By Liz Ryan
I started a new job in August, and it’s been a lot more challenging than I expected it to be.
I have worked as a Quality Control Manager for over ten years.
My new job is similar to jobs I’ve had in the past. I manage a team of ten people.
The team is solid, but I have not found the same willingness to pitch in and do whatever is needed with this group that I experienced with my last team.
Here’s an example.
We have a weekly staff meeting. When I started here, there were no snacks served at the meeting — just coffee and tea.
I asked one employee (“Brenda”) to stop at a local bakery and bring a selection of muffins and bagels to the meeting. I told her I would make sure she got reimbursed for the cost of the snacks.
Brenda said “I already have to rush to get here on time because of my daughter’s school bus pickup time. If I stop at the bakery I’ll be late.”
I asked another employee (“Sam”) if he could do it.
Sam said “That bakery is way out of my way. I’ll have to leave home a half hour earlier to get there and get over here on time. I’m not the right person.”
I’m not used to employees saying “No, I won’t do it — ask someone else” but that is what I’m running into in my new job.
Here’s another example. I asked an employee (“Mark”) to train our new hire on our computer system.
He asked me “When should I do that? I’m swamped.”
I said “You can train her little by little, a few minutes every day.”
He said “If she only learns our software a little bit every day, it will take months for her to be useful. I need her help now. I’m drowning.”
I haven’t experienced this level of negativity from my employees before.
What should I do?
Congratulations on your new job!
Change is hard. Every new job brings new challenges, and you are running into one of those challenges right now.
I don’t hear negativity in your recounting of Brenda, Sam and Mark’s objections to your requests. I hear invitations to brainstorm.
Brenda, Sam and Mark wanted to brainstorm around these questions:
1) How will we get snacks for our meetings? Do we need snacks? What kinds of snacks would people prefer?
2) How will our new hire get trained, since everyone here is swamped already?
Brenda, Sam and Mark had reasonable objections to your requests, as far as I can see.
It isn’t reasonable to ask employees to stop on their way to work to pick up treats for a meeting.
You would not ask them to stop somewhere and buy office supplies on their own time, would you? You wouldn’t ask them to purchase office supplies with their own money and get reimbursed later.
Mark told you he’s swamped when you asked him to set aside time for new-employee training. That isn’t insolence; it’s just business.
We never say “This piece of equipment has a lot of nerve blinking its System Overload light at me!” but somehow we think that an employee has a lot of nerve to say “I’m swamped.”
We get angry when employees say “I’m swamped!” because we have been trained to believe that employees have to suck it up and do what they’re told, no matter what — unlike machines.
New employee training is a business line item just like insurance or the electric bill. It isn’t something you can squeeze into an already-busy employee’s workload. It has to be addressed on its own, preferably before the new employee’s start date.
The all-for-one culture you seek is something you will create over time by listening to your employees and taking their concerns seriously.
The minute your fearful brain starts saying things like “These employees should be more agreeable when I ask them to do something!” you will have already lost the leadership battle.
You will start managing out of fear, and that is the worst thing you can do.
Should is an easy word to apply to other people. It’s harder to apply it to ourselves.
You can’t force your employees to care more about pleasing you than they do, but you can build so much trust in the environment that they will naturally care. It takes time, effort and self-reflection to build trust on your team.
You will slowly gain your employees’ trust when you treat them as valued collaborators rather than underlings.
I don’t know how you selected Brenda and Sam for bagel-fetching duty, but I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both of them wondered “Why me? Why should I drive half an hour out of my way through rush-hour traffic to buy bagels that I won’t even eat?”
They may have wondered “Why can’t Helene pick up her own dang bagels?” We cannot blame them for asking that question!
Indeed, why can’t you? Assigning employees to run errands for you is the worst possible way to inspire trust and teamwork.
Here are ten things no employee should ever be asked — much less compelled — to do:
1. Run company errands on their own time.
2. Use their own money or their own credit card to make company purchases. If someone has to run to the store to buy lunches for a lunchtime meeting, for instance, give them a company credit card to use — or call the deli and set up a company account.
3. Add the training of a new employee to their already busy schedule without letting any of their current duties slide. How would they accomplish that? Neither time nor the work on their desk is elastic. We can only do so much work in a day.
4. Lie to or mislead a customer, vendor or another employee.
5. Spy on other employees and report back to the manager about them.
6. Accept a delay in a promised promotion or pay raise as a “favor” to their manager. When you make a promise to an employee, your word must be your bond.
7. Report on their fellow employees via 360-degree feedback. It’s unethical, unprofessional and culture-killing to make your employees evaluate their co-workers, as I explain in this story.
8. Work overtime without pay. If you need someone to work extra hours, pay them a bonus for that time or make them an hourly employee. Salaried employees sign up for a 40-hour work week — maybe 45 hours during a crunch time — not unlimited work whenever the boss requires it.
9. Eat lunch at their desk so they can skip their lunch or break period.
10. Come to work when they’re sick. If you create a culture where people are afraid to call in sick, or take vacation time they’ve earned, you have established a fear-based workplace and you will never get the results you want.
It’s hard to step into trust-based leadership at first. It’s hard to do because it requires you to look in the mirror and soften your approach. As managers we often think we are the top dog, but we’re not.
<P.If our employees don't trust us and don't feel we have their back — up to and including standing up to senior management when the situation requires it —then they will never give you more than the bare minimum. That doesn't make them bad employees. It makes us bad managers!
I recommend that you sit down privately with each of your employees and ask them “How can I do a better job supporting you?”
Don’t preach at them. Don’t “manage” them. Listen to them, and say “Thank you for that feedback.” Say it over and over. It gets easier every time you say it!
All the best,
Read the full article here.
This content was originally published by Forbes Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Forbes Magazine