Thursday, April 26, 2007

Stuck in the Middle

If you want to win a battle, it is better to have an army of asses led by a lion, than an army of lions led by an ass” – George Washington

The above quote by George Washington is one of my all time favorites. At every place I’ve worked I posted the quote as a way to keep myself focused on being an effective leader. Unfortunately for me, many of my superiors have failed to read and understand George’s words leaving me to live out both sides of the quote. I am the lion leading my people, but at the same time I am the lion being led by an ass (my boss). The role of being in middle management at a bad company is grinding in many ways. I can be completely effective and influential in leading my people yet at the same time be hindered by the inadequacies of the leadership above me.

Like the ass, many upper management bosses’ are stubborn, slow, lazy, stupid and loud providing little actual leadership or support. They would much rather blob around their office or chirp out cliché’s so they can hear themselves talk, instead of trying to be real leaders. This lack of top level leadership and support chips away at the middle management lion’s motivation. Eventually the lion middle manager decides that it is easier to “blend in” because the stupid asses above don’t care to listen or act on anything. The transition from lion middle manager to turtle at work middle manager occurs without the clueless upper management asses ever taking notice. It’s a shame, but it happens!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Office Pig Pen

I covered several workplace pesonalities in an earlier post titled Turtling Through Workplace Personalities. In that post I thought I had pretty much covered all of the different kinds of personalities I've worked with in my career. However, recently I came across a workplace personality that I forgot to add to that post. This one is classic and I now present to you....The Office Pig Pen.

You may remember the classic Charlie Brown character named Pig Pen. In the cartoon, Pig Pen is depicted as the dirty kid, complete with stained face and clothes with an accompanying cloud of dirt that follows him as he walks. I believe the character of Pig Pen was meant as a way to show kids how not to act. The concept of washing your hands, bathing daily, and maintaining a crisp personal appearance were all lessons to be learned from Pig Pen. Unfortunately though, some people missed the Charlie Brown cartoons and the lessons learned from Pig Pen. As a result there are many office versions of the Pig Pen character. I happen to work with a few Office Pig Pens at my current company. Below are a few signs that you have an Office Pig Pen working in your company:

Poor bathroom etiquette is one behavior of the Office Pig Pen. A manager I work with is a prime example. On the occasion that we will cross paths in the men’s room I notice that he does the quick hand wash without soap. Even after dropping a number 2, he’ll come out of the stall, turn the faucet on for 2 seconds, run his hands under it and then go for the paper towel. No soap, no scrubbing, just water!

Uncleanly office equipment or work area is another sure sign of the Office Pig Pen. We’ve all seen the nasty keyboard, complete with stained keys and crumbs in between the keys. You may also see finger print smudges on the computer screen from the Office Pig Pen using their dirty, greasy fingers to point out something on the PC. Food debris on the floor or desk marks yet another sign of the Office Pig Pen.

Poor personal appearance easily identifies the Office Pig Pen. The Office Pig Pen may have old or worn clothing or maybe new clothing that hasn’t been ironed or washed lately. If you have a male Office Pig Pen, shaving facial hair or getting hair cuts may be low on the priority list. In severe cases, there may be a BO situation in which the Office Pig Pen emits an aroma after not bathing for a few days.

The Office Pig Pen may also lack control over certain body functions. I managed an Office Pig Pen that had trouble with breaking wind. My team of 12 sat in a row and he was in the middle. Throughout the day he would just let loose, stinking up the entire aisle. Imagine having a conversation with an employee to discuss their problem with farting. I had to have that discussion with our Office Pig Pen. Fun, fun fun!

If you have an Office Pig Pen working at your company, avoid them at all costs. If they touch something of yours, burn it immediately. Also, avoid any skin to skin contact (remember the bathroom etiquette note), as you don’t want to touch the skin of a non hand washer. If you find there are several Office Pig Pen’s make a list and share that list with friends. If your friends don’t know, they may inadvertently come in contact with an Office Pig Pen (handshake or using a stapler) and cause an outbreak, spreading germs from the Office Pig Pen to you. Knowledge and awareness of the Office Pig Pen is critical. Watch for the signs, share with others, and be safe out there!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Napoleon and His Chairs

Over my career I’ve worked for all types of dysfunctional bosses. In fact, I’ve written about a few in my previous posts (Stalin & the KBG & A Day in the Life: My Boss). I was recently talking to a former co-worker of mine and we were reminiscing about a former diminutive boss we had and all the quirky behaviors he exhibited. It was only 5 years ago that I and my former co-worker had the pleasure of reporting to a short and incredibly bossy Director named Brad.

Brad was appointed as our temporary boss after our VP was terminated (that’s another story to be told). Brad was known in our company as being hot tempered, crude, and over-bearing. He was the kind of guy who would shoot first and ask questions later, always running head first into decisions without fully thinking them through. Because of his behavior and the fact that he stood a mere 5 foot 4 inches tall, we appointed him the nickname Napoleon (note: he never knew of the nickname) We also gave him this nickname because his actions seemed to reflect a man exhibiting “Napoleon Syndrome”; a type of inferiority complex associated with short people, who perceive their height as a handicap and try to overcompensate for it somehow.

The chairs Napoleon had in his office are the best example of his height inferiority complex. The chairs in Napoleon’s office were overly cushioned and when you sat down you would slowly sink downwards into them. It was like sitting on quicksand. In addition to the cushions the chairs were very low to the ground as there were virtually no legs on the chairs. It looked like the legs on the chairs had been sawed off somehow. The quick sand cushioned, legless chair resulted in you sitting so low to the ground that you would actually be looking upwards at Napoleon. I am over 6 foot tall and when I would sit in his chair I would sink so far down that my knees would almost be even with my chest. In addition to our chairs being low, Napoleon’s chair was raised up as his feet barely touched the ground when he was sitting in his chair. I guess he raised his chair to further create a feeling of superiority over us. It was completely ridiculous.

My coworkers and I had to deal with Napoleon and his chairs for a little over a year. He then was exiled to an assignment in our Minnesota office. He took his big personality and his chairs with him.

Turtles at Work: New Features

I’ve added some new features to the Turtles at Work blog to hopefully enhance the experience of the folks that visit this blog frequently. Some new features I’ve recently added include:

Message Board. On the right side you will notice the “Enter My Forum” button. Click on this and it will take you to a Turtles at Work Message board. I have opened up a few topics for discussion. Please feel free to visit and chime in.

Guest Map. Also on the right side you will notice a “Guest Map” button. Rather than having the normal boring guestbook, I found this map that allows you to tack the location your from and add your name as a guest of Turtles at Work.

Bookmark/Favorites Buttons. I’ve added some favorite and bookmark buttons on the right side of the blog for your convenience.

Polls. Occasionally I will post polls on various subjects on the right sidebar. Click in and vote on the poll when I post one.

Drop me a line at if you’d like and feel free to leave comments after any of my posts. Your feedback is appreciated. Thank you

Turtle King

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Culture Change?

Over the past few weeks there have been several “culture changing” emails and memos sent out to the employees of my company from our executives.

The first memo for instance includes the completely overused acronym TEAM (together everyone achieves more) with a keen insightful passage “as you’ll notice there is no I in TEAM”. This memo hit home as my 9th grade basketball coach shared the same insight over 20 years ago and we went 0-17 that season.

The next memo details out the expectations our president has for the leaders of our company. “Lead by Example”, “Be a Team Player” and “Challenge the Status Quo” are all key statements made by the head honcho is his groundbreaking document. He ends the memo with the snappy phrase “fail to plan and plan to fail” referencing the fact that the leaders need to better layout their goals, objectives and expectations.

Several of my naive co-workers will optimistically believe these encouraging words from our big shots are part of a real change. I can hear the comments such as “wow, this is a good sign” and “it looks like someone at the top realizes we are important.” As a Work Turtle I am keen to these types of executive mind tricks and unlike my gullible colleagues I easily realize that emails and memos don’t result in a culture change, actions do.

A few days after the “culture changing” emails are sent out I am presented with a situation that proves my point. Unfortunately one of my gullible colleagues is the brunt of the cultural backfire. A fellow manager, Rob, sees a problem that is impacting our customers. This problem has existed for some time and has been accepted as how we do business. Seeing the “culture changing” memos and emails Rob decided to “Challenge the Status Quo” by questioning the problems and what we can do to better service our customer. Rob emails the departments involved and tries to get a team of people together to look at the problem. Rob asks “can meet to discuss these issues and setup a plan to include how we stop/reduce the issues and monitor the results”.

Rob has tried to address this problem in the past with no result, but this time he feels empowered by the culture changing emails so he hits send, feeling like he is going to make a difference. Then the response from the Executive Vice President of the department involved in creating the problem comes crashing down on Rob (response below)


Why do you have to keep harping on this with stupid question? As long as we have people working here we will always have problems. If you would like I could investigate employing robots maybe that would solve the problem. I don’t ask you stupid questions when your people screw something up. There will never be “a plan” that will solve all these issues. If you come up with it, tell me so I can patent it and retire a rich man.

Executive Vice President of Manufacturing

Now you would think that an Executive Vice President would be in the loop on the “culture changing” emails. You would also think that there would be the customary “love fest” period of a couple months in which everyone is drunk on the culture change stuff and tries to cooperate. In this case it only took a few days to show Rob and other employees that actions speak louder than emails or memos. Executives will have these great ideas to change the company culture, but if there is no action or accountability to live the culture set forth, than nothing happens. Instead employees, who long for such change, are victims of the harsh reality that nothing will ever change. If you are a Work Turtle you will realize these false promises of culture change. If you are not a Work Turtle, what are you waiting for?

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Day in the Life: My Boss

Just like in the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray, I relive the same work day over and over again. I report in to my backwards company to deal with the same various workplace personalities and the same clueless leadership. I struggle through, watching as idea after idea falls on deaf ears as my contributions are vastly ignored. But for as much as my work life is a torturous cycle, there is a creature that actually thrives in his own Groundhog Day scenario

Instead of dealing with constant work frustration he is on cruise control. His bank account is full of money but his mind is full of rocks. He is old in body and mind, physically overweight and occasionally wears clothing that matches. His beady little eyes hide behind his classic steel frame bi-focal glasses. The gem of speak of boss!

I've tracked his movements from day to day using various surveillance techniques I've seen on TV. From my various stealthy observations I have constructed the below time line, detailing out his movements and activities throughout the day. As I have stated earlier, these movements and activities do not change or vary from day to day. My boss is an extreme creature of habit. Here goes:

  • 7:00am-7:30am: Boss gathers materials (cereal, milk, bowl, and spoon) and commences eating of breakfast (usually fiber cereal served with skim milk).

  • 7:30am-7:40am: Boss wanders down hallway with cereal materials to clean bowl and spoon in sink, then returns back to office.

  • 7:40am-10:00am: Boss reviews various newspapers (Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Local Newspapers) reading every page of every newspaper. He is not shy about doing this as papers are spread out, open across his desk.

  • 10:00am-10:10am: Boss wanders out of his office to flirt with attractive department assistant and request her to get him his morning coffee. He usually tells a joke, laughing at himself. Attractive department assistant evokes fake laugh then gags as he turns.

  • 10:10am-11:00am: Boss drinks coffee as he strains his brain playing solitaire or pinball on his PC. He cannot be disturbed over this time frame and will actually become volatile if you interrupt him during a move.

  • 11:00am-11:30am: Boss logs onto the Internet to review stock quotes and latest news stories.

  • 11:30am-12:00pm: Boss strolls over to my office to "check in". This is the longest 30 minutes of my day as I get to hear the "bad news" on my latest recommendation. I also get to hear about other nonsense like the wording of an email or the font used in my reports.

  • 12:00pm-1:15pm: Boss goes to lunch with other head honchos at local restaurant. He and other big shots feast and laugh at how lucky they are to be able to do nothing and get paid six figures to do so.

  • 1:15pm-1:40pm: Boss heads to bathroom, stall #2 to commence his afternoon dump. Male employees in the department are well aware of this as they have encountered the men's room during this time frame. Some are still hospitalized from the fumes.

  • 1:40pm-2:30pm: More solitaire and pinball play.

  • 2:30pm-3:30pm: He will read his email during this time frame and only during this time frame. I have put return receipts on my emails and have noticed this phenomenon.

  • 3:30pm-4:00pm: More wandering takes place as he walks down the aisles making wisecracks and trying to stir up conversation with his underlings. Mostly people try to turn and avoid eye contact with him as they don't want to be subjected to bad jokes and horrible stories.

  • 4:00pm-5:00pm: This is cleanup time for Boss. He will gather all of his waste from the day and organize his office for tomorrow. All the newspapers will be neatly wrapped together and placed in his trashcan. He makes his call to his wife to ready dinner as his large body is starting to eat away at all the stored fat he has. His salad over lunch just wasn't enough and he is getting hungry.
The above events are not fictional and represent the actual day in the life of my boss. I and my co-workers are expected to perform, yet our boss just coasts through the day. There is nothing more turtle changing than seeing a 60+ year old VP sit around and do nothing all day, while you are actually trying to make a difference.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Shell-Shocked: Clowns, Bears & Batman

Towards the end of my tenure at my first company (see post: Stalin and the KGB) I was recruited by a financial company in the Philadelphia area. I had posted my resume on and within weeks had gotten contacted by my soon to be new company. The HR representative from the company was extremely courteous which was encouraging. I was asked to visit the company for a formal interview with the VP of my future department.

When I arrived for the interview I was further encouraged by the professional surroundings and the approach of my interview. I was basically treated like a king as I was toured around the building and introduced to the various groups I would be managing. The VP would comment “This is our new Client Services Manger (referring to me)” following up with “He will bring tons of analytical skill, background, and professionalism to our company.” As the interview processes ended that day my VP left me with the comment “we’ll be looking forward to your input and ideas.”

“Wow”, I thought “This company really wants me.” I was offered and accepted the position shortly after the interview and was completely pumped to start with my new company. My offer was generous as my salary and benefits exceeded my expectations. As I drove in for my first day I felt that things couldn’t be better. I would be working for a first class company that respected me for my skills and abilities and compensated me to boot. I thought my new job was perfect, but unfortunately my thoughts of work utopia were to be dashed.

I began at my new company with only positive thoughts. I immediately worked hard at building relationships with my peers and subordinates. I listened to their concerns and problems and began to plan out projects that would address and correct issues. In particular I involved front line employees, because those people are the folks that really know what is going right or wrong.

After completing my first improvement project, I scheduled a meeting to present my results and recommendations to the VP and Directors of my department. I had sent out an agenda, complete with a detailed project summary document prior to the meeting. As I began to review my project and recommendations I hit the wall of indifference with the VP and Directors. Each of my recommendations got shot down with comments like “this is a nice idea, but…” or “this is something we should do, but now is not the time.”

I didn’t let the defeat of my first project stop me. I took on many other projects however they all ended with the same result as the first. I thought back to my interview when my VP commented about my “skills” and how he’d “be looking forward to my input and ideas.” I thought my ideas would count. Didn’t they were bringing me in to try and improve the company? Suddenly though I felt like I was the village idiot as all of my ideas were “nice” but not used.

The last straw came with reporting I was assigned to do weekly. After submitting the reports, I would follow up with my VP and Directors just to see their thoughts or answer any questions they had. They never really had anything to say and I began to become suspicious that they weren’t even reading them. I decided to insert some bold text in the beginning, middle and end of the report that said “If you read this line please contact me at extension 2175.” I sent out the report and did not receive a response from anyone. My reports were very informative and contained information that would help my peers understand what was going on in the department, yet they weren’t reading them. I next decided to insert photos instead of content in my reports to see if anyone would notice. Week after week my reports would contain pictures of clowns, bears, batman, etc (actually pics I used below). Still no response or comment from my peers.

I was brought into the company under the pretense that my skills, abilities and ideas would be taken into account, yet none of that held true. The VP and Directors of my department had no interest in actually improving things, they simply wanted to just come in and run things without having to listen to me or the front line employees. They were arrogant and un-involved.

Executive arrogance is extremely common in companies. Many executives feel that they attained their position for a reason and know the pulse of the company. The truth is that the further up the ladder the executives go the less connected they are to the employees that actually make the company successful. This arrogance prevents middle level managers, like me, from actually implementing improvements because the arrogant executive doesn’t think improvement is needed. The executives believe that if they didn’t think of the improvement than an improvement isn’t needed.

Be wary of companies that say they are bringing you in to help make change and implement your ideas. The arrogance of executive leadership somehow builds you up during the interview process but dumbs you down as you work for the company.

This was another major experience in my work life that led me to become a Work Turtle. I left that company and joined another company that touted me for my ideas and skill, yet fails to allow me to make any changes. Even when I have proven that my changes would save money, improve customer satisfaction or improve employee satisfaction I’m still ignored. Oh well, back to my shell for now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Song Incident: An Exercise in Poor Motivation Tactics

It’s 10:00am on a Thursday morning and my co-workers and I were gathered together for our department meeting. I was a manager of a three person scheduling and forecasting group. As we all sat down to review the agenda for the meeting, we noticed the first agenda item was titled: Motivation. As I looked around the room, I could tell that everyone was intrigued by the mystery of what “Motivation” meant on the agenda. Maybe it could be some type of bonus or incentive program, I thought to myself.

Our department head entered the room, sat down and began the meeting. “I want to start off this meeting with something that will inspire and motivate all of you.” She then reaches to her side and placed a small CD player boom box on the table and hit play. She closed her eyes and let out a big sigh.

The song “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack begins to play. I looked around the room and saw a few people physically moved by the song. I watched as my boss as well as some of my coworkers began to actually cry. I then looked at the two guys in my group. They both looked back at me, shrugging their shoulders. They had the same “what the hell is this” look on their faces. Most of the other non-crying people in the room also looked completely puzzled by what was happening. The song finally ended and my boss uttered “this song really hits hard at what we are trying to do here.” The few that had been crying wiped the tears from their faces and thanked our boss for playing the song. We then immediately moved on to the next agenda item relating to some type of problem within our department.

Following the meeting my work group gathered in our work area to talk about “the song”. We tried to figure out what our boss was trying to accomplish or what her comment meant following the song. What I had derived from this incident is that my boss was trying to motivate and inspire the team with a song that probably had some type of inspirational impact on her. Instead of motivating and inspiring our management staff, she completely confused and baffled the majority of us. The “song incident” as well as many other foiled attempts at motivation by our boss resulted in our team losing respect for her. Her failed motivation attempts became office jokes as time after time she would completely miss the mark on what inspires and motivates people.

Motivation is a nifty little concept that is completely misunderstood and misinterpreted by clueless leaders. I’ve come across many bosses that thought they were quite inspirational, when in fact their actions had the opposite result. So many leaders try to motivate but forget to really understand what is meaningful to their employees. Why? Because they jump the gun and try to start “motivating” without building relationships and finding out what makes people tick. You can’t motivate people if you don’t know who they are, what they want, and why.

I’ve seen my managers actually buy books with titles “1,000 Ways to Motivate Employees” or “Creating Inspired Employees”. I’ve watched as they pointlessly tried to implement stupid ideas from these ridiculous books. Breaking News to Clueless Leaders: You can’t buy a book that tells you how to motivate employees! What you can do is listen, observe and interact with employees. There is a saying “no two people are alike” and if you try to use the same motivational tactics for everyone, you will fail.

Unfortunately for most of us though, manager after manager will hang motivation posters or hand out motivational cards without even knowing they are doing more harm than good. Hopefully your motivationally challenged boss doesn’t play ‘I Hope You Dance”. I still have nightmares from that experience!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Email Frustration

As part of my daily work frustration I must sort through hundreds of pointless emails daily. Although email is a great tool, people become email junkies, simply sending and receiving, trying to avoid actually human contact at all costs. Adding to my email overload frustration is the fact that people are horrible at emailing. Below are just a few example of my ongoing email frustration.

Thank You. I like polite people, but nothing adds to the inbox like the pointless array of “Thank You” emails. You’ll have someone send out a request and then another person will answer that request. This will then prompt the original sender to respond with a thank you. Then the responder will respond back with another thank you. Sometimes another “no problem” response will be sent to follow-up on the receipt of the 2nd thank you. It gets even better when there are many users and everyone starts replying with thank you. Then you have a 20 email string in your inbox of people responding with “thank you.” Why god…WHY????

Spell Check. This miraculous feature is enabled on almost every type of program that you type with, yet I still receive emails with spelling errors. The “spell check” dialogue box comes up with suggestions on the misspelled word or words so it would seem impossible with this feature to send out documents with spelling errors. However, the numerous geniuses I work with must believe they are spelling bee champs and don’t need the help. Or maybe there is a subset of risk takers that prefer to attempt spelling on their own, throwing caution to the wind. I’m not one of them.

Caps Lock. I thoroughly enjoy the email typed in all capital letters. There are people who use all capitals when they are irritated and want to stress a point. Then there are the idiots who have the Caps Lock on and everything they write is in capitals. It’s like at some point they hit the Caps Lock by accident and just don’t know how to turn it off. You may be lucky to see this actually happen as you’ll get an email partially typed correctly, then you’ll see a point (caps lock hit by accident) in which it goes all capitals. I can just see the clueless email author as they hit Caps Lock accidentally, then scramble to figure out why things are in capitals. Then, after minutes of button hitting, they just decide to continue to type rather than ask someone about why they are typing in all capitals.

Reply To All. A company-wide email is sent out explaining a new policy to the employees. The email specifically says at the bottom “If you have any questions, please contact….” Instead of following directions an employee or employees will hit “reply to all” in their email. This is great as now everyone in the company gets to read the question that employee has. In our email system, you can see in the “To” field who you are sending the email to prior to actually sending it. Why someone would respond to all, see all the names in the “To” field and still hit send is beyond me. When the company-wide email goes out I begin my guess on how many people will reply to all.

Email Calendar. At my company, our email system has a calendar and meeting option. This is great because if you are trying to schedule a meeting with several attendees you can setup a meeting time and date and check it against the attendee’s schedules. But do people actually use the calendar with meeting option? Noooo! Everyone uses flipping day planners which makes scheduling meetings virtually impossible. You will send out a meeting invite and get 80% of people responding with “I can’t make it, I have something else scheduled.” To myself I think “If you’d use the flipping online calendar, I would know that.”

Feel free to add your email frustrations by hitting the comments section below.

Thursday, April 5, 2007


A co-worker recently gave me some background on a book he had started reading. My co-worker and I are both high performers, struggling in a company that just doesn’t seem to value or care about its employees. The book we were discussing was 12: The Elements of Great Managing. Through thousands of interviews across various organizations, industries and countries, the Gallup Organization has determined 12 fundamental questions that determine if a workplace promotes an environment that is geared towards enhancing employee’s abilities and talents, resulting in high performance. This is the basis for the book. These 12 questions are:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.

  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.

  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.

  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

  10. I have a best friend at work.

  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
    This last year,

  12. I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Copyright © 1992-1999 The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ. All rights reserved.

As I was reading through the book and pondering the above questions, I realized that this book very much relates to why people become Work Turtles. In reviewing these questions, it really reveals to me that the simple details of how leaders interact with their employees dictate whether an employee will continue to perform or not. I believe most managers take many if not all of the above 12 questions for granted and become too focused on the tasks and work, instead of their employees.

I began to go down the list of questions and realized that each “No” is the reason for me becoming a Turtle at Work. This lack of management support has resulted in my being further and further withdrawn and disconnected from trying hard.

When I first joined my current company two years ago, I saw that many of the people I would interact with were withdrawn, much like I am now. Being a high performer, I thought that I could re-energize people by working hard, getting results and involving them in the process. I wasn’t aware of the 12 questions at the time, but I was living up to them in how I interacted with employees inside and outside of my department. Even though success came early and often, my attitude did little to change the overall lack of drive in my company. I soon realized I was one person trying to change an overall flawed culture that did not encourage performance.

I realized that I had joined a Work Turtle environment, in which most workers just wanted to do the bare minimum and blend in. I initially felt the workers were wrong in acting this way, because I was giving them 100% effort. However, one manager trying to live by the 12 essentials is not enough to turn a culture around. The book describes that one good manager will create another good manager with the ripple eventually reaching the entire company. The problem is that I am in the middle, not at the top and my ripple of positive employee interaction hit the wall of old school, uninspired upper management.

As I was discussing this book with my co-worker, our boss came over and asked what we were talking about. As I began to explain the concept to him, he simply said “huh”, shrugged his shoulders and walked off before I had finished my comment. I had thought about suggesting this book to my boss as a must read for all in management, my “huh” response told me it would be ignored.

I believe this book is a must read if you are a manager of an organization that actually does care about employees. Managing the 12 elements properly and expecting each manager in your company to do the same will prevent your employees from becoming Turtles at Work.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Work Myths

I’ve come across several situations in my work life in which perception did not match reality. I refer to these instances as Work Myths. A Work Myth is when a superior or co-worker makes a statement or comment about something as if it were fact, when in reality you know that what they are saying is completely bogus.

“Our workers live the company mission statement.”

This mission statement for your company is like the Loch Ness Monster. Some people have seen it or thought they’ve seen it, but most are skeptical of its existence. This is because the mission statement is created and never really filtered down through the ranks. I believe that many times top Executives just create the mission because they see that other companies have them and just think they need one as well. Most workers don’t even know or understand the mission statement. Because of this, people report in daily not really understanding how their job impacts the overall success of the company. When you go to work today, ask ten people to tell you what your company’s vision and mission are and see how many answer correctly. The majority of people will respond with a chuckle or blank look. Mission statements are just fluff unless each employee really knows and understands those statements and what they mean. It’s the job of upper management to ensure the message continues to filter down to everyone in the company.

“We have a strategic plan in place and use that as our roadmap to success”

This is a term your upper management can use because it sounds good verbally and in writing. I mean you have the word “strategic” coupled with the word “plan” so it would seem like your company has it together. The reality is that, much like the mission statement, the strategic plan is created but rarely followed and executed. In my company we have a “strategic plan” in place. The plan has never been fully reviewed with management and employees outside of our executive staff. There are a set of objectives for completion that align with the various sections of the plan. I was recently reviewing the plan and saw that over 90% of the objectives had not been completed with a majority of those objectives being past due by over 6 months. I brought this up to my boss and he shrugged it off (“I don’t think he knows we have a strategic plan either”). In reality our “strategic plan” was a document put together, with the help of a consultant, to make our shareholders feel like our upper management knows what they are doing. The strategic plan should be a “roadmap” that is clearly understood and acted upon. But again, if it’s done to just say we have one; the strategic plan becomes a useless component of your company.

“Each employee goes through a thorough training program during their orientation.”

We’ve all heard this one either before or after starting at a company. The “thorough training program” usually consists of a day of going through benefit information followed by a half-assed company overview. Then you are thrown to the wolves and expected to perform. As you make mistakes or changes you get to hear the “that’s not how you do it” or “John never did it that way”. I also enjoy not being able to get training approved once you have been with a company. At my current company for example, I asked for external training relevant to my job. I was told it wasn’t in the training budget. The next year I tried to adjust my department budget to include dollars for training and was denied. So it’s not in the training budget and I can’t budget it myself. Looks like I’m screwed. Solid companies realize that mapping out real training programs for employees leads to better productivity, lower turnover, and higher employee satisfaction.

“The salary range for your position is based on industry standards and research”

I’ve heard this line 150 times from either a boss or HR. When you actually ask to see the research on the “industry standards” they can never produce it. Then you ask to see your salary range and you get the comment “that information is confidential”. I’ve asked how my own salary range information can be confidential and gotten a dirty look or just plain ignored. I don’t doubt there is a range created based on some type of standards but the reality is that when you are offered a position, companies try to low ball you as much as possible. Then once you are hired they don’t want to share with you how low you are compared to the benchmark of others in your position.

“You will be rewarded yearly with a performance increase based on your review”

In many companies this is not a Work Myth as you actually will get a salary increase and bonus based on your performance combined with the performance of the company. If you are one of the unlucky people to be stuck at a bad company, the “performance reward increase” is not really an increase for your hard work, but instead a cost of living increase. To add insult to injury you may be asked to write your own review. At my current company my boss asked me to write my review stating that he’ll “tweak it”. This is your boss’ way of saying that he didn’t take the time during the year to document what you did and now expects you to fill in the blanks. So basically you write your own review for a crappy increase, that’s the reality!

I’d like to hear what Work Myths you can come up with. Post a comment using the comment link at the bottom of this entry. Look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Priceless Moments for This Turtle

I know.... I'm copying off the Visa commercial.

$1,230,084.21. The total savings due to projects I initiated and completed!

25,421. The total errors avoided last year due to processes I improved!

2. The number of Performance Reviews with a rating of Far Exceeds Expectations!

4. The number of training curriculums I created (and I'm not a Training Manager).

The look on my face when I received my 3.5% increase with no bonus...PRICELESS!

The look on my bosses face when I presented these facts and asked why 3.5%.... CLUELESS!

The reason why I became a Turtle at Work...OBVIOUS!!!

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