Previously we have discussed the need for business partners, managers, etc. to coordinate many things in advance of speaking with employees about workplace changes or sensitive issues. Definitely, issues which could result in uncertainty or job insecurity should be carefully considered before discussing with employees, and the cautious approach is to only discuss such items if absolutely necessary. Further, issues in which the partners or managers are in disagreement should not be discussed until there is relative agreement. But, beyond that there are probably some issues that are not for the employees, maybe ever. Though it is hard to think in absolute terms, I have been surprised by 1 or 2 instances in the past when our employees felt they didn’t want to know something. The most memorable was a time when we decided to share some company performance metrics, like numbers of mock trials, cases, and clients. We shared this with staff during a staff meeting focused on marketing efforts and included financial performance information as well. The intent was to demonstrate the need to constantly be marketing and to allow employees to provide input or make suggestions about these issues. What we learned was that in a small business context, many, though not all, employees are very content collecting their paycheck without regard to the business’ performance and they have little interest in helping grow the business. In fact, though the numbers at the time were positive, in my opinion, the ups and downs of the business cycle frightened the employees. This was a reaction I had not anticipated and I was disappointed. I still am. Thus, this revelation has required me to approach marketing issues with employees in a much more general, and, in my opinion, less productive way, but the discomfort exhibited by the employees made it necessary. I suppose that this is a difference in the entrepreneur or employee mindsets and this may require some consideration on the part of the entrepreneur about what not to share with employees. Another risk of sharing such data may also be that employees expect a piece of the action when things are good, and, sometimes, it is possible to share the good times in that way. But, sometimes the good times smooth out the lean times and that is hard for those who get paid the same amount, week to week, to understand. Finally, as advice to employees, if the employer trusts you enough to reveal such information, embrace it and learn all you can. The more valuable you are in the workplace the greater your job security. If you appear to be working just to collect your paycheck without regard to the company as a whole, be sure to keep your resume` current!
I share my partner’s intrigue regarding our employees’ overall discomfort with discussing the “business part” of the business. We used to have bi-monthly staff meetings, during which we discussed the pending cases on which we hoped to be retained. Much to my partner’s and my surprise, the employees became upset when a long hoped for case never materialized due to the lawsuit being settled or other reasons beyond our control. Several of them have, over the years, asked my partner and me not to get their hopes up about working on a particular case, or traveling to an exotic location, unless we were certain we would be performing the work. It seems as if they are too disappointed when things don’t work out and they lack our entrepreneurs’ mindset that allows my partner and me to hope that, when one door closes, another will soon open. Most of our employees are also disinterested in the marketing aspects of the business; they do not seem to care how we obtain our work, which, in turn, allows us to provide their paycheck. We have employed high level consultants, all of whom have revealed a narrow focus on performing their work without wanting to assist in obtaining the work or being informed about long term relationships with clients that have always been our best source of business. There has been considerable research in social psychology, organizational behavior, and other areas that reveals distinct personality differences between leaders and followers and the manner in which they process information. My partner and I are both strong leaders and, as leaders, we have learned to limit the information we provide to our followers/employees to the information essential for their job performance and nothing more. It has been an interesting learning experience and social commentary, indeed.
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