Please talk to me!
What are you supposed to do if your work place management
is problematical or even considered (by the staff) as poor and your staff don’t
like where they are working? Try improving communications.
With all the modern means of communication, why is it that people don’t talk to each other? Communicating with the workforce, down to an individual level, to let them know what is going on and how they are tracking and the importance of their contribution is vital for harmonious relationships and individual staff members general well being. Yet this is a significant failing in many organisations.
Referring to my files I thought that the following case could be examined by many with some profit. The story I was told is, I know, quite common but also totally unnecessary and wasteful of any company’s resources. This tale is related in the first person as it has a more personal impact – I will add that this is an edited version of the actual conversation.
To me this is a classic example of indifference, down-right bad management practice and very poor communications. It is also an example of the (unfortunately common) attitude that the only thing management cares about is money – staff, their morale, work-life balance, welfare and well-being come a long way second.
“I work alone in a small branch of a small local manufacturing company. My branch is located in a dusty, grubby section of an outer industrial suburb, about an hour’s drive from the head office. I have been there for a number of years and do everything, as I am on my own for the entire working week including Saturday mornings. There is limited stock on site – enough to supply immediate needs of the local population who need to pick up what they require. Any large orders are delivered direct from the factory. Re-stocking of my location takes place on an as required basis.
The type of products sold and the location of the branch dictate that I can sell only to people who call in or who place phone orders (I am not permitted to leave the premises during working hours). I transfer my sales data and associated documents to the head office, by fax, on a daily basis – there is no computer or internet access provided. Any cash from sales is collected by any one of a number of people from the office, on an as needed basis – I never carry a large amount of cash.
The nature of the business means that for many hours a day I have time on my hands with no “work” to do. I have no gripe with that as I have learned over the years to entertain myself – I read, listen to music and sometimes study so am seldom bored. My “gripe” is with the total lack of interest shown and the convoluted and difficult communication methods used.
In all the years I have been there I have had no interaction with other members of staff; no one has ever called in or phoned to find out how I was getting on. Those who come to pick up my cash literally come in, take my cash and walk out – sixty seconds is all it takes! This, I was to find out, is the pattern of contact (during the first two years I took note of the fact that I saw my sales manager seven times for a total of just short of twelve minutes). I was never instructed, advised, mentored or given any training. No one has ever phoned or called in to enquire about me; about how I was coping and what difficulties I may be experiencing. No one has ever showed me how my sales compare with the total sales or how my monthly sales compare with other branches. No one has ever acknowledged any “good” that I may have done – be it high sales, or anything at all. I have never had any encouragement to consider myself part of a team. All I was told when I joined was that they would be happy if I exceeded a certain sales figure every month – which I have always done.
My “communication” problems started a few months after I joined. I received a fax from a junior in the sales office who told me that I had to take certain Saturday mornings off (with a pro-rata reduction in pay) and gave me a start date – no rhyme or reason and with no options. I was not too happy with this, in effect a “like it or lump it” edict. Because I was new to the company I was not sure how to react so I adopted the “fail safe” approach of using the same method used to contact me. I faxed a letter back to the same junior. I admit I was irritated by the off-hand manner used to contact me, also with my reduction in pay and was possibly rather ‘strong’ in my language. The upshot was that the sales manager was shown the fax and was, apparently, incensed with the contents. I was subsequently told he took the view that I had “stabbed him in the back”. He never spoke me about the fax or the matter concerned. Asking the HR people for advice is, I found out, a joke as the “front office” (sales) does not talk to the “back office” (HR) – everything MUST go through the manager first.
The only time the manager ever contacts me, by phone or in person, is when I have made a mistake or to criticise something I have done (or not done). In fact I now have a sinking feeling in my gut when I hear from or see my manager – I must have done something wrong! Once (note: once), about eighteen months ago, he came to speak to me and spent about thirty minutes telling me any problems I experienced were of my own making; that my attitude was wrong; that my sales were down; that I had to learn to close sales; that I had stabbed him in the back and that he gave me three months to improve or I would not get a wage increase. There was no explanation of what was wrong with my “attitude” nor was there any explanation as to how I was to increase sales if no-one called in (this was at the height of the financial crisis), nor was any training offered to teach me how to close a sale. When I tried to explain that I was not the “back stabbing” kind and that I would derive no benefit from “stabbing” him and when I also tried to ask what in my “attitude’ needed correcting, he said abruptly, “I have to go” and walked out. I did not get a wage increase.
It is a case of out of sight, out of mind. In all the years I have worked in this place I have never had a performance review. Maybe it is because of my age - I am still working well past normal retirement age.”