheel isn’t working up to its effective and efficient potential, the system slows down and could possibly stagnate.  It could cease to exist.  Your job is linked to the way that mail room, those people feel and work.  Think you are far superior to them, that your job is more important, then you’ve lost sight of the reason to be in business.”

“How is that?”  They snorted.

“This is about the relationships you make and continue.  This is about long-standing relationships today and tomorrow.”

“Sure my customers are important.”

“Then who are your customers?”

“Huh?”

“Who are your stakeholders?”

“My customers.”

Holding off the desire to face plant my cheeks in my palms, I continued.  “We could go on and on asking the same question.  You do not understand your customers, your stakeholders.  This is about relationships.  If we do not create, nurture and maintain those relationships, our business will stagnate and decline.  This is about all of your stakeholders.  One of your stakeholders is that person in the mail room.  They have a vested interest in the health of the firm.  Not just the sales person that makes sales calls.  Did you ever ask that person in the mail room how they feel?  Did you ever say hi, greet them on your way into work?  Say good-bye on your way out?  Did you ever stop and ask them about their families?”

They hesitated, and I had my answer.  No or very rarely.

“Did you ever think that they are just as grateful as you are for the job they have?  That they can work for a company that even considers giving them a party and a bonus.  Not every company so rewards their devoted employees.”

As the book stipulates:

I think that is something else with the people-process culture: . . . you get to know people. The people get to know each other” ( J. Cernohous, personal communication, July 25, 2014).
Kersten EdD SPHR, Jeanette; La Venture EdD, Kelly. The Human Factor to Profitability: Building a People-Centered Culture for Long-Term Success (Kindle Locations 658-659). River Grove Books. Kindle Edition.

And the discussion went on.  What am I saying?

Employees should be engaged in their workplace.  That they need to feel and be a part of that team.  Not stranded in some oasis, ignored.  Again, I argue for that point that all of us see and process information differently.  We all have a unique point of reality.  Sometimes the finer details are uncovered with fresh eyes.  Don’t discount the person on the front lines.  You need to consider their input.

 

 

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