Classic: Behaviors Managers Hate, Blinders

Originally published 12/07/2011

"It's not my job."

If you've ever been tempted to utter these words in the workplace, heed my advice and think again – they are the hallmark of the second most hated employee behavior – the intentional wearing of blinders.

When I was managing, I tolerated this behavior in hourly workers, despised it in professionals, and fired managers who were so afflicted.  Blinder Wearers make little to no effort to understand how their work contributes (or fails to contribute) to the overall success of the business.  Call it laziness.  Call it a lack of sophistication or business savvy.  More likely, however the Blinder Wearer is purposefully trying to avoid understanding -- that is how it often looked to me – engaging in an intentional misunderstanding of the big picture, and usually adopted with an eye toward the minimization of personal workload and the avoidance of all responsibility.

Being a “cog in the wheel” has a certain simplicity and comfort to it, apparently.

 One of three images that helped to inspire the cover of EMPOWERED

One of three images that helped to inspire the cover of EMPOWERED

Blinder Wearers seem to believe that at the heart of the company lies – an immensely complex bureaucracy.  If you believe bureaucracy should run the company, I suppose you might also conclude that every minute action that must occur for success can be laid out through incredibly detailed job descriptions, work rules, and performance targets.  You might even believe that your goals can be set at the beginning of the year, and that it is the responsibility of management to spoon-feed you everything needed to accomplish them.  In fact, you may even believe that all this should be detailed in writing and permanently set in stone.

In fact, the blinder wearer seems to think that everything outside of a well-defined (and almost always tiny) box is the responsibility of someone else.  If management could actually operate this way, they would have to outnumber actual individual contributors in the business by a margin of ten to one.  The job of management, as I’ve blogged in the past, is to assess, prioritize, and motivate so that the maximum positive outcome for the stakeholders is achieved at the minimum cost.

 Inspirational image number 2

Inspirational image number 2

And that absolutely DOES NOT include perfectly defining your box.

Note to blinder wearers:  No one knows how events are going to sort out in advance.  No one can build a bureaucracy of the type you appear to want when the competitive environment is constantly changing.  No one has the time to define the boundaries around your job the way you seem to need.  And even if they could -- no profit minded company is going to expend the resources to do it!  Any company that tried would collapse under the weight of their own administrative costs.

 The third and final inspirational image.

The third and final inspirational image.

Managers are looking for employees who understand (or at least try to understand) the big picture.  They are looking for people who can step into ambiguous situations and handle them (and themselves), not attempt to hand off responsibilities to someone else and then allow the resulting failure to be attributed to the white spaces between job descriptions (which is, of course, management’s fault – at least in the mind of the blinder wearer.)  Managers are looking for employees who can roll with changes.  In short, they want employees who don't waste their time, don't get hung up on trivial details, and can figure out what needs to be done and just do it – on their own or at least with minimal guidance.

To employees everywhere -- don't be a blinder wearer.  Get informed, get involved, and become a part of solving your organization's problems.  Only then can you become a highly valued contributor and a candidate for promotion.

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Here is the cover for my latest novel, EMPOWERED, which was released in ebook and paperback versions on October 12, 2014.  EMPOWERED is the story of newly hired division president Colin Jensen, and his investigation into unexplained performance problems in the shipping department of TruePhase Chemicals division.  The story is set in Indianapolis during a blizzard, and takes its inspiration from the television series Undercover Boss.  As always, there are a few plot twists that I hope will surprise and entertain the reader.

My novels are based on extensions of 27 years of personal experience as a senior manager in public corporations.