12 Most Potent Ways to Suck as an Employer
Every workplace around the world has some constants; the 11 am coffee, the whirring sound of the printer, the ubiquitous tap-tapping of the keyboard and the sight of dejected shoulders hunched over blinking screens. Walk into any office building and you will feel as if you walked into concrete structure of human despair. Ok maybe not all, but most, and most is bad enough.
What is that makes a workplace such a deathly dreary place? Most commonly, it is the employer, taking advice from management bestsellers, often adopts policies that are not just counter-productive but downright destructive for employee morale and overall environment of the workplace.
Here are 12 such practices that may seem innocuous but turn you into an employer that sucks. Some of the above practices may be required by law in most developed countries. However, in the developing world, employment practices are not as friendly.
1. Track their timings
Although many smart companies have taken up the practice of tele-commuting and/ or have flexible working arrangement, most workplaces around the world still have the regular 9 to 5 shifts, along with time tracking through a card punching system. Some crusaders of time tracking have taken it one step further and also deduct salaries based on 10 minute delays. Do you realize what you are doing here? You are encouraging people to just show up and this is what they do. No creativity, no passion, just suit-clad humanoids showing up at 9, all ready to punch their card.
2. Mind the gender gap
Some employers think it is chivalrous to allocate responsibilities based on gender. This well-meaning gesture quickly escalates into full blown discrimination where women are denied entry into important positions. Trust me, all it takes is one such action and you will quickly get the reputation of a company where “women have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good.”
3. Not minding the gender gap
Then there is the other extreme; companies who believe gender equality to the point where it starts impeding on family life and personal health. Women in general and mothers in particular do not get any leeway because of their sex. While in theory this may seem like the right thing to do, the trouble is, in most cultures mothers have the primary child care responsibilities and not minding this gap makes their lives a living hell.
4. Tell them what to do
Job descriptions are all fine and good but does it make sense to fit a human being into a pre-set template with no room for exploring other option and roles. All it does is turn the employee into a senseless, mindless, hopeless cog in the office machine with no scope for flexibility.
5. Not tell them what to do
And then there are those companies, who in order to imbibe creativity, let everything run free. While this is great for some creative folks, the trouble is most people need to have general idea of the direction and are often lost without that.
6. Reward belligerence
While it is great to set targets and to reward over-achievers through bonuses and paid vacations, problem is, there is no accountability on how the targets are met. Often for managers, in the mad quest to over-deliver; no fly appears too small to warrant swatting. By rewarding such managers, you are creating a culture that incentives cannibalistic work style.
7. Create experts
Every company has one of these; the gurus, the experts and buffs. Is that necessarily a bad thing? It is when this means the guru’s domain is completely off limits to others. This also means that once this guru leaves, the company is left with a huge void that will take years to fill. Succession planning and talent dissemination programs in companies ensure that everyone knows a little bit about everything. It’s not just a question of keeping people — it’s making sure the ones who stay are the right ones, and not just because they are your need.
8. Hire the best
Whilst ever employer wants to hire the cream of the crop, there is a problem with that. They may be the best in a parallel world but not necessarily your company. Instead, develop your own definition of best. Best isn’t just what the university transcript says, best is what gels in most effectively with your company and values. Define your own best and then hire. Finding the right expertise is important, but finding the right people and personalities is paramount.
9. Train them
There is hardly a face more pitiful than the one sitting in a corporate training while the tea table is being set and the break is still hours away. Your employees are not animals to be tamed, consider 0n-the-job-trainings and enrichment programs.
10. Treat employees as an expense
I know I know, by all accounting standard, employee salaries and benefits is a chargeable expense. I am talking about the mind-set here; employees are your assets, don’t treat them as expense. Simply put, expenses hurt, assets build!
11. Never asking them what can go wrong
This pre-mortem exercise is one of the most valuable management lessons ever. Before any new project, product launch, anything new, ask your employees about what could possibly go wrong. Not only is this a great exercise for risk assessment and mitigation, it is an effective way to explore the hidden fears of your people. Do the exercise repeatedly and you won’t have to deal with too many nasty surprises.
12. Pretend all’s well
All companies commit blunders — it is a part of growing up. What makes a company suck is, not owning up and not talking to their people. Whether it is a management exodus, or your oil-spill putrefying the Gulf of Mexico, your employees are the first ones you need to talk to. This builds trust and also lessens the blow.
The above is not just a list of 12 ways a company can suck as an employer, but also a list of my pet peeves, actual practices I have witnessed over my miserably long employment history. What are some of the policies in your company, which may seem innocuous but can drive the employees crazy?
Featured image courtesy of teamstickergiant licensed via Creative Commons.