It Isn’t Them. It’s You.
The other day I retweeted a friend’s blog post before reading it, and I’d like to apologize. Not because it offended anyone: I didn’t receive any complaints, and a few folks even shared it with their networks. No, I’d like to apologize because the post offended me. I let myself down, sharing something that flies in the face of everything I believe in as a leader.
The topic was employee monitoring software. Basically, the article discussed different options out there for companies to spy on their employees; to make sure their workers are doing what they’re tasked with doing, at least when they are using their company computer. The article actually used the term “spying on” without the least hint of irony.
Here’s my thing: if your people are not getting their assigned work done, that is indeed a problem. But if you need to spy on them to see if they’re doing it? There is a far deeper problem indeed. Two, actually.
The first problem is simple: why doesn’t their manager or peer leader know they aren’t doing their work? That’s simple, it seems. If you’re a manager and you don’t know what your people are doing, leave your office and spend some time with them! (Indeed, why are you holed up there in the first place? What is so important in your office that it should take you away from face time with your team?)
The second problem is far deeper, and for this one you’ll need a mirror, not a program: you’re spying on your people! What on earth…? If you run a company where management thinks spying on employees is appropriate, then yes, you probably have employees who cannot be trusted. You see, the ones who can be trusted pick up the vibe that you have a very dysfunctional workplace, and they don’t want to work at your firm in the first place. That leaves you with the leftovers.
Early in my career, I picked up a bit of insight I’ve carried near and dear to my heart ever since:
A company with a union probably deserves a union.
Think about that for a minute; really let it sink in. Employees don’t unionize because they’re happy with their management, do they? Nearly without exception, they form or join a union as a defense against adversarial management. So management brings unionization on itself. You get the partners you deserve.
We can generalize this rule beyond just unions, to leadership – and followership – in general. So, let’s wrap this post up with a few take-aways.
- A company that spies on its employees probably has employees who can’t be trusted.
- A company with high employee turnover doesn’t have a turnover problem, it has a leadership problem.
- If your company cannot find quality applicants, look in the mirror, not the talent pool.
These truths come from the same source: we attract who we deserve. If your people suck, guess what?
…And one final note: Some people are just bad workers, and there’s no fixing that. It’s them, not you. But for 80% of lousy, untrustworthy, lazy employees, there is a context out there in which they’ll flourish. If that context isn’t your company… well, four times out of five, don’t blame them.
Sorry, folks, but it had to be said.
Art by Surian Soosay