Dealing With Gripes
Many employee complaints seem so trivial that the normal reaction is to disregard them. But what seems trivial to you may be deeply disturbing to the complainer.
First, there is a human tendency to exaggerate a complaint if nothing is done about it. The complainer does this unconsciously to justify his or her position.
Second, one complainer tends to activate another. One employee complains about a cold draft. Soon another says his chair is uncomfortable. In no time, everyone is unhappy about something.
Remember, too, that the things people gripe about may not actually be the things that upset them.
In one company, the women in a large clerical crew complained about being asked to work overtime. They said it was interfering with their social and family lives. Investigation disclosed, however, that they were really afraid to walk home in the dark through the undesirable neighborhood where their plant was located.
Employees of another company griped about the lack of parking lot spaces. Management quickly discovered, however, that there were ample spaces. The real cause of complaint was that some employees often had to park too far from the plant entrance. The company explained why nothing could be done about this, but did offer preferential parking to car pools. The complaints stopped.
On the other hand, if employees are too quiet, something may be wrong. Take time to analyze the situation.
Do things seem quiet because you have walled yourself away from your people? You may no longer have time to mingle with all the people reporting to you and listen to what’s on their minds. But if that’s the case, it might be a good idea to take periodic attitude surveys of your people, even if only on an informal basis.
Have you become too easygoing? This may make for a happy organization, but not for an efficient one. People perform best when they are under some stress (e.g., a deadline) and stress tends to encourage griping.
Or have you gone in the opposite direction and created a climate that discourages griping? This can be especially dangerous. For one thing, you don’t get the useful ideas that often stem from complaints. For another, you may be sowing the seeds of poor morale, which is almost invariably followed by poor performance.
Problem People: What To Do About Them
Most of the people with whom we come into contact on the job are a pleasure to work with. But there are some other kinds, too. How should they be handled? Some types—and suggestions on getting along with them.
Accomplishment starts with proper attitudes and good habits. Think failure and you will almost certainly fail. Lack discipline and organization and you will fall hopelessly behind in your work. This little quiz is designed to help you determine whether you are the chief bottleneck in your life.
Management Tip from Ike
General Eisenhower used to demonstrate the art of leadership with a simple piece of string. He’d put it on a table and say: “Pull it and it’ll follow wherever you wish. Push it and it will go nowhere at all. It’s just that way when it comes to leading people.”
The Importance of Consistency
Few things are more frustrating than working for someone whose standards continually change. When an employee knows he is being judged by a single, fair standard, he has a target to aim for. He can modify his performance accordingly and try to meet that standard.
To be consistent to the point of inflexibility, however, is poor management, too. When you must modify your standards, communicate this in advance so that your people can be prepared and flexible.
Trim the Fat From Your Workday
If you could somehow cut down on the idle chatter, pointless phone calls, unproductive personal visits and so on that fill your working hours, you might be amazed to learn how many minutes you literally throw away on the job.
Nobody is totally innocent; we all waste time. But we have an ace in the hole. We can learn to do better. Here are some quick time-savers you can implement immediately.
Keep standing. When visitors drop by unannounced simply to chat, be pleasant but get on your feet and stay on them. Once you both sit down, you may be in for some time killing that sabotages your entire schedule.
Keep phone talk short. When you initiate the call, tell your story in a few words, always pleasantly, with an opportunity for the other party to reply quickly.
Limit meetings to 30 minutes. You can usually accomplish much more in a 30 minute discussion, with a carefully planned agenda, than in an unstructured meeting lasting an hour or more.
Write shorter letters. Tell your reader in the opening sentences exactly what he wants to know. Avoid winding up, like a pitcher delivering a ball, with a whole paragraph acknowledging receipt of the inquiry. Jump right into the information that your reader wants.
Six Ways to Improve Morale