Listen to this Audio Blog post here:
Mike was one of those “You know what you should do…” type of guys. He was in sales and we often went on pitches together. If we got in front of the client, we closed it. We made a good team. Mike had a lot of ideas and he loved to share them, whether you liked it or not. His ideas made him a great salesman, because businesses were paying us for solutions. However, when his unsolicited advice turned into criticism, that’s when I started to take notice.
Mike started voicing his opinion about decisions or lack of action by upper management. I’ve heard plenty of grumbling from fellow employees over the years, but Mike had to comment on everything. It seemed whatever management did, Mike said it should have been done a different way. If marketing fell short, Mike’s idea would have worked better. If sales were slow, the company should pivot. If someone didn’t get a raise, they should have. If the company bought lunch, it should have been better food. If there was a company outing, it wasn’t fun enough. If the company had to let someone go, it wasn’t fair. It seemed like whatever the company did, it just couldn’t satisfy Mike.
Mike is a smart guy and he did know something about business, but he didn’t know how to run a business. There are so many things to consider every day when you run a business. From paying rent, getting new customers in the door, keeping employee’s happy to making payroll. Not one company I’ve ever worked with has done it right.
What’s really happening behind the scenes
It’s easy to think a company has an ulterior motive when they implement new policies or when they make certain decisions. Sometimes their actions seem directly aimed at you. It’s possible, but the majority of the time there are other issues at play you may want to consider.
You didn’t get that raise. You’ve been working hard. Getting your work done on time. Standing out from the crowd and finally, the day comes to discuss your raise. Then it doesn’t happen. Sure, you can get upset and tell them off, but I would suggest not reacting. Ask them why? If they are an honest company they’ll tell you the real story. Maybe they just don’t have the extra money to give you right now. Maybe they want you to get a little farther in your role. Maybe you aren’t meeting certain expectations. Find out exactly why they can’t give you a raise and then set a date in the near future to discuss your raise again. You might be surprised, in another month or two, they may be more agreeable.
Company events are awkward and they suck. They always do. Okay, not always, but for at least one person at every event they do. See, the problem is that everyone has a different idea of entertainment. Some people think doing a team-building outing is appropriate, others think having drinks after work is fine and some people don’t want to spend any time with coworkers outside of work at all. Picking one activity that all people in a company will enjoy is virtually impossible. Larger companies can spend a lot of time trying to select an event that will work for everyone. Usually, for smaller companies, functions are an afterthought and there isn’t a lot of time spent on selecting an activity. If you are experiencing some of these issues, help out your management team by doing some informal polling of your fellow employees to see what they really want to do. You’ll be a lot closer to creating an event that everyone can enjoy and management will most likely welcome the help.
My boss is a micromanager. If you ask someone to do something and then you tell them the exact steps they have to take to do that task, it’s possible, that’s micromanaging. The good news is, your boss probably already knows they’re doing it. In my experience, micromanaging is a reaction to something that’s been going on. It’s typically because a mistake has been happening over and over again and it’s not being addressed. I would start by sitting down with your manager and asking them what the desired result is and what in the past has led to not achieving the desired result. Your goal is to try to communicate earlier in the process and identify the mistakes, before they happen.
It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been working with companies, even I still get sucked into making the wrong assumptions with the limited amount of information I have. The trick is, take a step back, look at the situation from a higher view and then put yourself in that person’s shoes. Maybe you can look at it through their eyes and see it from a different perspective.
What would you change if you were in charge?
To run a business, you have to have a business to run in the first place. That means, at the minimum, you have to have a service, a product or both, income, customers, possibly employees, taxes, payroll and processes for getting stuff done. Each one of those things takes time and maintenance. At some point, you can only make so much money running the business by yourself, so you can either raise prices, hire employees or hire contractors. Once you hire employees or contractors, everything changes. Now you have to manage them as well. What you also have to understand is that no one will be as passionate and dedicated to your business as you are. Ever. You may want them to and people may tell you they are, but you are so close to your business, that only you know and appreciate your business better than anyone else.
So, now you are in charge. Your employees or contractors want you to take them out to lunch. Sounds good, they work hard. It’s not that much money in the bigger scheme of things. Now one of your employees or contractors wants to be paid more per hour. Okay, it’s not that much money in the bigger scheme of things. At the end of the year, your employees or contractors are asking about the end of the year party. I mean, you guys have all worked so hard together throughout the year, so why not. It’s not that much money in the bigger scheme of things. And this is how it starts.
At the end of the year when you are doing your profit and loss statement, you will see that you didn’t make that much money this year. In fact, you may have not made any profit and just broken even. Well, what about budgeting for next year? Now you don’t have any money saved and you either have to cut back, increase prices, increase productivity, hire more employees or contractors, to get more work done. Unfortunately, you’ve set the expectation with your staff that they now get lunches paid for, routine raises and holiday parties. What do you do now? Where is that money supposed to come from? And if you don’t do it, what if employees or contractors quit? Congratulations, you’ve now become the employer you never wanted to be.
Not every employer sets out to be a jerk. They most likely started out, just like you, saying that they could do it better. Some of them actually do, but it’s a lot of hard work. One of the hardest lessons an employee has to learn is that there are many reasons why decisions are made. It’s okay to not agree with those decisions, but you have to be open to understanding how a business is run. If you are constantly focused on why management isn’t doing what you want to do, take a step back, look at the situation from a higher view and then put yourself in that person’s shoes. Maybe you can look at it through their eyes and see it from a different perspective.