Harmful advice for the directors of successful companies

04.06.2018
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When companies are enjoying stable periods of success, that’s not the time for directors to forget about further growth, content to rest on their laurels instead. It is equally important, however, not to derail the company in an attempt to improve on those aspects that are working just fine as they are. The desire to keep up with the latest trends in management and to use innovations in order to get out of a routine can sometimes lead to results that are the complete opposite of what was expected.

Background

Let’s imagine the following situation: a company’s employees have become a closely knit team, its position in the market is stable, it is never lacking for work, and a steady stream of profits is pouring into its accounts.

All this can be considered a success. Having been rewarded for their efforts, the director is tempted to take a step back from management. What’s the point of changing anything, of planning and investing in innovation if everything is working so well already? This, of course, is a mistake, and the consequences of inaction can be regrettable. (For example, the Finnish company Nokia completely lost its leading position in the mobile phone market because of a similar situation.)

However, the reverse can also occur: despite a company’s successes and achievements, the manager might think that their subordinates have become lazy, that their employees are somehow disengaged, and that they could be earning greater profits. And they launch a vigorous battle against this “laziness,” attempt to bring their “disengaged” team together and demand that their “poor” financial indicators be improved.

Let’s consider what this might lead to.

Strict scheduling

Do your employees like their work? Are they happy to come to the office, do a good job, meet their deadlines and bring in pretty good profits? The most “logical” reform in this situation would be the introduction of time management.

And then one day monitoring begins: who was late, who was absent from work, who took too long a lunch break? Bans are introduced, e.g., regarding vacation time: vacation cannot be combined with weekends, employees from the same department cannot take vacation at the same time, employees are not allowed to plan their vacation during periods that are busy for the company, etc.

Companies that enforce such rules do indeed exist, and some of them are successful. But attempts to embed this sort of regimentation in a creative team, driven by vehemence and fanaticism, are usually fruitless.

Explanatory notes, reprimands and penalties for not sticking to the schedule will undoubtedly have an impact. After being chewed out by their boss, employees will certainly start arriving at the office by 9:00. But from now on, no one will be willing to stay after 6:00 p.m. No one will give up part of their lunch break to take care of something urgent; no one will check their e-mail on their day off.

A strict schedule is necessary if the nature of the work requires it, e.g., for firefighters or ER doctors. It can help if staff have an unhealthy tendency to be absent from work or to loaf around, if being late leads to the loss of clients or missed deadlines. But being strict is just one measure; in itself, it seldom changes the situation for the better. A lack of motivation is much more harmful than not being strict. The reasons why some employees don’t care about their work are usually more serious.

Blocking “unnecessary” resources

Instead of talking on Skype or looking at Facebook, employees could be working to make more profit for the company. The first thing that comes to mind is that messenger apps and social networks should be banned. At the same time, access to sites that are not related to work should also be blocked. And since all these sites can be accessed on personal smartphones, and not just on work computers, the use of personal electronic devices during working hours should also be limited.

This sort of approach might seem logical. But the disadvantages of such bans will become clear very quickly.

Facebook is no longer just a website for sharing pictures of cats: it’s also used for advertising campaigns, establishing contacts and finding out what’s happening with your competitors. Sites that might not, at first glance, appear to have a direct relationship to one’s work can be useful as sources of information and provide necessary links and references.

Even if, in restricting access to “outside” resources, the manager were to provide a way to get such access, the need to constantly make requests and provide justification would take up a lot of time, tie up their employees and kill their enthusiasm. Over time, employees will simply stop asking for such permission.

Censoring interaction

If employees are able to interact freely during working hours, it’s highly likely that they spend some of their time making fun of one another. Which means they might also be making fun of their bosses! That is unacceptable!

The logical conclusion would seem to be to start monitoring interpersonal communication. There are plenty of options for how to go about doing this, from installing surveillance cameras to prohibiting employees from closing their office doors (such actions may be illegal). To enhance the impact, you can choose some pet employees and encourage them in front of others: seeing this, all the other employees will hold their tongues even when you’re not around.

Conversations will only be about work-related subjects and will also take place in the proper manner. Whatever method you choose for monitoring communication, however, it is important to understand that “forbidden” topics will disappear only from the office, but they won’t disappear altogether. After all, you can only monitor your employees’ working time. Authority is earned in completely different ways.

Remote coordination

The manager determines when and how often they should be absent from the workplace; after all, they’re in charge. They don’t need to coordinate their vacation time with co-workers or explain why they didn’t show up at the office until lunchtime. And to make sure the staff don’t loaf around in their absence, there’s one very simple method: to constantly demand reports on the work that has been completed.

If the manager is always absent and takes a condescending tone when dealing with subordinates, this will have an impact on their relationships in one way or another. The image of a leader as an example to be imitated is very much preferable to the image of an autocratic boss who’s rarely around.

It’s not possible to fully coordinate the team’s work from a distance. Directing your subordinates’ efforts and infecting them with your enthusiasm is possible only when you’re alongside them.

Team-building and corporate logos

At times, a manager may begin to feel that the team entrusted to them is becoming more and more disengaged and that communication among the staff is poor. And that leads to the conclusion that it’s time to bring them together.

This can be done in numerous ways. For example, by arranging a creative evening or some sort of psychological exercises to develop trust: even introverts will be able to open up in new ways. A great idea during team-building exercises is to give everyone a T-shirt with the corporate logo on it. If the company’s logo is stamped on the cups used by every employee, then the team will simply have to come together and be proud of it.

Team-building is really a good idea. It should be kept in mind, however, that one’s sense of pride in their company, respect for leadership and an atmosphere of goodwill arise for a rather different reason. Team-building can develop and strengthen these aspects, but it can’t create them. If the relations between employees are strained, the boss is always shut up in their office or absent, and if employees do not get any pleasure out of working for the company, then attempts to bring them together through team-building in such conditions can lead to a diametrically opposed result.

Conclusion

If you, as a manager, are planning to make any changes in the corporate rules or relations or you are planning to introduce any innovations, do so gradually and listen to your team. Authority in the company is really in your hands, but it’s only good when there’s someone to be managed. A respected leader is someone who knows how to find the right approach to everyone and who appreciates their subordinates.

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