Don’t use the Big Rule to manage your team

Some years ago I worked for a company that had a positive attitude towards it's staff. Providing free tea and coffee along with allowing occasional personal telephone calls helped to create a positive culture and plenty of good will from the staff.

A problem arose when it was discovered that a member of staff had been making long distance calls during work time; and plenty of them. The departmental manager had to decide how to deal with the situation and chose, in my opinion, the wrong response.

He made the decision to stop staff using the telephones for personal calls even though most people used them for minor things such as booking a dentist appointment, checking on their children, or similar.

He chose to make a BIG RULE and within minutes had lost the good will of his department. The rest of the management team were placed under pressure to adopt the same policy and one by one departments were told that this small privilege had gone.

It never ceases to amaze me that managers take this route; by doing so they are abdicating their leadership responsibility.

Phrases like ‘fair and consistent’ are trotted out in order to justify their decisions. All of this just to avoid doing would managers are paid to do; manage.

It would have been far more productive to deal directly with the person concerned. This would have kept the good will of the department and given a clear signal to the rest of the team what ‘occasional personal calls’ meant.

I held out against the pressure to conform and didn’t instigate the new rule in my department, knowing that within a few weeks things would return to normal.

They did as, one by one, the rest of the managers realised what they had lost in operating the BIG RULE instead of being leaders who manage people.

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