Let them do their jobs

Let them do their jobs

Discontent with the job, the employer, the customers and not least with themselves are all causes of the present upset in employment satisfaction and tenure. Recognition of life’s vulnerability and a somewhat unexpected surfacing of the idea that it is to be enjoyed were both partly precipitated by Covid. Inflation inserted a needle where it hurts. The long-lasting poor management of people generally is the toxic that finally flowed home. Is anyone waking up to the need for cooperating with the workforce instead of combating it?

Successful bosses of organisations that have grown quickly or that are already massively large understand a major cause of the exodus of good people to be that employees are micro-managed and limited in how they can do their jobs and what they can contribute to the business. There are times when you have to help people meticulously. A newcomer doesn’t want to be thrown into the deep end and left to drown. Someone learning new skills appreciates the guidance more experience can give her or him. But the happiest and most engaged employee is the one who owns the job.

And this is the crux of the matter – engagement. It does not come about with prizes for achievement. “Employee of the month” publicity is often as insulting as it is rewarding. Promotion is always acceptable if it is genuine. ‘Title promotion’ is seen for what it is worth – nothing. When I was building businesses I used to have occasional dinner parties for my colleagues. I always sat next to me, the spouse of the person I was nearest to firing. It concentrated that employee’s mind wonderfully. And mine.

Above all, I let people do their jobs. When they made mistakes I regarded them as chances to learn – for all of us, not just for the poor wretch who had screwed up. Bad behaviour was outlawed; bad judgement was forgiven, at least for the first couple of times. For many reasons control has been seen to be increasingly important whether you are a business boss or a government minister. All it does is to produce protocol based systems and procedures that nearly always fail because they are so seldom needed.

An employee is not a robot. Robots may well replace – have already replaced – many employees. For some repetitive actions that do not need rethinking too often they work well. They contribute nothing to further improving productivity nor to the flexibility of operation needed today with rapidly changing supply chains. But they don’t eat, sleep or strike. Nor do they help to make the working day what it should be – rewarding, exciting and fun.

Briefing someone to do a job is a tricky process. If you can say clearly what you want to achieve without telling them how to achieve it you will get a good job. If you tell them how to do it you will get what you ask for – and it will require reworking very soon afterwards. Don’t give managers financial targets, let them create their own. Reward them for their targets successfully achieved but don’t reward them for targets exceeded or failed. If they couldn’t forecast it they don’t deserve it. Windfall profits are not due to genius but to wind.

Top down management is at the root of most of the strike trouble in Britain today. Hugely big organisations like the National Health Service are over-managed to an astonishing degree. This is especially true when you consider the waste it induces. They say there are more managers than medics in the service. I don’t know if that’s true but it doesn’t surprise me if it is.

Let people think and they will do so; do it for them and they won’t. When they don’t, they hate the job and end up hating you. That wasn’t what you had in mind at all, was it?

‘Delegate’ should stop being a noun and revert to being a verb. 

We’ll all be better off when it does.

Good morning

John Bittleston


Any views on better management of people?  We’d love to hear them. What an army needs and what a business needs appear to be different things? Mr Putin is busy proving that they aren’t. Let us hear your views by writing to us at mentors@terrificmentors.com

19 December 2022