How to Drive Your Employees Crazy in 3 Easy Steps

communication leadership management professional development relationships May 02, 2023

Step One: Give them responsibility without authority – Many of us have had this experience: You find an item in a store that’s marked down to a sale price. The clerk scans the bar code and the regular price pops up on the screen. You point out that the item is marked with a lower price and get “the look”.  It’s the look that means, “There is nothing I can do about this. I have to go by what the register says, or I get in trouble. And, before you ask, my manager is at lunch.” While you are rightfully annoyed by the snafu in your purchase, stop for a minute to put yourself in the shoes of an employee who is perfectly able to see the problem – i.e. the clearly marked sale price – and has no authority to do the right thing because the machine hasn’t been updated. There they stand, helpless, frustrated and directly in the crosshairs of your glare. 

Employees who are well trained and given the authority to take initiative when exceptions to the rule occur tend to rise to the occasion when it’s needed. They gain satisfaction from being able to solve a problem, create a satisfied customer and contribute to the success of your business.  Will they make mistakes or errors in judgment at times? Yes, but as you invest some time in mentoring them, you’re also investing in your company.  After all, which company would the best employees want to work for – the one that paints a target on their back or the one that helps them achieve?

Step Two: Don’t tell them what you expect – If you have been in the same business for a while, chances are there are principles and practices that have become second nature to you. When this happens, it’s easy to forget that other people don’t know all the same things. If you really want to make your employees crazy, just assume they do. While we just talked about the importance of letting employees exercise initiative, that will be more effective if you clearly state what you expect them to do – or not do – and make sure they understand the reasons for your policies and procedures.

Let’s look back at our unfortunate clerk. Think of how differently the scenario would unfold if the clerk understood the system well enough, and was empowered to say, “That’s okay, I will enter the sale price manually.”  If that’s not an option, you would certainly settle for, “I’m sorry, but my register isn’t programmed to charge the sale price, but if you will go to our Customer Service center, they are able to process exceptions.”  It may not be the best situation, but it gives the clerk the ability to help the customer and maintain their dignity at the same time.

Step Three: Try to be one of the guys – If you are a business owner or if you are in a position of authority, you are guaranteed to make your staff crazy if you are their friend one day and then have to exercise your authority the next.  The old adage, “It’s lonely at the top,” can be true at times, and it can be hard to stay on the outside when the staff members are socializing. If you have hired great people, it makes it even harder not to get too close, but maintaining boundaries is best for everyone involved. Managers who try to become one of the guys find themselves in a difficult situation when their “buddy” comes in late or doesn’t turn in a report on time. Being friendly is good, but being friends with employees is only good until someone messes up. A lot of employee issues have ended badly with the words, “I thought you were my friend.”

A little craziness can happen on the job some days, but if you avoid the three steps listed above, you will create an environment where employees are encouraged to do their best and contribute to a healthy, sane workplace.

Live, Work and Relate Well!


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