Thursday, October 7, 2010

An Ingenious Way to Communicate Disagreeable Policy

If you’re in management you’ve likely had to interact with an entry-level employee who just didn’t get it.  Maybe they were young or inexperienced, or maybe just a poor fit.  For whatever reason, you had to tell this worker repeatedly, for instance, that they can’t take time off work without notice.

Managers sometimes have to relay and implement undesirable policies.  You may have to refuse the above employee’s request for time off.   Inexperienced workers often don’t realize what experienced employees take for granted.  For example, that they must give adequate notice when requesting time off.

Managing Inexperienced Employees

So how does a manager deal with an employee who expects you to explain what seems obvious? How do you reiterate basic policy? Do you tel them ‘nobody else gets time off; why should you?’ Or maybe you quote the rules in the HR handbook.

Gen Y entry-level employees are more likely to question your decisions, requiring you to justify yourself when you refuse what you deem is a ridiculous request. But there’s a painless way to explain basic company behavior. An unbiased process that minimizes conflict and demonstrates respect while encouraging employees to become self-sufficient: stoop to their level.


The Map Doesn’t Go There

Don’t fall into the trap of acting sarcastic, condescending, or surly. Your employee will just become dejected and fail to understand why you refused their request. They'll end up resenting you and the relationship will sour.

People will accept readily what they discover themselves that they would be skeptical about if told. Similar to how two people both reviewing a map realize simultaneously that a particular road won’t take them from point A to point B, lead your workers to discover for themselves that they can’t get there from here.

Collaborate, don't manage. As you mutually review the facts, ‘think out loud‘ your conclusions and pretend to discover them together. When you mutually discover the request is impossible, your worker can’t dispute your conclusion because it’s not your opinion; it’s based on facts that both of you jointly uncovered.


Don't Steal Your Employees' Problems

When your employees urge you to solve their problem for them, return the ball back to their court. Teach them to solve their problem themselves by inviting them to do research. Your sole contribution will be to suggest possible resources they might use to unearth the information. For example:

    Worker: “Can I have the day off next Wednesday?”
    You: “What does the schedule show?”
    W: “Well, I’m on the schedule.”
    Y: [Remaining silent]
    W: “…but I have to help a friend move/deal with an important personal matter/attend to a sick dog.”
    Y: “Hmm, bummer. What does the HR manual say about requesting time off?” (affecting curiosity)
    W: “I don’t know. So can I go?”
    Y: “I’m sure you can find a copy of the manual somewhere around here.”
    W: [picking up manual and reads]: “Okay, here it is: ‘...employees can substitute shifts provided they obtain permission from their supervisor and arrange for the substitute.’”
    Y: [Remaining silent]
    W: “So can I go then?”
    Y: "What's your plan?"
    W: "But Bob refused to sub for me."
    Y: "I'm sorry to hear that. Will you be able to leave then?"
    W: "I guess not."
    … and so on.
If you must impart information, reiterate facts they've already uncovered. Whatever you do, don't accept ownership of the problem or you'll rob your employees of the value of solving problems themselves. Take care to set precedents that make your people self-reliant.

After a few repetitions, your employees will take initiative and start solving their problems themselves. And this process is replicable. In the future when this worker is in a leadership role and faced with a similar situation, s/he can parrot the exact same questions to a subordinate. Because it increases the competency of the entire organization, it qualifies as an Ingenious Business strategic training technique.

We’re almost ready to migrate over to our new site. Upon going live, I’ll post the link and a short URL that you can use to get to this website. Next week we continue with applying Metrics for top performance. Then later in the week I’ll discuss how to handle an employee who is a fit culturally but lacks the proper skills for their job. Do you get rid of them or not? Just like the one explained above, the concept is simple in theory but it can be used to great advantage within the organization. It’s coming up next week. Until then,

profitable business All!

3 comments:

  1. I hadn't really realised that this is exactly what our managing director does! It's like, instead of taking aboard the problem he just passes it back at you, so you have to come to your own conclusion otherwise you know nothing will get resolved, I think it's a brilliant method.
    I'm not sure what effect this kind of reasoning has on the employee/manager relationship though, maybe a bit of annoyance, rather at yourself for not knowing in the first place.
    When I have a problem I allways take it head on and try to resolve it before it gets too out of hand and then the blame would land on me alone.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That sounds like a good technique too. This business concept gets its name from the time of Socrates. So it's been around awhile. :)

    ReplyDelete
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