Over the years we have had a few employees who failed to comprehend that Job # 1 was helping the bosses help the clients. Regardless of what we as bosses are doing, we need the employees to be “support staff.” More than 1 employee has been fixated on a task to the point that we had to interrupt them to get help with a more immediate, pressing, need. The employees I’m remembering acted “put out” that we would interrupt their work and disturb them with a request. Instead of saying, “Yes boss, what can I do to help?” they sometimes buried themselves in a project that could wait. Perhaps it is a function of operating a small business that everyone has multiple responsibilities and shifting priorities. In the end, it is probably the case that these employees were more linear in their approach to work than what we needed in a small, entrepreneurial environment. Further, in our world as trial consultants, we are “down the food chain” and we often have to react to clients whose priorities have changed due to a trial delay, a settlement, or the latest “fire” they have to handle. I’m sure this is true in other service businesses, that is, clients and customers have emergencies and, rather than doing what was planned first thing in the morning, everyone is now required to address a new priority. I have friends who do A/C service and I know when someone says “My air conditioning is out,” things change. Similarly, our computer/IT consultants have always lived with emergencies and we have been delayed in getting help for our own computers by someone with a bigger emergency. That is how business works. But, clearly from our experience with employees, they do not all “get it” and understand that when the boss changes a priority it is for a reason. If the boss asks for your help, it should be quickly and happily forthcoming. Or, if you don’t want to help the boss, start looking for a new job and hope your next boss doesn’t ask for help.
I have never understood why some employees fail to realize their only purpose is to work for their employer. And further, I do not understand why some employees fail to realize that working for their employer means performing job duties requested by their employer. For me, the only point of going to work is to work! Magnus has had many employees, some of whom have understood their role in the company and others who seemed to have thought they were hired as “window dressing” or to do whatever they pleased, instead of what they were asked to do. I have asked some employees to help me with a variety of tasks, only to be told they were too busy doing something of their choosing. At Magnus, we have a written policy stating the priorities of job duties: (1) all client work; (2) all work assigned or requested by me; (3) all work assigned or requested by David; and (4) long term projects that have no deadline, to be worked on as time allows. This seems pretty straightforward, however, there have been countless times when our employees prefer to continue working on low priority tasks when, suddenly, a client contacts us regarding an immediate need for our services. As an example of shifting priorities, I took 2 days off from work to celebrate my birthday, including my actual birthday and the day before my birthday. A client called on the first of my 2 days off to ask me to help him prepare for a trial that began the following day (my birthday). Instead of refusing his money and staying home as I had planned, I rushed to the office to work on his case, requiring everyone in the office to change their plans for the day as well. My reasoning has always been, “If I agree to help our client, the employees can be agreeable to helping me.” And, if I sense any disagreement with this premise on the part of any employee, I see no reason in having him/her work for me.