As I’ve gotten older, I think one of the things that really “grinds my gears” about any job you can have is the lack of attention/focus paid to training or teaching people (employees) the way you want something done, which is often covered by “OMG I am so busy, I simply don’t have the time to teach you that. I’ll do it myself!” There’s a lot to unpack about this idea, so … let’s get started.
1. I feel like “The Temple of Busy” is a pretty standard aspect of the modern workplace. It makes sense; the sensation of feeling busy is akin to a drug. I’m not necessarily faulting anyone for this, nor do I think it will actually change for most people. So maybe we need to take a hit here.
2. Because of that, everything new — stuff added on top of the core things you do — seems like this huge responsibility you need to tackle, for most people. I’ve seen studies where 60 percent of managers say they “don’t have time” to respect their employees, which is insane … because respect isn’t something that needs to be scheduled. But maybe for a lot of people, it feels that way. Another thing, another deliverable, another task, another meeting, another e-mail, another another another.
3. Here’s where this all starts to fall apart in my mind, though:
…. if you:
- Feel so busy, and …
- Feel like you don’t have time for anything new, and …
- Probably have a life or a family outside of work that needs attention, and …
- You’re a manager and have people on your team, then why …
- Wouldn’t you make sure they were in a situation to understand the full scope of work and help contribute towards it?
Those bullet points feel logical to me, but I always think I’m an outlier in this context.
I wrote about this a little bit once before; when I worked at McKesson in the summer of 2013, I was totally not busy and I always went to different divisions and asked for more/new work. The common response, probably 9 times out of 10? “I’m too busy to teach you what I need done, so I’ll just do it.” Uh. What?
First off, at base that implies I’m a total idiot and can’t figure things out. (Perhaps that is true.)
Second off… you can learn everything about how to organize Thanksgiving from YouTube, right? I think maybe I could learn about a cubicle-job deliverable in less than a few hours.
4. Now here’s where it gets a little interesting: there’s documented research that companies who train and teach more are often viewed as better companies by the employees. Less turnover, less churn, more stability, more ability to pursue new revenue streams because you’re not always re-teaching and hiring, right? Those are good things? I think they are. But yet, in most companies whenever there’s a hint of financial downturn, the first thing to go is training. So odd. But I guess it’s because people view it as a “soft skill.”
5. Here’s the essential element that probably ties all this together: we think about what management is incorrectly. Most people I know get promoted and think “Oh, now I make more money, so I need to chase my tasks harder and make sure there’s ROI on them!” Yes. That’s part of it. But it’s also about investing in, and developing, the people under you. Many people miss that part — and whether they miss it because of fear (“I don’t want them jumping over me!”) or miss it because of time management issues, they miss it. Or, frankly, maybe they don’t care. They just want to hit their targets, get their bonus, get their raise, whatever it is. That’s probably the case for many people.
Here’s a personal story around this which brings in a second infuriating element of the workplace, which is people never understanding what exactly a “salary” is. I worked with this girl once who was an editor, and I was a writer/editor/marketing person too, but she was higher up the chain. I think she probably made about 40K more than me, which is a lot of money, right? (That’s basically a family of four for a year in many parts of America.) Sometimes I would send her stuff to edit, and she’d write back and say “This is good, but the copy on the sidebar needs to be tighter! I don’t have time to teach you or fix it, but do it better next time!” (Verbatim.)
Think about that: she’s making 40K more than me, and she “doesn’t have time” to teach me or fix it herself. The answer is “do it better next time.” OK, got it… but here’s the thing. That 40K extra you’re making? Part of that is literally to deal with that: to teach me how you want it, and to fix it when it isn’t right. At a certain point, you can’t keep saying “I don’t have time for this.” If you’re making the money, you need to make the time. Am I wrong?
My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my e-mail list.