The concept of empowerment is discussed by many supervisors, managers and executives as though it is their main approach to directing and motivating employees–and sometimes with a bit of arrogance about it: “I hereby send you forth to do things you think would be good to do. Isn’t it impressive that I’m showing confidence in you low-level employees?”
The reality is that telling employees they are empowered (authorized) to make decisions about their work is not always wise or even truthful. Doing so without guidelines or any requirement for supervisory or managerial approval can lead to serious problems. On the other hand, telling employees they are empowered, then frequently not approving their recommended actions, creates feelings that they were lied to about their authority. Perhaps the solution is to be sure everyone involved is defining and applying empowerment in the same way.
1. Are there requirements, limitations, restrictions, preferences or criteria for decisions and actions? If so, employees do not have carte blanche (full discretionary power). Let them know their limitations ahead of time. The most reasonable one is that employees must get approval from a supervisor before stopping one task to work on something preferred by the employee or before implementing a change in established procedures, allocating organizational resources or doing anything that could have an effect on the reputation or effectiveness of the organization.
Another criteria to consider: Will it be OK if the employee decides to not do something or to stop doing something or is empowerment only about innovation and improvement?
2. Is the employee trained, experienced and mentally and emotionally ready to be given authority over important decisions–and to accept responsibility for bad results just as they are to accept compliments for good results? One of the requirements for using power effectively is knowing the likely results of one’s actions. Not all supervisors, managers and executives are as knowledgeable as they should be, but they usually have a better idea of the Big Picture than the average employee who has not had the opportunity to see all of it.
That is another reason for limitations and requirements: You can bet the supervisor and manager will be held responsible for the work of employees, even when there is an ill-judged, empowered action. It would be like a football team owner telling players they are empowered to develop their own plays, then firing coaches when the plays don’t work. (Not a great analogy, but you get the idea.)
3. Is the word empowerment merely a way to encourage self-confidence, professional development and a feeling of belonging to the group or the organization? Many executives tell employees they are empowered, as a way to say that everyone is important and should look for ways to feel good about themselves and their work. If an employee can only suggest or propose, they really have no power over anything except their own attitudes and performance.
The bottom line: Each of us have the power to improve our work quality and quantity.
*We have the power to be a positive addition to the workplace, in spite of reasons to feel otherwise.
*We have the power to carefully consider our own work and suggest improvements in processes and procedures, then accept the yes or no about it.
*We have the power to be and do many things, without waiting to be told we are empowered.
Managers and supervisors should add to each employee’s feelings of strength and accomplishment by complimenting good work and giving correction and guidance for improvement. They should communicate the message that everyone can be a valued contributor by doing their work to a high standard while continuously seeking to improve their knowledge and skills.
Every employee, at every level, can be powerfully effective and powerfully proud of what they have achieved–a worthy goal for any organization, group or individual.
Why Don’t They Manage and Supervise?
Bet you thought this was a lion, huh?
The quick answer to why managers and supervisors seem to not want to be involved in problems, fail to deal with issues, seem oblivious to concerns and neglect many tasks that need to be done, is that often when they attempt to fulfill the roles of a manager or supervisor they get such negative feedback and unpleasant results that it seems to not be worth the effort.
That is the quick answer. However, that can be an excuse for those who never really wanted to take on unpleasant tasks that require careful consideration. They want the position, the title and the salary, but not the hassle. Like Tipper, in the photo, they might wear the costume of a lion (or leader), but they aren’t really a lion (or a leader) at heart.
What about those who seem to have no trouble being bossy and unpleasant, even though they let everything go to heck around them? Well, it is easy to snap at everyone, storm around and be self-absorbed, but not so easy to analyze a specific problem or a problematic person and develop an effective plan of action. A manager or supervisor who is innately mean-spirited will nearly always fall back on being unpleasant when he or she runs out of knowledge and skills.
What about managers and supervisors who are nice people who seem to really want to do well, but things are going to heck around them, too? If a manager or supervisor only feels confident about jollying people out of their bad moods, sympathizing, mild counseling, or making excuses for problem behaviors and performance, that is what he or she will do.
If you are a manager or supervisor, consider how well-managed your team is right now:
*Adequate staff every day–or at least ensuring that all the staff are being used effectively.
*Administrative details handled on time.
*Resources being used correctly.
*The whole group and the work they do moving forward and improving all the time.
Supervision will be demonstrated by:
*Consistent and accurate on-site or at-desk observation of work and how it is being done.
*Immediate response to concerns or the first hint of problematic behavior or performance.
*Appreciating good work, even routine work.
*Looking out for everyone and how they are being treated within the group and by others.
*Keeping the work environment free of distractions and negative influences. If something distracts people from their focus on good work, it’s a negative influence.
*Motivating messages and encouragement.
*Getting the work done well and on time.
*Ensuring that policies and procedures are followed consistently.
*Building relationships with employees, customers and clients, other supervisors and a network of contacts.
*Providing service to customers and clients at a high level, without exception.
*Being an example of good work, all the time.
If you are an employee who is discouraged or irritated at your manager or supervisor, think about the times when their valid efforts have been met with resistance, even by you if the action wasn’t your preference. You might have some empathy for why they don’t make an effort anymore. That’s not a good excuse for them now, but may make a difference in your responses in the future.
The bottom line: Why don’t managers and supervisors manage and supervise? 1.) Their own managers and supervisors don’t make them do it. 2. Employees don’t like it most of the time. 3.) They never wanted to do it. 4.) It requires skill and knowledge they don’t possess. 5.) They think showing up and having the title is all that is required of them.
Don’t you be that kind of manager or supervisor. Self-evaluate often and ask others to evaluate you as well. Make it your goal to consistently and completely do the work you said you would do–for your sake and for the sake of those who rely upon you to do it.
Tell Individuals They Are Part of a Team
I often refer to teams when I’m teaching supervisors or managers (or sergeants, lieutenants and commanders). That term may not be used in the various workplaces represented in the classes, but it’s convenient for describing offices, units and sections. (It might even be used to describe your Sunday School class, club or other group.) However, the fact that a group is called a team doesn’t mean that is the way the work is done.
Is your team actually a herd? Last week, one of the people in a class on conflict resolution said, “My group isn’t a team, it’s more like a herd. Sometimes we’re busy on our own and sometimes we’re stampeding, but mostly we’re in each others’ way.” We all laughed at that colorful, though cynical, description. Another participant made a very insightful statement:
“I coach 2nd and 3rd grade softball and that’s what most work groups, including mine, remind me of. It’s not that the kids don’t want to be part of a team–actually they love the idea of that, especially when we win. It’s just that they’re so focused on themselves they don’t get around to thinking about anyone else. One of my tasks as a coach is to remind them, every few minutes, to be aware of what’s going on around them and what their teammates need from them.”
I thought that was an excellent analogy and it led to a discussion of how much we should focus on individuals and how much on the team. The majority thought that most adults prefer to be valued for themselves and their individual work rather than primarily for helping their team be successful. This is particularly true when the individuals in a work group don’t get along well. (Not all employees may feel that way, but it’s a safe bet most of the time.) However, just as there are times when every person has to focus on their own work and depend upon others to do the same, there are also times when sharing a task is necessary and collaboration and cooperation is needed.
Contrived methods, such as naming the team (especially for yourself, like “Team Anderson”) are almost always rejected. The main way to ensure a team concept is to talk about it as though it is obvious and expected, then move on and let people work. If you’re a supervisor or manager and are observing as you should be, you’ll notice when the team is functioning like one.
*Refer to the team or group in meetings or when talking to more than one or two people: “This is a great group of people.” “Let’s stay united as a team on this.” “Each of you represents the entire section.” “OK, Team, let’s get started with our meeting.” “You guys know what you need to do on your own, but remember you’re part of a team too, so look around and see if anyone is needing help.” (You’d say something better than any of those–but it needs to be said.)
*Commend people who contribute to the work of the larger group. “Your work on this made us all look good.” “You represented us well.” “Lara, I’m always impressed with how much you contribute to the work of the group.” “Jim, Tom, Deanna, Mike and Maureen, your teamwork made this happen.” (Just make sure you are telling the truth. Don’t thank the team if you know not everyone contributed at an acceptable level.)
*Quickly correct actions that distracts the group negatively or that hurts team work: “When you made it hard for Darren to get his work done, you hurt the whole section.” “You may think you just upset Sherry, but what you did was distract the entire team.” “You do good work when you’re working on your own, but you’re expected to work effectively with others and within the team, too. That’s not happening right now.” “The most harmful effect of this kind of gossip is that it puts people at odds with each other and hurts the team.” “When you two are snipping at each other, you’re snipping away at everyone, because it ruins work for all of us.”
Recognizing good individual work and good teamwork requires awareness of what is happening, then taking a leadership role to talk about it. There is a time to give a pat on the back to individuals who are doing good work on their own. There are also times when it’s good to say, “Let’s go,Team!” Whether you are an employee (team member) or a supervisor or manager (team leader), take that leadership role and help everyone feel better about their work and their herd team.
The suffix ship, is used with a large number of words, to designate the condition of being something, possessing skills and abilities related to something, or having the duties or status of something: Readership, horsemanship, fellowship, friendship, dealership, craftsmanship and others–including leadership. Nevertheless, there is something compelling about the concept of a ship, flags unfurled, leading the way for others. That is why it is such a shame when we see leaders and their followers run aground or capsize.
Old military and western movies often had the hero say, “Follow me, men!” Then, the hero left no doubt where they would be going–because he was already half way there.
In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying to a group of men who were fishing, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” They knew he had a mission and was making them part of it, so they threw down their nets and followed him. Uncle Kracker, in his 2001 song, only said, “Follow me and it will be alright.” John Denver, in his 70’s era song could only promise, “Follow me….and I will follow you.” The Great Leader made disciples by telling people what to expect if they looked to him for leadership. He was even honest about the fact that following Him would result in scorn, ridicule and maybe death–but people followed anyway.
I mention those examples to remind you that your leadership is all about encouraging, directing and hoping that people will follow you. But why should they? What will it get them and where will they end up? Calling yourself a leader is one thing. Taking people some place is another thing. Taking people someplace worthwhile is the ultimate thing.
A good way to force yourself to think about this issue is to develop a short statement that says what those who are influenced by you can expect in their work and their lives. You may never say it directly to those you wish to influence–although I think you should. But, just saying it to yourself is a test of whether or not there is anything definite to your leadership or if it is all blah-blah-blah fluff talk.
Will those who follow you be recognized for producing consistently excellent work?
Will they have experiences they can use to develop their careers?
Will they have many finished products they can point to with pride?
Will they be in line for advancement, bonuses or at least some kind of recognition?
What will be the downside? Might they be viewed as over-achievers? Could they be resented for holding to high standards?
Or, is the best you can promise, “Follow me and I’ll appreciate it”?
If you think you are an informal leader or if you have an organizational leadership role, develop an answer to this question: If people follow you, what results will they get?
Another way to put it: Pretend you are in front of one or more of the people you hope will view you as a leader. Complete this sentence: “Follow me, and…………!!”
By the way, Go Broncos!
Pay Attention To The Noise You Make While Eating and Drinking.
No, That’s Not Being Picky.
On the Ask the Workplace Doctors site, a frequent complaint involves coworkers who eat and drink noisily–especially those who do it almost constantly during the workday or shift. We hear about food odors as well as noise. This summer I’ve heard complaints about the noise of thermal sipper cups. (First is the slurping-sipping sound, then the “ka-thunk” as the ice falls back into the cup.) It sounds picky, until you have to listen to it all day, every day. It’s distracting and irritating–and it is unncessary.
One employee said, “I’m surrounded by people crunching carrots, rustling food bags, guzzling drinks, chewing ice, slurping hot chocolate, blowing on soup then sipping it repeatedly from a spoon, munching on celery sticks, glugging from a bottle, and at least three or four people who politely but obviously, burp. Right at this moment I can smell said chocolate as well pizza, egg rolls, burritos, leftovers of something and a hot dog–and it is not lunch time. With some of them, the eating never stops. One coworker consumes a bag of carrots a day, so the chomp, chomp sound is almost continuous. I want to scream!”
A reality of worklife is that working in close quarters requires some adjustments. Every employee has to have the courtesy and good sense to realize that to the person who isn’t eating, the sounds of eating can be very noisy and very irritating. The solution is easy:
1.) Use the break room as the eating area, not your desk or work station.
2.) Pour your beverage into a glass or cup, if using your thermal container makes noise.
3.) Stop grazing all day–or leave the desk to do it.
4.) Be courteous and mannerly about the impact you have on those around you when you eat and drink.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask! But, an employee told me when he asked a coworker to please stop chomping ice all day, the coworker gave him a pair of earplugs and brought in an even bigger cup of ice. That is when it becomes obvious that peers are not always able to get cooperation. The supervisor is responsible for the workplace environment and supervisory intervention may be necessary.
If you are a supervisor or manager, consider talking to employees individually (not in a blast email) about the noises and smells caused by eating at desks or work stations. Then, informally monitor it when you are walking around the area. You don’t have to create a tough rule and enforce it, simply remind people of the potential for bothering others and ask for courtesy. Let employees know they can talk to you if there is a distracting or irritating situation developing. That means you may need to do something about it–the tough part for many supervisors.
If the situation is more than minor (chewing carrots all day, chomping on ice or making other eating or drinking noises), and requests for courtesy aren’t helping, you will have to tell the bothersome employee to stop. Don’t worry, the employee won’t starve or die of thirst. But a bunch of other employees will probably silently thank you!
Early in my career with the Denver Police Department (in the early 1970’s), I worked for a short time in an assignment that reported to Chief of Police George Seaton. He had a meeting with all of us and told us that for a few months he wanted us to be out and about during each shift, observing officers and their work and letting him know of any glaring problems related to procedures.
Among his directions were: We should be obvious, not giving the appearance of sneaking around; we should assist with arrests and reports when we could; we should never appear to approve of something that we knew to be a violation of a rule or policy. Above all, he wanted us to write commendatory notes every time we could justify it.
He said, “I learned that when I was a sergeant”, (which would have been in about the early 1950’s) “You have to give people a reason to want you observing them. If you always correct something they’ll dread seeing you. If they know you’ll usually say ‘well done’, they’ll look forward to having you come by and before long they’ll connect the idea of you observing them with them doing good work.”
Someone in the group said, “But Chief, no matter what we do or say they’ll think we’re spying on them and trying to get them in trouble. What can we do about that?”
Chief Seaton said (probably using a lot of profanity, since that was something he was noted for), “Not a damned thing! But, some of them will understand and the others will at least know the truth, even if they don’t say it.”
All of Chief Seaton’s advice, then and at other times, has been useful many times in my professional life. I have mentioned his advice from that day in many classes for supervisors and managers. It still holds true: If you are going to do MBWA, management by walking around, to use a Tom Peters term, make those you visit look forward to seeing you.
*Make it separate from times you are required to go to an employee’s work area to ask about something. Be purposeful about what you’re doing.
*Don’t waste your time or their time with unnecessary small talk.
*See how things are going and ask a sincere question or two, if appropriate.
*Ask the reason behind something that seems to be wrong.
*Ask for correction of anything serious enough that to continue it would be harmful in some way.
*Make a mental note to consider small-scale concerns later.
*Say or do something that means, “well done”.
*Move on and let everyone get back to work.
Thanks for the advice, Chief Seaton!
23.8 Cubic Ft. of Trouble
We’ve all seen the signs:
*All items not removed by Friday will be thrown out!
*Your mother doesn’t work here. Please clean out your trash and spoiled food.
*Label it or Lose it!
*To the person who ate my lunch yesterday: How does it feel to know that in your heart you’re nothing but a low-life thief?
An employee took me to the refrigerator in her office’s breakroom last week. She showed me the five signs on it and around it telling people to keep the refrigerator clean. When she opened the door I almost gagged, the odor was so gross! Then, she pointed out the notes accusing people of taking food. It was a depressing situation!
There are four actions that will change a situation like that or like the situation in your office: (If you have a happy office situation and no problems, these ideas may seem a bit much. I can assure you, they are not excessive for the needs of most offices):
1. Consider issues related to the break-room/kitchen, refrigerator and microwave just as important as any other source of conflict. It is part of the office environment and is under the purview of the supervisor or manager whether he or she likes the idea or not–just like the thermostat, music, fragrances and the other non-work things that have an effect on work relationships.
Do not refer to this as being the “refrigerator police”. It’s part of managing the office. It’s also a way to test whether or not the manager’s influence and leadership is as strong as he or she hopes it is.
2. Establish one foundational policy: The refrigerator is only for storage of the employee’s lunch the day or shift it is brought in or for restaurant leftovers that day. If an employee wants to have the food again the next day it can be taken home and brought back. If there are leftover items from an office function, distribute it the same day. Employees can bring their cake back the next day if they want it.
That one improvement–no items left overnight–will save most of the thefts and all of the rotten food smells. Forget making the rule that the refrigerator will be cleared at the end of the week. That isn’t working anywhere. Bring a lunch and eat it or take it back home, but don’t leave it overnight.
3. All employee food items must be in a solid paper bag, stapled and marked with the employee’s name. Have various sized paper bags, a stapler and a pen in a container next to the refrigerator. Even that one apple, container of yogurt or can of soda should be in a bag. (By the way, I think those (and cream, mentioned below) are the most common things to steal, based on many angry reports I receive. I had no idea how many people will give up their ethics for a container of yogurt.)
Employees can bag their items at home or do it at work, but nothing is allowed in the refrigerator without being in a marked and stapled paper bag. After lunch, leftovers can be re-bagged or the first bag can be re-stapled.
No thermal bags: Thermal bags take up much more space than others. They also prevent the cold air from getting to the food. So, if someone wants to bring a thermal bag they can keep it in their personal space or take the items out and put them in a stapled, marked paper bag.
The requirement to bag, staple and mark food items will eliminate the rest of the thievery and food smells. It will also make it possible to remind employees that their lunch bag is still in the refrigerator.
*The same rules applies to the cream, milk or soy milk and the various condiments employees may want to bring. Inevitably it will be stolen or tampered with and the uproar begins. So, that too should be brought the day it is needed and taken home at the end of the shift. There is no reason to have hot sauce, soy sauce, ketchup or anything else, taking up permanent residence in an office refrigerator.
*These rules also apply to the freezer. It’s not to be used for long-term storage.
*Suggest that employees put their car keys in their lunch bags as a way to remind them to pick up their leftover lunch food.
*Acknowledge that this will be more effort for employees who bring food, but it is not horrible work or energy-draining work. The flipside is that since the refrigerator won’t be dirty, no one will have to have the assignment of cleaning out someone else’s old food.
*Make this part of new-employee orientations, even for employees who are not new to the overall company. If they haven’t worked in an office with a clean refrigerator they’ll need to be coached about what your office does to keep it that way!
4. Consider failure to follow these established processes just as much of a behavioral problem as failure to follow rules about anything else, because it is. These aren’t suggestions they are the way things are to be done.
On your own: Whether your office has a process like this or not, if you bring a lunch you could start bringing a stapled and marked paper bag on your own. Maybe it will catch on and maybe not, but at least your lunch will not be stolen and your food will never be considered a problem for odor or anything else.
The bottom line: You may be thinking that Refrigerator Rules shouldn’t be needed. They probably shouldn’t be needed, but they are, aren’t they?
Why do you put up with that??
A supervisor was telling me about an employee who was well known for lying about small issues as well as a larger ones, to the point that the employee wasn’t believed by anyone.
I asked the supervisor if he had ever confronted the employee about it. “Nah. It makes him feel important, so we all just act like we believe him and walk away shaking our heads.” I don’t think that person’s lack of integrity and respect for others is a trivial matter to them, so this was very frustrating for me to hear.
Someone else was telling me about a coworker who is officious and bosses her and everyone else around. I asked her why she puts up with it and she said if she tried to stop it the coworker would be hurt, so she and everyone else has learned to tolerate it. I see this a lot: They care more about her feelings than she cares about theirs.
A woman told me about the rants she endures from a coworker who has extreme and angry opinions about everything from politics to religion to social issues and street maintenance, etc., etc., ad naseam. She said she used to be upset and distracted all day but she has learned to tolerate it so they can get along. Apparently she feels she should be the one to work at getting along, while the coworker can do anything he wants.
I don’t advocate continual confrontation about every small difference of style or opinion. But, it’s foolish and harmful for the majority of people in a workplace to “learn” to tolerate the one or two who are unpleasant or problematic. We create entitled royalty who think they can do or say anything they want–because the reality is, they can.
The next time you wonder why you have a coworker or employee who is unpleasasant or who gossips, gets angry, refuses to cooperate with someone, is disruptive or who exhibits other bad behavior, look no further for the answer than the people who put up with it–coworkers and/or bosses.
If you have sincerely tried to stop the situation and approached it the right way but have been shut down by managers or others, you have my sympathy and also my appreciation and admiration. If you have been tolerating something that continues to bother you, remember that tolerance isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes what we call tolerance is just a lack of courage. Show some courage this week and speak up about something you shouldn’t be tolerating.
I was reading an article about the diet of pioneers on their journeys to the West. It said a party of four was advised to bring: 600 pounds of flour, 400 pounds of bacon, 200 pounds of dried beans, 120 pounds of biscuits (probably the “hardtack” kind, not fluffy ones), 120 pounds of dried fruit, and pounds of other items such as seasonings, sugar and various chemicals.
Although meat was hunted and fish was caught along the trail, often beans were the main food. The article commented that both men and women cooked on the trip, but one thing was a no-no: Cooks didn’t go to other campfires to give advice. They stayed at their own wagon and–to use the phrase I adopted for this article–stirred their own beans.
Don’t you wish people you interact with at work would heed that advice? We all need to spend more time stirring our own beans and less time stirring the beans of others, so to speak. (I’m sure there’s something vaguely off-color about that analogy, but it still makes sense to me!)
There are certainly times when advice or help is asked for and you can give it briefly, then step back and let the person take care of things on their own. There are also times when the outcome is your responsibility and you need to do more than give advice, you need to correct or completely change the way something is done. (Even then, you need to be certain the change is really, truly necessary.) Those situations involve minding business that is yours or at least partly yours.
The advice or false help that isn’t needed or wanted is when it is merely meddling. For example, you’re working very hard–maybe rushing–on a project or task that you have expertise in and experience doing. In the middle of that, someone who has plenty of his or her own work to do and knows nothing about what it takes to do your work, gets involved under the guise of helping.
*”I know you were placing those orders but I went ahead and did ours so you wouldn’t have to.”
*”I saw the handouts on the copying machine so I distributed them.”
*”I know you said you wanted to contact people personally, but I was in the meeting so I told them about it already.”
*”You said you’d bring it, but I wasn’t sure you’d remember, so I brought some too.”
*”I know you use that vendor, but I’m sure you can get it cheaper if you just check around.”
*”I put those tools away because I didn’t think you were using them.”
*”That’s no way to do it. Here, move over and let me show you how.”
*”I know it’s not my business, but really, don’t you think you should do this instead?’
If you try to explain why the advice isn’t very helpful the rescuer will usually insist it could be helpful if only you would see it their way. Finally, if you’re not very gentle about it, you’ll get a huffy, “I was only trying to help.” as Mr. Fixit or Ms. Rescuer hangs up or stalks off.
The bottom line: Most of us have enough problems handling our own work without trying to tell others how to do theirs. If something being done by someone else will harm your own ability to work, that’s one thing. But, if you just think you have a better idea, can show how smart you are, want to rescue people and make them grateful to you, or whatever your other motivation might be, stay at your own campfire and stir your own beans.
This is a cookbook with some good recipes and interesting tips from pioneer times.
There is a difference between a warning and an admonishment–but many supervisors don’t recognize the difference and fail to warn in a way that prevents a problem in the future.
An Admonishment Is Mild But Pointed Advice
An admonishment is a brief word of advice, counsel, maybe mild-mannered reproof. “Becky, you do a great job when you get here, but you’ve been late three times now. We need you here on time, especially on the days you open up.”
An admonishment can also be delivered using a light tone and even a slightly humorous approach: “Hey Ken, stop throwing trash in the parking lot, it looks bad enough without your generous contributions.”
For most situations, an admonishment is enough to get good results. I recall the thought in a book for police sergeants: “To a mature employee a suggestion is construed as an order.”
Unfortunately, supervisors and managers often think an admonishment is a sufficient warning and they are frustrated and angry when the employee does the thing again. If they want to make sure the employee doesn’t do it again, they need to warn and give consequences.
A Warning Is A Promise About What Will Happen
A warning can be formal or informal, verbal or written. “Becky, you’re doing a good job otherwise, but you’ve been late three times now. The next time you’re late I’m going to have to put it in your permanent record and give you a formal reprimand. I don’t want to have to do that, so be on time from now on.”
Or, “Ken, after the last incident with you throwing trash in the parking lot after I had asked you not to, I recommended a formal warning and HR approved it. This is your last warning. The next incident will result in loss of a day off.”
Employees Get As Confused as Supervisors
Last week an employee complained to me that she was getting in serious trouble because she continued to do something after she was warned not to. She said she hadn’t been warned, in fact her supervisor was laughing about it when he talked to her so she didn’t take it seriously.
The supervisor’s view was that a reasonable person would know his light-hearted remarks were a warning. I asked him if he had, in the midst of being light-hearted, told the employee what would happen if she did it again. He said no, but surely she realized she would get some sort of sanction.
Was that an effective warning or merely an admonishment? His HR Department and his manager viewed that he had not warned the employee because he hadn’t told her what would happen next. His manager told him that if he had warned her, it would also have reminded him that he had an obligation to follow through, whereas with an admonishment there is no follow-through mentioned.
The bottom line: The reason many employees continue their problematic behavior or performance is because they are admonished, but they are not warned. The reason many supervisors get frustrated with continual problems is that they think they are warning, but without consequences it’s just advice that the employee may not take.
I like the warning on the sign in the photo. I asked a police officer in that town, Griffin, Georgia (my place of birth), if many people hit the bridge. He said it happens now and then, but not nearly as often as it did when the sign just said, “Danger, Low Bridge. No trucks or loads over 16′ high.”
Knowing the consequences and knowing what actions will result in those consequences can make all the difference in what a person does next.