Earlier this afternoon, as I was having a coffee at my usual coffee shop, I could not help overhearing a conversation – a very angry conversation – between two young women. One, it seemed, was the owner (or part owner with her husband) of a small business. The other woman, it appeared, was her office manager. The conversation was virtually a tirade against the owner’s staff. And from what I could deduce, the staff comprised four or five young men.
So what was it about?
It seemed that this woman employer was very unhappy with the way her staff were performing – or possibly not performing. This lady was attempting to dictate a letter or notice to her manager laying down rules and regulations which had to be adhered to by her staff. They would abide by these rules or they would rue the consequences. There was talk of pays being deducted for this, that, and all manner of things. Take a day off without a doctor’s certificate: forfeit the day’s pay. Take a day off without notice, not only forfeit a day’s pay but incur a fine. Don’t clean up the office every day: a monetary fine. Don’t do this, or do do that, and it was fines, deductions and threats of dismissal. The dialogue was a continue diatribe and did nothing but cause me, as a listener, to feel uncomfortable.
My thought as I overheard all this was: “Someone needs to approach the Miscellaneous Workers Union to get trade union protection.“ The rules and regulations being bandied about by this young lady were downright Draconian. They bore little resemblance to ‘the Australian way.’ But the main thing which came home to me was the naiveté of this lady. She actually believed that punishment, or the threat of same, would change behavior. It might get some reluctant conformity to her ideas of what was right or wrong but it certainly wouldn’t get a happy or willing staff.
If we were talking about a ‘carrot and stick; analogy this would be all stick. More than all stick – a big club or whip. This does not work in getting staff to do what you’d like them to do. Reward is always more effective than punishment. And the rewards are more than just the improved performance. It makes for happier employees. It makes for people who will cooperate and even go out of their way to make things better not only for themselves but for their boss.
I wonder how long it will take this particular young lady to realize this. I wonder if she ever will.