Do you have any “mules” in your office? You know who these people are. As we illustrated previously, they’re the ones who always step up to do the heavy lifting when it needs to be done.
To help you avoid inadvertently “flogging” the employees who pull the hardest in your company, here are a few questions you can ask yourself.
Does this request make sense for this position? Just because your bookkeeper gets her work done quickly doesn’t mean she’s qualified to design direct-mail pieces for you. Just because one of your technicians looks good in a dress shirt and has a little extra time doesn’t mean he’s qualified for or interested in making sales calls on commercial accounts.
When you’re considering asking a current employee to perform a task, make sure they have the skills, or are interested in learning the skills, that are needed to perform the task—just as you would if you were hiring a new person to do the job.
Also, when you ask an employee to perform a job, make sure they have the authority, both written and implied, to produce the results you’re looking for. If this person follows through on your request, will this action undermine the authority of the person who’s currently responsible for getting this result? For example, if you ask your bookkeeper to take responsibility for getting production paperwork turned in from your production workers because your production manager can’t seem to get his people to do it, what effect will this have on the management and personal relationships between these people?
Is the request you’re making of one employee allowing another employee to skate by? Too often we ask one person to do something because we’re tired of asking for, and not getting, results from another person. Admittedly, giving the task to a highly organized person will probably produce the results you’re after. But, what’s really happening to the employee who was supposed to do it? Is he learning that the way to avoid unpleasant tasks is to sand bag long enough, knowing that before long you’ll reassign it to someone else? Now, ask yourself what message this is sending to every other employee in your organization.
Does this employee realistically have the time in his/her schedule to accommodate your request? Business owners are notorious for asking for things of an employee while giving absolutely no thought to how long the request will actually take to fulfill. When I think of this I’m reminded of a former office manager who had a stock response for me every time I made such a request: “And which priority item would you like me to move down my current priority list in order to accommodate this new priority?” I didn’t want to hear her answer, but I couldn’t argue with her logic. While we may be tempted to use the excuse, “I’m paying you to do this, so get it done”, it would be better to pay close attention to how much time our “simple requests” actually take to complete.
Competent people welcome new challenges. They’re the ones who step up to accept new projects that need to be done. But, eventually, even the most competent people can get overloaded with work. Be sure you don’t make the mistake of flogging the employees who carry the heaviest loads for you.