Just Do It!

By Pamela A. Scott

Even engineers, who are definitely “do-ers” in this world, fall into the trap one client was in this week.

Paul manages an engineering department for a design-build firm. Everyone in the department is working way more than 40 hours a week—some are doing 60 hours or more. That is not the way to run a healthy business. Morale is down. We’ve heard some engineers are looking for other jobs. And we know it’s not the slugs who are looking; it’s the talented people Paul doesn’t want to lose.

Paul and his boss know things are bad. They’re tired, too. My question was: What are you doing about it?

The engineers are overworked. They are making mistakes and missing deadlines. The engineers aren’t real happy. And it’s a tight labor market—they can pick up the phone and get another job almost immediately.

Well, Paul says, we have a full staff meeting every quarter, but we haven’t scheduled one yet. The last one was four months ago.

Why haven’t you had the meeting, I asked.

“We haven’t had time to find time in our schedules,” Paul replied.

This is where Nike comes in. Just do it! Paul and his boss are smart people. They care about their staff. They don’t want the staff to leave. And they would like things to be better.

Here’s the important point for Paul and others in similar situations.

You have set an expectation for quarterly meetings. At those meetings, you share performance data and talk about new jobs. Hopefully, you also get feedback and questions from the staff about what’s going on in the company.

By not having the meetings, you are allowing this situation to occur. When our brains lack information, they make stuff up. And it is always negative. So, by not meeting with the staff, you are allowing their brains to say things like:

  1. “Management doesn’t care that I’m working so many unpaid hours.”
  2. “This company treats us like cattle—-[whatever]
  3. “My spouse is right. It’s time to look for a new job. Nothing is ever going to change here.”

The reality is Paul and his boss do recognize the situation. They are taking steps to ease the pressure. They are hiring more staff and subbing out some work. They are doing these things, but not telling the staff. As my mother (and others) used to say: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Paul and his boss need to schedule a full-staff meeting immediately. They need to tell staff what measures they are taking to handle the current workload. How much time does it take two people to look at their calendars and find ONE hour that they both have free, or can free up? Five minutes maybe?

It’s time for Paul and his boss to “Just Do It!”

Forget about the work and clients for a short while. Focus on the staff. They’re the folks who really matter. Without them, Paul and his boss are going to be working 100-hour weeks themselves to get the work done.

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