As a project management trainer and practitioner, I pay attention to all sorts of happenings related to projects, business, management, sales, leadership, ethics, and psychology. Recently, I had a conversation with a friend who manages a business with hourly employees for a business owner that gives her frequent direction on employee-related policies. On a leadership note, something stood out to me this week about how the business owner wants to handle employee start times.
It seems the business owner is concerned about employees reporting late to work, so he asked that my manager friend tell all employees it is their responsibility to report for work 15 minutes prior to their scheduled start time, in order prevent tardiness. Sounds reasonable, on the surface…until my manager friend noted that the time & attendance system is currently configured to allow employees to clock in only 2 minutes prior to their scheduled start time. The logical response in my head is to reconfigure it to allow 15-minute early clock-in; but, that’s not quite how the business owner saw it.
Instead of telling the manager to reconfigure to allow early clock-in, the business owner did some math on how if everyone clocked in 2 minutes early with an average of 30 employees per day working, that equals an hour of additional pay over the daily scheduled hours. Multiply that times an average hourly rate of $15 for 365 days, and he would be paying an extra $5,475 per year over the scheduled hours. That expense was not acceptable to him, so he directed that the time and attendance system be reconfigured to not allow any early clock-ins at all.
Ok, so the business owner is concerned about labor expense. Got it. The next logical step then was to rescind the direction that employees should report 15 minutes early since they can’t clock in, right? Well, that’s where the real zinger came in…the business owner said, nope, they still need to ensure they are on time, so they should be here 15 minutes prior to their scheduled start time, and sit around waiting for the clock to strike the magical clock-in moment. INTERESTING. Sounds like a few employees might be calling the State labor board to report an unfair labor practice sometime in the near future.
I think this true story highlights that some people in business today still don’t seem to get how human beings think and react to the way they are treated in the workplace. Every team member is a beating heart with emotions, free will, and ingrained psychology around what motivates them. In my experience, most people do not respond well to being treated like a tool in a toolbox rather than a person with unfathomable, intrinsic worth. Owners and managers who operate the way this owner does are certainly not getting the most out of their employees; their discretionary effort is being stifled. If business owners thought about how a person giving an hour of their life to further the self-interest of the business owner is actually an amazing thing, especially at the rate of only $15 an hour, perhaps their thinking might change (hopefully). The employee is actually exchanging an hour of their life to do what you want them to do rather than pursuing any number of other, much more important activities. But, like most people, they feel enslaved to the paycheck, they can’t do anything without it, so they are willing to give you that hour of their life. But, at least treat them like their time is valuable, respect their contribution to your business as an investment of their life into your success, and establish policies that make sense.
Here’s a thought: If you knew you only had one more hour to live, how much would someone need to pay you to do what they wanted you to do rather than what you wanted to do? That may sound ridiculous, but who among us knows if this is our last hour or not? What’s it worth?
I learned something when I was a Marine Corps Sergeant back in 1989 from Master Sergeant Larry Parker, one of the many great leaders I worked for. He said, “Take care of your Marines, and they will take care of the mission.” I never forgot that, and, although I didn’t always get it right; it was the guiding leadership principle in the back of my mind as I progressed through the enlisted ranks to Master Gunnery Sergeant, E-9. And, I even found that principle works in civilian organizations.
Funny how people willingly do what you need them to do if they feel valued above what you are asking them to do.
And, if you are a business owner who is truly that concerned over an annual expense of $5,475 due to 2-minute early clock-ins, then you have bigger problems to worry about; your cash flow is in serious trouble.