Cutting Tool Engineering
October 2012 / Volume 64 / Issue 10

Managing workers' face time

By Keith Jennings

In a small company though, one thing I’ve experienced is a desire for many employees to get face time directly with the boss to toot their own horn and tell you, as the owner or manager, all the wonderful things they’ve accomplished, perhaps inferring how you’d all but collapse if it wasn’t for their efforts. This usually is a veiled attempt to satisfy an inner need to be praised and patted on the back.

This issue can interfere with time management and the simple need for managers to work without interruption. This isn’t specific to machine shops, of course, but shop managers are certainly impacted by employees with a need for regular affirmation. Wanting recognition is understandable, and, really, who doesn’t enjoy kudos for a job well done? I’m no exception. The difference is I don’t repeatedly need it to feel confident.

Maybe my personality is just different, but many employees aren’t like that. If they aren’t receiving recognition or praise on a frequent basis, they grow concerned they’re not performing well, even when that’s not the case. Therefore, they create reasons to have a conversation to quell their insecurity. However, if I allowed employees all the face time they wanted and listened to their numerous reflections of grandeur, it would eat up most of my day.

Now, that’s not to say I’m insensitive or avoid praising employees for a job well done. Obviously, that’s an important part of managing a successful organization and employees deserve praise—sometimes.

One recent example that illustrates my point occurred while I was out of town on an end-of-summer vacation. On short notice, the wife and I decided to take advantage of one last leisure opportunity at our favorite beach destination before the kids’ activities ramped up in the fall.

During my absence, my dad and brother took care of the shop. Throughout the trip, I received a few text and e-mail updates of the week’s events. Because my dad’s personality and approach to management is more unpredictable and impulsive than mine, I knew that, once back in the office, everyone would bombard me, eagerly awaiting an opportunity to give me their version of the crazy week and everything they did.

I decided to be proactive and sent an e-mail from home the Sunday before returning, letting everyone know I was aware of the previous week’s activities, including how my dad handled things—for better or worse. Therefore, a personal account of the week and everyone’s accomplishments wasn’t necessary. We all know the old man is a handful!

The e-mail worked and Monday morning was quieter and easier than it otherwise would’ve been. Amazing how a well written e-mail or memo can nip a problem in the bud and minimize lengthy discussions with people, especially those craving affirmation.

While I appreciate them and the good jobs they perform, there’s only so much time available to speak to employees directly. Learning to balance being approachable and similarly unavailable is a juggling act I’m still learning to master.

Sometimes, no news is good news. If the boss hasn’t corrected you today, keep it up, you’re probably doing just fine. CTE

About the Author: Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, metal fabrication and metal stamping. Contact him at kjennings@jwr.com.
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