Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When Employees Ask for the Impossible, What Should You Do?

Many of us are familiar with the stories of entertainment professionals requesting special water, candy, or other items in their dressing rooms.  Specific working hours that allow enough time for partying later in the evening.  And an entourage of assistants to answer the celebrity’s every beck and call.  Such behavior happens only in Hollywood, right? 

Not necessarily.

For several years, human resource professionals have focused their organizational efforts on becoming “employers of choice,” with the hope of attracting “employees of choice”: committed, consistent high performers and contributors.  According to Dr. Kenneth Christian, Ph.D., the primary characteristics of such organizations include the following:

  • An organization that consistently invests in education, training, and ongoing mentoring far more easily aligns a multifaceted workforce with its goals.
  • Employees in such a workforce develop loyalty to the fundamental cultural values of the organization and in turn actively support adherence to those values.
  • This resulting standard of devotion and engagement creates in employees a willingness to tap into discretionary effort and go the extra mile for the employer that goes the extra mile for them.
  • The result is happy, productive workers who work harder and smarter, and when necessary, longer. They do so because they feel included, feel a sense of belonging, and are aligned with the goals of the organization. They know that their personal development is a fundamental organizational goal.
However, an unexpected outcome from these efforts has been the creation of a workforce that has started to challenge management in both process and decisions.  Along with this come situations where the employee makes demands on management that border on the impossible. For instance, as the efforts to become an employer of choice result in more financial success, expect increased demands for raises and benefits. succinctly summed up the issues surrounding questions of raises:
o        How much of your resources you wish to give up is your decision, but it is near impossible to grant every employee demand and have a successful business. You will discover that there are few secrets in a business. If you are generous to a particular worker, others will expect the same treatment. If employees think you are making money, expect them to knock on your door. As an employer, you will conclude you need to say no. Saying no to a valuable worker is difficult, but there are times you must, even when the person threatens to quit.
o        Never allow yourself to be hostage to threats of quitting. If you get a reputation as an "easy mark," it is going to be difficult to reverse it. Most employees expect reasonable and just treatment. Their loyalty develops from consistent and fair employee policies. You will find that discrimination will lead to hostility and problems. Be fair and honest with your employees and you will find it easy to say no to any unreasonable demand. 

Another area of concern is the swelling ranks of mobile workers, fueled by the wireless Internet, powerful handheld devices, VPNs (virtual private networks), and WLANs (wireless local area networks).  As many as nine out of every 10 employees now work from locations other than the organization’s headquarters, according to Nemertes Research, a New York market researcher that specializes in emerging technologies.  The new “employees of choice” are very much aware of this demographic.  According to Microsoft Small Business Resources, an organization should respond as follows:

o        Update your management style. Supervisors often distrust or resent mobile workers, who are then overlooked or uninformed. The command-and-control style of bygone days doesn't work with self-motivated offsite workers. One remedy is to require everyone on staff to work remotely for a while. You'd be surprised how quickly that changes attitudes.
o        Put everyone on the same page. Without consistent guidance, each remote worker will set an individual list of priorities. In that case, if you're lucky, all you'll lose is efficiency. Instead, make sure mobile workers have the same business goals as you do. Tech tools are making that easier.
o        Limit access to need-to-know. There's no good reason why every staffer should be able to access all company bytes and archives. You can also limit data on a remote basis but allow more access in the office.
o        Work on the glue but stay vigilant. Communications and follow-up with isolated employees demands special effort. After all, on site, every staffer takes one look at the boss' face and gets an instant organizational weather report. For remote workers, relying on Instant Messaging, e-mail, or texting will not cut it. Have real-time phone conversations often. Bring in mobile workers for periodic updates to maintain ties with the rest of the staff.
o        Bridge HR and IT. What happens when a mobile worker calls in sick? Do you even believe it? And how can mobile workers take advantage of benefits or training programs? One way to resolve such issues is to put your human resources manager and your technology guru in a room and walk away for several hours. Ask them for policy suggestions.
o        Keep tools up-to-speed. A serious challenge of the untethered workforce is keeping tabs on all the wandering devices and technology. How often do you update which workers? How do you integrate personal mobile tech, such as cell phones and home WLANs, with organizational firewalls? What about internal communications? Will your mobile device talk to mine?
o        Measure productivity not activity. "If you lay out clear expectations and performance goals, and the employee doesn't need to be in the office or verbally interact with other people, then it shouldn't matter if the eight-hour workday is from midnight to 8:00 a.m.," says Roberta Matuson, a human resources consultant based in Northampton, Mass.

Management needs to take steps to learn how to control impossible employees rather than have these employees control their managers and their environments.  Lack of control will only lead to increased workplace stress for all involved.   Always keep in mind that in any group, there will be someone who keeps pushing, asking for the difficult or impossible with each question.  You and your organization must decide if the employee’s contribution to the greater good is worth addressing such requests and demands.  In some cases, addressing unreasonable demands tears away at the fabric of the group.  In others, a little give makes all the difference.

1 comment:

  1. Great assessment and guidelines. On managing remote workers, it's a good practice scheduling periodic updates and evaluation.


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