Some time ago, I witnessed a basically harmless example of “communication in an enterprise” which surprised me. I had to write down a few ideas related to it. Today, I am going to publish them. Here is the discussion of the “use case” as it is called today using modern entrepreneur’s German.
Let us assume you are the boss of an enterprise. And you have a new employee. You notice that the new employee regularly parks his car on one of the customers’ parking spaces. Which is something hardly anybody else working at the company is doing. This is not a good thing and it annoys you. So what do you do?
You have various measures at your disposal. Here are some of them:
- You write a notice in your in-house social media to all employees saying that “the customers’ parking spaces should not be used by employers unless there is a truly urgent reason”. If you have no in-house social media, you can use the old-fashioned email, writing the same content to “all”. And since you are the boss of a well-functioning and ISO-certified enterprise, you will simultaneously check and modify the process “introduction of new employees” in the management handbook. Also, the internal leaflet “welcoming new employees” will get the additional note that “parking is only allowed on the employees’ parking spaces”! Of course, all these activities have been run through the workers’ council.
This is how a huge enterprise would go about. It is correct as far as entrepreneurial processes are concerned. However, for small enterprises, it is definitely not the optimal solution, since this is exactly how you path the way towards bureaucracy.
- You do not wish to make a huge affair of the issue and talk to the employee about his wrong behaviour in private as soon as there is an opportunity. As soon as you meet him in the corridor or elsewhere, you will – after the usual small-talk – tell him about how he violated rules: “In fact, there is something you probably did not know – you were repeatedly seen parking your car on the customers’ parking spaces”. And you will kindly ask that he should not do so in the future.
Basically, there is nothing wrong with this kind of procedure – or is there? However, I think it is not the best possible method. On the corridor, you might always have people listening who are secretly glad that the boss is giving the new colleague “a plain talking”. And if he finds himself between a rock and a hard place, the new employee will always say there was no other space available. Or else he might come up with the white lie of just not having seen the sign that says “for our customers only”. Or some such.
- You go and see the new colleague in his office and have a four-eyes-only conversation during which you ask him if, maybe, he never saw the sign saying that the customers’ parking spaces are to be left to customers only.
:-) I find this last alternative the best of all: your frustration is gone and nobody is any worse for it.
Now let us assume that not only you as the boss (“direct supervisor”) but also the administrative boss noticed the parking space sinner. After all, she is responsible for seeing to it that these rules are adhered to, or at least she believes that is her responsibility. Her reasons are totally honourable, because she simply wants to help the enterprise to function smoothly. However, she believes that there are things you simply cannot do in life and therefore you should not do them in the enterprise, either. Let us call her a kind of moral police who is absolutely sure that morals are on her side.
WWhich of the following paths could (or should) the administrative head take?
- She goes and talks to the boss about the permanent violation of rules by the new employee. Perhaps because she does not wish to “dirty her hands”. After all, being the boss, he should know how to deal with these kinds of things (he also earns more money, doesn’t he?). And, of course, it is rather easy to understand that she herself does not wish to lecture the new colleague.
As I see it, this is a rather prudent way of dealing with the situation. The only potential downside is that the boss may see her as “sneak”.
- The second alternative would be that she takes note of the colleague and puts him on a mental list. As soon as he has to see the administrator (and, believe me, the day will come sooner than you thought), she will give him the lecture. Of course in a very friendly manner. But then, it will definitely not be tolerated in a newcomer to have special treatment. Where would we end if that were to start?
Well, you might imagine that this is not an alternative I am in favour of. However, this is what I witnessed.
But then, there is also another possibility.
- When they next meet face-to-face, she might tell the colleague in private that, in this house, there is the rule that customers’ parking spaces are for customers only and maybe he can remember?
Well, this would have been my favourite way of dealing with the situation. Especially if you find the right way how to say it. As always: C’est le tone, qui fait la musique.
But no matter what, it will always be a good idea to give a good example. Both if you are the boss of the enterprise or of the administration. Especially when it comes to these trivialities. Usually, you will find that the system works by itself. Because the “Newcomer” will notice it and comply.
Giving a good example simply means that you yourself refrain from occasionally using the better situated customers’ parking space. Because the rules that apply for all the others should also apply for the boss and the administrative head. And their friends, acquaintances and favourite employees.
This is the only way for us to remain authentic. And authenticity breeds trust. And trust is the one thing that will make it possible to work together in an environment of courage and joy.
(Translated by EG)
There is a reason why I waited with publishing this story until now. Yesterday, I saw that a not totally unknown German concern moved and the customers’ parking fell victim to the move. Next to the new and very modern central building, they now have a very elegant and therefore expensive parking garage. Well, the customers can park there, can’t they? Bear in mind: customers are supposed to buy things and other than that, they might remain where they are.
For more articles of my entrepreneur’s diary, click here: Drehscheibe!