North Central Business Journal News
BRINGING EMPLOYEES INTOTHE LOOP
(July 2001 issue)
by Sandra Kay Neal, Ph.D.
Managers don’t have anything to show for their
work. They rarely create a product or deliver a service. Instead,
their task is to ensure that the product is created or the service delivered.
Managers usually are promoted to their position because they were exceptionally
good at producing the product or delivering the service for which their
company is known. Once in the position of manager, they have a desire
to maintain, or if possible improve, the quality of product or service.
Since they know how to do this exceptionally
well, they tell their subordinates how to do things the best way.
If they are really lucky, their subordinates perform in the manner described.
Unfortunately, not all employees are like their managers. Sometimes
they skip steps or do things that are relatively unimportant in place of
things that are of supreme importance.
Managers will then redescribe the process they
wished to be used by their employees. Often, however, the employees
continue skipping steps or rearranging priorities. Mangers then become
exasperated and angry. They may resort to more drastic, harsh means
of getting the employees to do as they are told. The employees may
then react in a defensive or hostile manner, often escalating to sabotage
Nothing positive has been accomplished.
Instead, the situation is worse: morale is low; tension and
conflict are present; stress levels are high. And the performance
has not improved.
Instead of expressing exasperation and
anger when employees appear to refuse to follow directions, managers need
to bring the employees into the loop. Employees need to learn to
think as the manager thinks, and to understand the job as the manager understands
To bring the employees into the loop, managers
need to start with the overall goal of their department. The
manager and the employees list all the tasks involved in the job.
The manager then asks the employees how each task facilitates the accomplishment
of the goal. If the employees don’t see the connection, the manager
can explain. This helps the employees see the bigger picture that
is sometimes obscured by focusing only on the tasks at hand. Then
the manager guides the employees to prioritize the tasks with the ultimate
goal in mind. This helps the employees recognize that some
tasks are essential and some tasks are only important, which enables the
employees to make appropriate choices during crunch times.
Sometimes employees do have better ways
of doing things. If employees appear reluctant to follow prescribed
steps or procedures, the manager can ask why the employee’s way is better
at accomplishing the goal. This demonstrates to the employee that
he/she is recognized as someone who would attempt to do things better for
the good of the company. If the reason is an improvement, other employees
can be taught to follow the new way.
On the other hand, many times because
of the narrow focus of employees on their particular tasks, they may misunderstand
the importance of a step or procedure. After hearing the employee’s
explanation, the manager can indicate how that step is essential to completing
the goal. Now the employee will most likely follow the procedure
because it makes sense. The manager will not need to closely supervise,
because the employee will do things correctly whether the manager is around
or not. Morale will improve, respect will be enhanced,
the employee’s performance will improve; the manager has something to show
for his/her work.
Sandra Kay Neal holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational
Psychology and has 19 years experience helping organizations solve human
resource issues. Her company, Synergistic Organizational Solutions,
specializes in aiding small businesses. Dr. Neal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.