Case of Spoiled Owners, Part 1

Tom Crouser June 19, 2012 Comments Off on Case of Spoiled Owners, Part 1

By Tom Crouser

Spoiled. Some business owners are just spoiled. The result is it’s hard to maintain an adult working atmosphere, retain or attract new workers, or even get the next generation in the same family to act like adults.

So, what does being spoiled really mean? It’s doing what’s most fun rather than what’s most important and then getting mad when things don’t go your way. It’s the exact opposite of being disciplined with a twist. Discipline means doing what’s most important, not what’s most fun. But a person who just doesn’t do this is undisciplined and that doesn’t bring about the same ramifications as being spoiled. The twist part is the spoiled person gets mad and blames others when things don’t go their way.

For instance, if an owner stands on a table and cusses out a gathering of workers for an error, then it’s going to be harder to get the workers to do what you want them to do. Say that would never happen? Saw not one, but two instances of this behavior in otherwise rational people.

Stephen Covey, in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” discusses the emotional bank account and positive and negative withdrawals. He says every worker has one and you are constantly either making deposits or making withdrawals. He notes, however, that one deposit does not equal one withdrawal. Rather, MANY deposits equal one withdrawal.

Another writer describes it as one of those “moments of truth” that everyone recognizes as being your true attitude. Let’s say your mother is terminally ill and eventually dies. When you return from leave, your employer says, “It sure takes you guys a long time to bury your dead.” Most would find this as a moment of truth. Regardless of how many nice things said in the future, the memory of this moment will remain.

Or, let’s say, your mother is dying but your employer tells you that you really need to work – after all these things aren’t predictable. By the way in real life, the worker stayed and the mother died. Do you think that month’s pizza party motivated this worker?

The relationship between the leader and their team is built on trust. And before you can have trust, you have to have loyalty. And before you can have loyalty, your team has to like you. You can’t buy that but you can destroy it with an adverse moment of truth.

Dr. Larry Steinmetz of Colorado tells a parking lot story. That’s where he said the owner, who had 40 employees and was doing $4 million in sales, was losing cash. So the owner had everyone go out on the parking lot where he told them they were fired.

He added, however, that he would go back into the office and when he found something he needed help in doing, he would come back to the parking lot and hire someone to do it.

The rest of the story is that he ended up hiring about half of them back, did the same business and finally began earning money. His point was that we are often overstaffed in ways we don’t realize because we organize around people, not functions. And the story is always a hit among owners regardless of who tells it because it’s a real take-charge, kick-assets story that owner’s like.

Well, I have seen the other side. There are owners out there who actually believed in the story verbatim and actually did it.

During worker interviews of one company visit, the first thing every worker related was the day the owner took everyone out on the parking lot late one Friday afternoon and fired them. Only he did it with a twist. He didn’t talk to them, rather he locked the doors and left.

Everyone showed back up for work on Monday not knowing what to expect. The owner had cooled down by then so everything went on as normal – at least that’s what the owner thought. However, the owner-worker relationship had changed forever.

You see, that incident happened ten years before our visit yet EVERY worker told us of that incident first. And to make matters worse, only ONE worker was actually there on that day.

In a separate interview, the owner said he didn’t understand why the workers didn’t seem to talk to him or trust him.

Would you? I doubt it. When you find yourself dealing with a spoiled kid on the playground who always wants his way, what do you do? Well, some would bash them in the mouth and set up a new pecking order. But what do you do if the spoiled child has all the power – like being your employer.

The vast majority will shut up, keep their heads low and avoid doing anything to attract attention. In short, they “quit” but “stay.” Funny, many owners complain because they have to tell workers precisely and exactly what to do each and every time. Wonder why?

Spoiled attitudes are also sometimes prevalent in unique ways among couples in business. I’ll pick up on that in my next post.

Tom Crouser

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