Here's how clever I'm not! Years ago, I was a foreman in a machine shop, with a mechanical engineering degree and every intention of creating a better world. A seminar on job enrichment inspired me to enrich the jobs of my direct reports by making them careers in manufacturing. I moved people from equipment and processes they knew to others they didn't, expecting them to be enriched by learning new tasks.
Good idea, right? Wrong! They didn't want their jobs enriched, at least not the way I was doing it. All that my so-called "enriching" did was keep them completely off-balance and uncomfortable. After a few weeks of this, a delegation "suggested" I not go to any more seminars. I got the message and life, enriched or not, got back to normal. With that humbling preamble, let's look at a few appalling ways guaranteed to drive employees nuts, cause them to form a union, spend more time complaining than working, or even quit.
• Change the work so employees are never confident in what they are doing, change the goal from quality one day to output the next, or change the schedule so workers are constantly moving from one task to another. Avoid letting them finish a task; at the halfway point, have them stop and start something else. Then complain bitterly about job time overruns. One of my bosses dramatically announced each change-at least five a day-as a major crisis akin to the Titanic on its way down. We all dropped whatever we were doing to deal with the new crisis; that was particularly effective management!
• Change the work rules frequently so that folks are never certain about what is expected. Be tough one day, then lax the next. Being late can get you fired-or not, depending on what day it is. A question can evoke violent response and humiliation in front of peers, or nothing at all. Make keeping the area clean a priority one day, then criticize people for spending too much time not being productive the next. Don't telegraph the focus of the day; let them guess!
• Treat everyone differently, especially if there are clear differences between people. It's pretty clear to you that doing one task takes talent, while another can be done by idiots. Make it clear which is which.
• Abandon the truth so frequently and wildly that no one in his or her right mind would ever believe anything you said.
• Give special attention to friends. Pick your golf partner as a confidant and make that selection obvious, especially if the guy isn't a star performer. Have him report on employee performance; you can't be everywhere.
• Criticize them often and loudly, usually in front of a group of peers. That's always effective, although it's also very dangerous!
I began this discussion with an example from the shop floor, but the lessons are applicable at all levels of management in any organization. All the above applies as much to the CEO, the general manager, the CFO, and anyone else who supervises others as it does to the shop foreman, perhaps even more so. Failure by the CEO, and it happens all the time, affects the entire business. Failure by a foreman can only affect his and adjacent departments.
Every manager, CEO to foreman, is guilty to some degree of each of these errors. Work hard to avoid them and you'll run a happier and more productive ship!
What's your opinion? Whether you agree or disagree, Donald B. Ewaldz will welcome your comments. You can contact him via the Bourton Group's Web site. Just point your browser to www.bourtongroup.com and click on Contact Us.