Management style from Jesus

If you ever want to know how to deal with people at work, you can’t go wrong with seeing what Jesus has to say about it.

Matthew 18:15-17 (ASV)
15 And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established.
17 And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican.

Let’s translate this for the workplace. If your employee is doing something wrong, talk to him privately. Tell him in person what the issue is so that he can fix it.

Don’t send him an email. Don’t chastise him in front of coworkers or customers. Don’t start off by calling a meeting with him, you, and upper management. Do it privately.

Don’t threaten to fire him or write him up or any other form of punishment at this time. This is a time to let him know that his actions are not in line with what is expected by company policy.

Then wait. See how he responds.

If he fails to comply and put his actions in line with company policy, then it is time to call for a meeting with him, you, and upper management.

If that still doesn’t work, get your Human Resources department in, or even hire a professional non-violent conflict resolution expert.

If that still doesn’t achieve the desired result, then take appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including firing him.

The worst thing you can do is have issue with an employee’s behavior or actions and start talking to upper management first, skipping the employee in the discussion, and documenting his actions. The employee does not know that he is doing anything wrong, so he does not have any awareness that he needs to correct it. Meanwhile, he is silently being punished and tracked for his every action. This is unfair, unkind, and unwise. It is, simply, a sign of bad management, but worse, it is the sign of a bad human being on the part of management.

This also works for interoffice conflicts. If you have issue with a coworker, tell them privately. Don’t get your boss involved. Talk to your coworker privately about how their actions affect the workflow. Tell them how you feel when they shirk their responsibility. If they don’t change their ways, then talk to the boss.

People aren’t pieces – on management

Don’t ask an employee an opinion if they can’t say no. It is a waste of time and fools them into thinking that management cares. When they realize that their answer meant nothing and wasn’t considered, they will feel betrayed. Then they won’t trust anything else that comes from management, and the team isn’t a team anymore.

Sometimes the employee realizes that the only answer that is acceptable is “Yes, that is a great idea!” even if they know it is a terrible one. Sometimes it is simpler to go along and pretend that it is going to work out even if you know from years of experience that it is not. If you argue, you are the squeaky wheel, and you won’t get grease, you’ll get the axe.

Now, nobody wants a curmudgeon. Management doesn’t like an employee who fights against change just because it is change. But we all hate “Yes-men” as well. We hate people who agree to anything just to suck up. So there has to be a middle ground.

Working together on a project as a group is important. We all have to be rowing in the same direction if we want the boat to go straight. We’ll be dead in the water if the people doing the rowing (the workers, not the management) don’t know where they are going. If they feel betrayed and lost enough, they might be actively working against the change. It is up to the leader to earn the trust of the team, rather than just crack the whip.

New managers would do well to take time to get to know the rhythms and patterns of the departments they are assigned to lead. If they have never done the job that their team does, they need to do it. They need to see for themselves what works and what doesn’t. They also need to show the team that they know what they are talking about. No team member trusts a manager who gives directions who doesn’t know how to do their job.

If the manager has done the job that their underlings are doing, but at another building, she needs to come at it with fresh eyes. Different franchises do things different ways, even if they are supposed to do them the same. Sometimes the different ways are better. Sometimes they make more sense for that location. Saying “But we did it this way at my old place” will only get more pushback, because you aren’t there anymore.

One of the fastest ways to ruin trust is to start making big changes right away without consulting the people who have been there a long time. They know from experience what will work and what won’t. They are also the people who are going to have to implement those changes, so they need to be in agreement with them or they won’t get done. If they can’t understand them, they will be unable to do them. If the new changes are impossible to do then they won’t happen either. Management can’t know what won’t work if they don’t allow employees to be honest, or do the same job as the employee. You can’t change a boat’s direction midstream without people falling into the water and drowning.

It is important to remember that people spend more time at work than they do at home. Most of the hours spent at home are asleep, so they don’t count. 40 hours a week with people you didn’t choose to be with is hard. Changes made to the workflow, environment, or polices at the workplace are far-reaching. They affect the morale and psyche of the employees, especially if they have been there a long time. It is the same as going into a person’s house and redecorating without their permission. They won’t know where anything is. They won’t feel settled. They won’t know their place. Then, instead of improving workflow, you’ve just halted it.

Big changes can result in trauma. Trauma occurs when something huge and unexpected happens that feels unfair and unjust. Everything that you knew to be true is now up for grabs. Nothing makes sense. There is a sense of betrayal and loss of trust. People who are experiencing trauma feel like ships lost at sea, with no guidance and no security.

A good manager, like a good captain of a ship, gets everybody working together and in the same direction. It takes time to build up that level of trust. People don’t respect the title or the position. They respect the person – and they can’t respect what they don’t know. They need to know that you are fair, you can be trusted, and you know what you are asking them to do. They need to know that the changes you are asking them to implement are necessary and helpful and not arbitrary. They need to know that their opinion, experience, and input matters. Mostly, they need to be treated as unique and important people, and not cogs in a machine. People aren’t pieces.

Focus – on management and praise

Oprah Winfrey says that what you focus on expands, and this is extremely important to appreciate when it comes to dealing with people. Whether you are a teacher or a manager, this approach can make all the difference.

One of the best things you can do is praise someone when they are doing something good. Even if what they are doing is their everyday task, praise them. If you are a manager, you could tell them you appreciate that they make it a priority to come in on time, use their time well, are polite to the customers. Don’t wait to praise them for extraordinary acts. If the only time you speak to them is to tell them what to do and when they have done it wrong, you won’t ever see exceptional work.

Praise costs nothing, and reaps huge dividends.

Consider dog training. If you only give attention and energy to the dog when it is making a mistake or performing an undesirable action, that is all you will see. Not just because that is where your attention is, but also because that is where he is getting your energy. Dogs, like people, want energy. If they can’t get it in a positive way, they will seek it in a negative way. Being yelled at for doing something wrong is still better than being ignored for doing something right.

You may think “Why should I praise someone for doing their job?” Because that is your job. That is what a manager is supposed to do. Managers aren’t just there to direct traffic – they are there to make sure things go smoothly. Praise is the grease that oils the wheels.

One of the worst things you can do is tell your staff you are going to send “mystery shoppers”. This makes them feel threatened. It encourages them to act better only out of fear. Fear is a terrible motivator. If you have to use mystery shoppers, have them only report when a staff member is doing a good job. It doesn’t have to be exceptional. It just has to be good. If you do that, it will encourage them to be good for the sake of getting caught being good. There will be a benefit, a payoff, a reward for doing good work.

Singling out one or two people for praise out of a large group is great for those few people and terrible for the rest of the team. If ten people out of three hundred get awards or recognition, then what does that do to the morale of the rest of the group? Consider what they do in Special Olympics. Everybody gets an award.

Make awards and recognition meaningful and specific. If everybody gets the same award, then it becomes meaningless. People like to be noticed for their differences and individuality. If you pay attention to how they are special, they will feel appreciated and noticed. They will cease being a cog in the machine.

Cornered – physical boundaries and confrontational conversation styles.

One of the worst things you can do is make someone feel threatened when you talk with them. It is important to be mindful of the physical space between you and another person. A safe rule is to put out your arm, fingers extended, at a 90 degree angle away from your body. Don’t stand any closer than that to a person you don’t know unless they have given you permission. If you want to make them feel even more comfortable, stand even further away.

Just because you work with someone doesn’t mean you have permission. The boundaries are even more important if you are a manager, or of the opposite gender. Physical space is the same as people’s homes. In the same way that you wouldn’t invite yourself over to someone’s home you don’t know, you shouldn’t stand right next to someone you don’t know.

Cornering is another thing to think about. You may not be close to them, but they may not be able to leave. Your conversation will go much more smoothly if you pay attention to their physical comfort. If you are mindful of their physical comfort, they will mentally feel more comfortable as well. A simple conversation can become a confrontation if someone feels physically threatened.

Consider whether they are literally up against the wall. Are they able to physically back away from where you are when you’re having a conversation? Even if they’re not up against the wall are you blocking their method of escape? They may not want to escape but if you physically block them then they will feel like they need too. If you are essentially trapping them in a room it is very threatening.

If you need to talk to a person who is sitting in a chair at a desk, be mindful of cornering them there. They are blocked on their front and back, and depending on the chair they are blocked on their sides as well. If you are within an arm’s length of them at the same time, you’ve just doubled their discomfort. If they have to look up into a light to talk to you, and at an angle, you’ve achieved the trifecta of terrible communication styles.

Having a conversation while standing up is also a bad idea. It will make the conversation more confrontational. Sit down if at all possible, and make sure you are both at eye level. Having a table between you can make the other person feel more comfortable. Be mindful though that it might establish a sense of hierarchy. If you are a manager and the conversation is at your desk, it will not be an equal conversation.

Also it is important for you to consider your body posture. Is it open or closed? Do you have your arms crossed in front of you? Do you have your legs crossed? Are you looking away from them? All of these are “closed” body postures and indicate to the listener that you aren’t listening to them. Do the opposite to let them know you are fully present.

If you want them to listen to you, then you have to make it look like you are listening to them by altering your body posture. But you have to get some sort of middle ground. It is important not to fling your arms around a lot. It is important not to open your legs up wide and scoot your pelvis towards them. Both of those are very aggressive moves. They are too open. Look for a balance and remain neutral, not too forward, not too far back.