Tuesday, March 30, 2010

7 Things Your Boss or Buddy Should Never Say to You

A look at the various comment threads shows that a few bosses out there could also benefit from a review of the basics of good workplace relations--not to mention a quickie refresher of what constitutes good leadership.

So, bosses, are you listening? Here are seven things you, as a boss, should never say to your employees:

1. "I pay your salary. You have to do what I say." Have you not heard? It's the 21st century. Threats and power plays just do not cut it anymore (and they were always a terrible way to manage). Yes, you pay people's salaries but that doesn't mean you're their lord and master. You are their leader, however. Leaders lead by inspiring, teaching, encouraging, and, yes, serving their employees. Good leaders never need to threaten. So keep your word, set a good example, praise in public, criticize in private, respect your employees' capabilities, give credit where credit is due, learn to delegate, and when you ask for feedback don't forget to respond to it. (Another sentence to be avoided: "Do what I say, not what I do.")

2. "I don't want to listen to your complaints." Hey, boss, you have this backwards. You do want to listen to employees' complaints. That's part of your job. You should be actively seeking feedback, even negative feedback. It may be annoying, even painful, but that's why you get the big bucks. Complaints point to where your processes and practices need improvement. And even if a problem absolutely can't be helped, allowing your employees to vent can go a long way toward restoring morale and building loyalty.

3. "I was here on Saturday afternoon. Where were you?" This kind of "subtle" pressure to work 24/7 is a good way to burn out your employees. You won't get that much more productivity out of them, and you will destroy morale. You may choose to work seven days a week. That's your call. But your employees shouldn't have to. If you observe that they are working way more than their job descriptions call for, consider that maybe it's because you're overloading them. Look for ways to fix this problem.

4. "Isn't your performance review coming up soon?" Maybe you're trying to motivate an employee to do a better job. Maybe this is just a ham-handed way to remind underlings of who has the power. Who knows. Either way, a statement like this is not only tacky and passive-aggressive, it's ineffective. If you really want to motivate people, consider giving them a stake in the success of your enterprise. Show employees you value them. Let them know what they have to gain by doing a good job. The results may surprise you.

5. "We've always done it this way." Want to crush your employees' initiative? This is a good way. News flash: Your employees may actually have a pretty good idea of how to do their jobs. Maybe they know even more than you. Your job as boss is to encourage them to have the energy and motivation to be innovative. In fact, employees who come up with better ways to do things should be celebrated and rewarded. (Hint: Cash is nice.)

6. "We need to cut costs" (at the same time you are, say, redecorating your office). Nothing breeds resentment more than asking employees to tighten their belts while you, to their eyes, are living it up. Even if the office redecoration can be totally justified in business terms, or the budget for it was a gift from your uncle, it still looks hypocritical and is demoralizing. Being sensitive to other people's feelings is good karma. Leading by example is the best way to lead.

7. "You should work better." Managers need to communication expectations clearly, to give employees the tools they need to do a good job, to set reasonable deadlines, and to offer help if needed. When giving instructions, ask if they understand your instructions. Don't assume. You may not be the stellar communicator you think you are. If your employees are making mistakes, or not performing up to par, consider that maybe it's because you're giving them vague instructions like "you should work better."

The bottom line is that in the workplace respect, a little tact, and a good attitude go both ways.


The Boss said...

This is good advice. . . IF the company actually values the employees. There is a depression on right now, and no company needs to take the workers into consideration. For every driver that leaves, or is pushed out the door, there are ten more waiting for the job. Ten more who will work cheaper and not earn benefits for a "probationary" period--no vacation time, no paid time off, no paid holidays, no nothing but a few dollars per hour (and an ugly uniform).

This kind of advice really only applies to lawyers, doctors, computer programmers, engineers, and other professional workers. Open your eyes and see for yourself what constitutes driver training. Then ask yourself what Fedex has to lose by a few people walking out the door or not working on their own time or not hurrying up to get out the gate on time.

People here who are genuinely interested in protecting their own interests have only two choices: tolerate the day-to-day crap of being at the whim of a shitty boss or organize and work under the protection of a contract. Notice that 'sit back, relax, and enjoy the boss’s respect' is NOT one of the choices. You're cogs in a machine; when one wears out, it gets replaced.

Anonymous said...

Grieving Kettleman City mothers tackle a toxic waste dump
Each had miscarried or given birth to a child with birth defects. Their pain gave them strength to fight for justice.
By Louis Sahagun Los Angeles Times
March 30, 2010
Reporting from Kettleman City, Calif. - On a rainy afternoon in a cramped trailer, the five homemakers listened as state officials with clipboards asked personal questions: Did they or their husbands smoke, drink or take illicit drugs? Had they been exposed to pesticides or other toxic substances in the United States or Mexico? Do their families have histories of birth defects?

Each had miscarried a fetus or given birth to a child with severe birth defects within the last three years. Each suspected it had something to do with a nearby toxic waste facility.

A year ago, these four Mexican immigrants were shying, unquestioning. Not anymore. In less than a year, they have overcome their fears of government officials and placed this farm worker community, one of the poorest in the state, on a national stage.

Romero's daughter, America, who was born with a cleft palate and other serious health problems, died in 2007 when she was 4 1/2 months old. Alatorre's 2-year-old son, Emmanuel, is missing part of his brain and cannot keep his balance. Daria Hernandez's 1-year-old son, Ivan, has had two surgeries related to his cleft palate and other problems. Maria Saucedo's daughter Ashley died when she was 10 months old. A fifth woman, Lizbeth Canales, miscarried a fetus with heart problems and clubbed feet and hands.

"The first time I spoke out in public against the chemical dump, I felt so scared and embarrassed that my heart was pounding and I was shaking so hard I could barely speak," Romero recalled.
Finding answers won't be easy.
The Kings County community of 1,500 has for decades been surrounded by agricultural sewage, diesel exhaust, pesticides sprayed on adjacent fields and orchards, elevated levels of arsenic in drinking water and tons of dangerous substances hauled each day into the landfill 3 1/2 miles southwest of town.

Kettleman City is one of many small towns across the United States struggling with serious health problems that residents believe have environmental causes. Few get the answers they seek.

Kettleman City, a municipality in name only, lies just off Interstate 5, equidistant from Los Angeles and San Francisco. It has no stop signs, sidewalks or street lights. The per capita income is about $7,300 a year. Homes and trailers rent for from $600 to $800 a month and many have broken windows, ripped screen doors and peeling paint.

Water runs brown as coffee from many household taps. Residents buy potable water at local vending machines for $1.75 a gallon. The nearest supermarkets and pharmacies are about 15 miles away in Avenal.

Most residents work for low wages in the Central Valley's farms and orchards. It is unknown how many people here are undocumented immigrants, but the number is thought to be substantial. Only 225 people are registered to vote. Politicians rarely visit.

Local officials, however, frequently tour the landfill, where diesel big rigs from Southern California annually dump 400 tons of hazardous substances, including paint, acids and toys from China contaminated with lead.

Each year, the facility's owner, Waste Management Inc., pays $3 million in taxes and disposal fees into the Kings County's general fund.

Waste Management officials said they welcome the state study. The landfill has been an integral part of the Kings County community for 28 years and is monitored, regulated and controlled by nearly a dozen local, state and federal agencies, owners note.

In those 28 years, the company has been fined more than $2 million for infractions, including mishandling of carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs; failing to properly analyze incoming wastes, storm water and leach ate for PCBs; and failing to properly calibrate equipment.

Anaheim Driver said...

FedEx openly recruited Drivers to transfer to Kettelman City, with the full knowledge of the toxic waste conditions in that area. And when some Drivers refused they were forced to transfer or lose their jobs.
Is this a company looking out for the best interest of its employees, or is this a company looking out for its own bottom-line?

Anonymous said...

As an aside comment, I happened to glance at a computer screen this morning (the one that is in the breakroom). The message showed the propaganda blog with the message that went something to the effect of: "The Union will make any promise, and will keep none... Fedex can't and will." I paraphrase because I didn't really read the entire thing...

As I walked out of the breakroom, I began to think. "Well, if the union makes promises, and they keep none; Fedex can't and will."
This is disingenuous and a flatout lie. When Fedex promises they will cut hours and micromanage the dock, they will. When Fedex promises they will alter linehaul to "save costs", they will. When Fedex promises that VPEP is eliminated, they will eliminate any sort of bonus. When Fedex promises that management will take a percentage reduction in salary (never to be reinstated), Fedex will honor that promise. When Fedex promises that they will make any sort of comprehensible communication possible between employees and management impossible, they will.

Yes, when Fedex promises things, they honor those promises. And I have to admit...Fedex is very honest about honoring their promises. Unfortunately, recent and past instances have shown how the employees of Fedex have been screwed over by Fedex's promises.

The time for the Union is now. It may not be a perfect solution, but present circumstances show that Fedex isn't the most trustworthy solution either.