Force feeding certainly has a negative connotation and perhaps isn’t the best connotation in a work environment. But, sometimes you have to really push employees to do things and to do them in a way you, their boss, want them done. In recent years, one of the things I have had to force has been to get employees, especially Millennials, to use the telephone rather than email when making plans for our research, for example, travel and conference space for mock trials. For years this was all done by phone with faxes for confirmation. Now much is done by email and it appears outside of the comfort zone for some people to talk on the phone. Other examples include “forcing” employees to research technical equipment, rather than just asking a friend, when we are considering new video cameras or other technology changes. I want the details, the specifics, so I have to push to get the answers. Then there are times when, for reasons other than laziness, employees just find certain things out of their comfort zone. For our Research Associates and Research Technicians who set up the equipment for a research day, one of those issues is client contact. Admittedly, some clients are more intimidating than others, or at least they pretend to be, but getting employees to understand the importance of interacting with clients can be challenging. Then, there are the times when force feeding is forcing an employee to do something for their own benefit, such as continuing their education. The great part is when they do what you’ve “forced” them to do and they figure out why you were doing so.
The older I get, and the more experience I have as a social psychologist, the younger and more inexperienced my employees appear to me. Work tasks they are completing for the first time are often tasks I have been performing for decades. Things that are second nature to me are sometimes difficult for them. Because of my partner’s and my expertise in performing our work on behalf of our clients, we know what works and, equally important, what doesn’t work. Although I prefer to communicate with clients and vendors via email, to establish a permanent record of the content of the communication, there are times when the cold, detached communication dictated by email just doesn’t work. In these times, and when a personal, face to face meeting is not possible for geographic or other reasons, calling a client or a vendor is essential. Sometimes, the meaning of words cannot be conveyed in writing; tone must be added to provide the recipient of the message with a proper context. Hearing the relief in someone’s voice often says it all; perhaps he or she was unable to appreciate the concern my staff has for our clients and thus, the reason why the vendor is being required to do things “our way.” Regardless of the reasons behind my partner’s and my requests, when we have to “force” our staff to do exactly what we request, instead of doing something they prefer to do (often because it involves taking the easy way out), precious time and energy are wasted. Ultimately, the employer will get things accomplished in his/her way, according to his/her preferences, such that the savvy employee will learn to perform work tasks without being “forced.”