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When the Leader is the Problem

As an operations/customer service consultant, I get a first hand view of the internal workings of multiple companies. I have the privilege to observe the corporate chemistry – how leadership interacts with employees, how employees interact with leadership, how employees interact with one another and how leaders and employees interact with customers. I get to observe unspoken words cloaked in body language and behavior. When approached by frustrated leaders, it is necessary to be honest in regards to what I feel is creating a negative atmosphere – I sometimes have to tell them that they are the problem. Here are a few instances that I observed where the leader is the problem.

Undefined Expectations

When expectations are clearly and well defined, employee accountability is usually crystal clear. When the leader assumes and verbalizes that employees should “just use common sense”, trouble is not far behind. It is imperative that expectations are clearly communicated – primarily via a job description and a set of performance standards. Leaders must be serious about taking the necessary steps to developing and communicating expectations.

Poor Employee Relations

Some of the most shocking behavior that I have witnessed has come from leaders. Condescending communication, temper tantrums laced with profanity, the “blame game” just to name a few. Cultures where the leader is prone to any of these is not conducive to long term productivity and a high rate of employee turnover is sure to follow. Disrespectful actions must be eliminated before a positive environment can exist.

Unclear Direction

In business, it is sometimes necessary to alter course in response to one’s market or to other economic pressures. When altering course becomes a weekly activity, it creates unnecessary chaos. It’s as if current projects have no meaning as it has now become necessary to “take a different approach”. Employees are caught up in the helter – skelter environment and soon grow indifferent to any ideas presented by the leader as they realize that their hard work never fully reaches the implementation stage – because the leader will soon present something “new” to chase.

Know it All Attitude

When one has a “know it all” attitude, it’s almost impossible for new ideas presented by others to receive any form of consideration. Leaders exhibiting this type of behavior rarely have the ability to keep good people on staff. Employees become exasperated by the leaders inability to consider that someone else can think. Meetings with this type of leader become a lecture vs a give and take session. I have witnessed employees falling asleep in meetings as the leader rambles on and on as if to impress everyone with their knowledge. Employees consider these meetings a waste of time, become reluctant to attend (sometimes communicate reasons that they cannot attend) and often find another place to work.

These are just a few of the behaviors that I have witnessed. Leaders often state to me – “I wish that I had employees who really care about their job, I wish I had employees that I could depend on. I wish my employees could understand what I encounter in trying to keep this business afloat.” I often in turn ask “Is it really the employees that are the problem? Have you considered what role you play in your employees behavior?”

As an operations/customer service consultant, I get a first hand view of the internal workings of multiple companies. I have the privilege to observe the corporate chemistry – how leadership interacts with employees, how employees interact with leadership, how employees interact with one another and how leaders and employees interact with customers. I get to observe unspoken words cloaked in body language and behavior. When approached by frustrated leaders, it is necessary to be honest in regards to what I feel is creating a negative atmosphere – I sometimes have to tell them that they are the problem. Here are a few instances that I observed where the leader is the problem.

Undefined Expectations

When expectations are clearly and well defined, employee accountability is usually crystal clear. When the leader assumes and verbalizes that employees should “just use common sense”, trouble is not far behind. It is imperative that expectations are clearly communicated – primarily via a job description and a set of performance standards. Leaders must be serious about taking the necessary steps to developing and communicating expectations.

Poor Employee Relations

Some of the most shocking behavior that I have witnessed has come from leaders. Condescending communication, temper tantrums laced with profanity, the “blame game” just to name a few. Cultures where the leader is prone to any of these is not conducive to long term productivity and a high rate of employee turnover is sure to follow. Disrespectful actions must be eliminated before a positive environment can exist.

Unclear Direction

In business, it is sometimes necessary to alter course in response to one’s market or to other economic pressures. When altering course becomes a weekly activity, it creates unnecessary chaos. It’s as if current projects have no meaning as it has now become necessary to “take a different approach”. Employees are caught up in the helter – skelter environment and soon grow indifferent to any ideas presented by the leader as they realize that their hard work never fully reaches the implementation stage – because the leader will soon present something “new” to chase.

Know it All Attitude

When one has a “know it all” attitude, it’s almost impossible for new ideas presented by others to receive any form of consideration. Leaders exhibiting this type of behavior rarely have the ability to keep good people on staff. Employees become exasperated by the leaders inability to consider that someone else can think. Meetings with this type of leader become a lecture vs a give and take session. I have witnessed employees falling asleep in meetings as the leader rambles on and on as if to impress everyone with their knowledge. Employees consider these meetings a waste of time, become reluctant to attend (sometimes communicate reasons that they cannot attend) and often find another place to work.

These are just a few of the behaviors that I have witnessed. Leaders often state to me – “I wish that I had employees who really care about their job, I wish I had employees that I could depend on. I wish my employees could understand what I encounter in trying to keep this business afloat.” I often in turn ask “Is it really the employees that are the problem? Have you considered what role you play in your employees behavior?”

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