Sunday night, after the Super Bowl, a show came on called Undercover Boss. I don’t usually watch these types of shows, but for some reason I was intrigued enough by the premise that I decided to check it out.

Listen to your kids
Bindaas Madhavi
via Compfight

The President and COO of Waste Management, Lawrence O’Donnell, III, decided to undertake an interesting challenge. He would travel around to 5 or 6 of his locations nationwide where people didn’t know him and try to learn the job they did for the day so he could see what their lives were like. He went in with the premise that there was a documentary being filmed and changed his name slightly just in case someone recognized it.

What he learned in every location was that initiatives he and other top administrative folks had been putting through had made the lives of the people who actually help them make money miserable. In one case, production levels had been set so high that not only did the local company set up people to spy on folks while they were going around trying to do their job, but female workers ended up using the bathroom in a can because they didn’t have the time to even go somewhere to go to the bathroom.

He was dismayed to see how some of the corporate directives had turned into employee unfriendly legislation. He saw some practices that were unethical at best. He worked with a couple of people who had major medical issues, yet kept going because they needed those jobs. He learned a lot, especially that he didn’t have the skills to do the job that he was paying others for, and how unfair some of the practices really had been.

When you’re a leader, it’s always imperative that you know what’s going on with your organization or department based on the rules you’ve set up. If you haven’t set up any rules, then you’re not really leading but managing, and that reflects badly on you because it means you’ve decided not to be responsible for anything other than being able to tell someone later on “I didn’t come up with that.” But even managers sometimes interpret things in the wrong way, thinking they’re fulfilling the wishes of those above them, and that can cause problems for everyone.

Leaders need to consistently follow up with everyone to make sure that what they’ve put through is being followed, and whether it’s still ethical and fair. Sometimes it’s hard to balance both of these things, especially if output is what’s counted on for the company good, but it must be done. You can’t work people to death, and the constant training of new employees because other employees burned out or got upset enough to leave costs money as well.

Good leaders learn how to communicate well with their employees for the better good of everyone. It’s important enough to do; if you’re a leader, learn from Mr. O’Donnell and take stock in what’s going on in your workplace.

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