Is it ‘us’ versus ‘them’?

Business Owner: We want to install a points-based attendance policy for the company.

Me: Why?

Business Owner: I’m tired of Linda and Fred coming in late and leaving early.  And George isn’t taking lunch so he can leave early. 

Me: That’s 3 of your 20 employees.  How about we deal with these employees and take care of the issues directly? 

Here’s another one…

Manager: I want to give year end bonuses to my employees.

Me: Great!  I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

Manager: If someone calls off in the first quarter, can I ask for the bonus back?

My head hurts…

What in the world is going on?!?  Seriously – #HR, are you seeing this too?  Owners/managers/c-suite – so many are hell bent on ‘sticking’ it to employees.  Let’s add layers of policy in the spirit of ‘punishing’ and show the employees who’s boss.  Management vs. labor, us vs. them.  We’ll give benefits and flexibility, but we’re going to make it beyond difficult for our people to enjoy.  Keep the hoop jumping alive!! 

I’ll be very honest – until recently, I had thought of this ‘us vs. them’ mentality as existing primarily in the older generation.  Reason being – I typically have these conversations with owners and managers who have been in business for a while and are of a certain age.  However, I am finding myself more often than not having these same discussions with the next generation of owners and managers.  It makes me sad and scared; I was hoping this wouldn’t continue too far into the future.  Nevertheless, we have a problem to solve. 

I had a conversation with my daughter, Avery, that sparked some thought on this topic.  She came home from school one day and was complaining that her once ‘free flowing’ study center period had now changed to assigned seats and more strict rules.  This was due to bad behavior on the part of a couple of kids.  So now the whole class is punished.  I stopped and thought, ‘well, no wonder this is continuing in the workplace!’  Future business owners and managers are sitting today in middle school learning that it’s okay to punish everyone for the actions of a few. 

I get it – after years of employing and managing employees, these owners and managers have seen/heard/smelt it all!  There are always problem employees and those squeaky wheels definitely get most of the grease.  Someone is always running late/forgot their keys/has a sick kid and the list goes on and on.  You can make a solid bet that there’s at least one employee in every bunch that just lives to complain – nothing is ever good enough and they’re always the victim.  I can appreciate that everyone has their limit and sometimes you’ve just had enough!  Totally understood.  So how do we help these owners and managers take a different approach?

A few suggestions I make regularly to try to change this thinking:

1. Watch results, not the clock

2. Write your employee handbook for your rock stars, not your problem children

3. Consider what your ideal employee would be and recruit for that

4. Focus on rewarding good behavior, not just punishing bad

Let’s keep fighting the good fight and work toward a collective ‘us’ in the workplace. 

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