Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 14-01-2014
Have you ever visited the Post Office, or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), or had the opportunity of spending quality phone time with a government employee? Of course you have, and it can be a frustrating experience. You need help, or advice, perhaps a creative solution to your problem – maybe simply someone to point you in the right direction.
More often than not what you’ll get instead is a quote from a policy or a regulation that doesn’t help you at all. And this is usually accompanied by an air of indifference for your circumstances. Should you dare ask them, why? they stumble, seem a bit startled at the question, and then finally repeat what they said before – usually word for word.
When I was an expat living in England I was able to cruise all over the country for a full year on my international drivers license. This was driving on the wrong side of the road – and with a manual transmission. The experience gave me and those with me a few close calls. But no one questioned the risks I took or shared with other drivers; just get off the plane and drive off was the common practice.
However, after that initial twelve months expired the bureaucrats wanted me to get a British license, which meant a period of driving with Learners tag prominently displayed on the car (L) and taking a written as well as a driving test. When I asked the clerk why I was required to act like I was 16 years old again the fellow’s eyes glazed over as he parroted the regulations. When I said, “but that makes no sense,”his only response was repetition.
Though he was very pleasant about it.
Bureaucrats are everywhere
Cute story, isn’t it? But the humor might wear a bit thin if you find the same experience where you work. Consider those managers who treat their employees in a similar manner, including that air of indifference. How do they react when approached by an employee thinking outside of the box; or when a request falls outside the norm? Too often I’ve seen managers play the bureaucrat card and quote the rules. “That’s against company policy,” or “we never do it that way,” or even “that’s the way it is.”
In other words, they don’t seem to know the reasoning behind their own response, so they parrot a rule or a policy or even a common practice – all without stopping to think whether what they’re saying makes sense or is helpful to those who have come to them for assistance. It’s like a parent saying, “because I said so.”
Why do they do that?
Let’s face it, it is easy to say, “That’s the policy” without taking the time to understand the reasoning that goes behind the policy. Kind of a knee-jerk response. It’s safe, you can’t get blamed, and the questioner goes away. But is that the right answer for the circumstances? And is that what you want, for your employee to simply go away?
What do employees think when treated in such a fashion? In polite terms they’ll write the manager off as a waste of time. “Won’t go there again.” And so goes morale, engagement, collaboration, team effort, productivity and every other positive aspect of employee relations. Poof! Just like that. Blow them off and they do the same to you.
So don’t do that. Don’t make decisions – just because. Don’t parrot what you can’t explain. Have a reason for what you tell employees. They don’t have to agree with you. But you owe them the courtesy and respect of considering their point of view and to respond in a thoughtful manner. They deserve a proper answer, not something taken off the shelf.
Btw, I never did bother getting my British driving license.