Seldom in the field of human enterprise have so many mistakes been made affecting so many by so few as in staff management. By Valerie Cranwell-Smith
So much of people management is just common sense that it is of great wonderment to me that so many businesses fail in this area. The underlying problem is that many business people think there is some trick to managing staff. Wrong. Managing staff is the same as managing your own personal relationships.
The Government has contributed to an underlying fear of employees by making it exceedingly difficult to get rid of non-performers. This has flowed over into the relationships between managers and subordinates. So many of them pussy-foot around their people that the relationship suffers.
But it is OK to tell people they are not performing. Not to do so, indeed, is bad business.
The first step in stress-free people management is to set the rules. Imagine what a game of football would be like if no one knew the rules? The same can be said of work. Make no assumptions about what your people need to know. Assume total ignorance and work from there. If you do not have an Induction Manual you should. To many people this is a blinding glimpse of the obvious! However, it is so obvious that it is often overlooked!
The Induction Manual should cover such details as organisational relationships, business vision (if you have one), and contacts. It should also spell out what is expected of each employee. If you tell your people up front that, for instance, bad language will not be tolerated, it is much easier to deal with any problem that arises than to improvise an explanation about the matter on the hop.
Of course, there is no point prescribing norms unless management is prepared to follow them along with everyone else. One of the worst mistakes a business can make is to have one rule for managers and another for workers. If you want your employees to refrain from using bad language, don’t use it yourself. If long personal phone calls are not allowed, don’t spend 30 minutes on the phone discussing your share portfolio with your broker.
In all instances, employees are square pegs in round holes until the relationship between employer and employee is established. When boundaries are clarified and employees are given feedback on their performance, that is when they start to become round pegs in round holes.
When no feedback is given one of two things will happen. If the employee is passive, the square edges will be worn down by the round hole and the peg will wither and shrink. The job for which they have been employed becomes beyond them. They are too small a peg of indifferent shape in a big hole.
If the employee is aggressive, and management is weak, the corners will stretch the hole and deform its fabric, rendering both ineffective.
The trick to moulding your people to the job is honesty. Tell people what you think and feel. Business does not proceed by osmosis. This is especially true for managing directors. A major problem in business today is communication with the front line. So many large and medium businesses fail because the ideas of management are not passed on in their entirety to employees.
This is an enormous problem for businesses in which the bulk of the work force is blue collar under a university-educated management team, which has never done the work that is done on the shop floor.
The other mistake that many managers make is to assume they know what their staff is thinking.
Let me give you an example of this type of problem:
Management decides (in isolation) to have a party for employees. No partners are invited. The MD hopes to bask in the glow of his generosity. Trouble is, most of the employees are women and have problems getting approval from their spouses. Outcome: half the workforce doesn’t go and the MD is seen in an unfavorable light, as though throwing crumbs to a hungry pack.
The cost of the party would be better given as a bonus that would benefit all employees, not just those who are able to go. A $25-bonus to some of the work force is a counter meal or a pizza with the kids. The MD would have been much more fondly remembered for that. It is about getting it all in perspective.
How not to
How Not To Provide Customer Service
The correspondence that follows really passed between a London hotel and a guest.
Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Dial. Please remove the six unopened bars from the shelf under the medicine chest and another three in the shower soap dish.
Dear Room 635
I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow. I took the three hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The six bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only the three bars I left today, as my instructions from the management are to leave three soaps daily.
Kathy, Relief Maid
I hope you are my regular maid. Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening, I found you had added three little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for two weeks and have brought my own bath-size Dial. Please remove the Camays.
Dear Mr Berman
The assistant manager, Mr Kensedder, has informed me that you called last evening complaining about your maid service.
I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience. If you have any future complaints please contact me on extension 1108 between 8am and 5pm.
Dear Miss Carmen
I cannot contact you by phone as I leave the hotel for business at 7.45am and don’t get back till after 5.30pm. That’s why I called Mr Kensedder. I only asked him if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check-in today, since she left another three bars of soap in my medicine cabinet, along with her regular delivery of three bars on the bathroom shelf. In just five days here I have accumulated 24 bars of soap. Why are you doing this to me?
Dear Mr Berman
Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and remove the extra soaps.
Dear Mr Kensedder
Every bar of soap has been taken from my room, including my own bath-size Dial. I came in late last night and had to ask the bellhop to bring me some.
Dear Mr Berman
I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave three bars of soap each time they service a room. The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.
Martin L. Kensedder
Dear Mrs Carmen
Who the hell left 54 little bars of Camay in my room? I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don’t want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one damn bar of bath-size Dial. Do you realise I have 54 bars of soap in here? All I want is my bath-size Dial. Please give me back my bath-size Dial.
Dear Mr Berman
You complained of too much soap in your room, so I had them removed. Then you complained to Mr Kensedder that all your soap was missing, so I personally returned them: the 24 Camays which had been taken and the three Camays you are supposed to receive daily. I don’t know anything about the four Cashmere Bouquets.
Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps, so she also brought 24 Camays plus the three daily Camays. I don’t know where you got the idea this hotel issues bath-size Dial. I was able to locate some bath-size Ivory, which I have left in your room.
Dear Mrs Carmen
Just a short note to bring you up-to-date on my soap inventory. As of today I possess:
- On the shelf under the medicine cabinet: 18 Camay.
- On the Kleenex dispenser: 11 Camay.
- On the bedroom dresser: three Cashmere Bouquet, four hotel-size Ivory, and eight Camay.
- Inside the medicine cabinet: 14 Camay.
- In the shower soap dish: six Camay, very moist.
- On the north east corner of the tub: one Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used.
- On the north west corner of the tub: six Camays.
Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, advise her that stacks of more than four have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window-sill, which is not in use, would make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries? One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-size Dial which I am keeping in the hotel vault in order to avoid further misunderstandings.