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On Tuesday afternoon I was at a meeting of an organization whose board I sit on. In this particular instance, I also hold an official position; no, I don’t get paid for it.

The conversation turned to one that’s fairly common in most companies, but it was a crucial discussion about the possibility of doing something positive for the employees. The suggestion that was made was to do things one particular way, which I felt was pretty complicated and would cause many people a lot of consternation.

I also had a different thought, which I conveyed to the group. I was of the opinion that a failing many people in leadership positions have is that they don’t try to understand the employee mindset. In this case, the initial proposal would have done something that would have affected all the employees in a different way. And, as anyone who’s ever been in management knows, employees are going to talk and share things about themselves and their situations that we always wonder why they don’t keep it to themselves. The truth is they don’t because commiseration is a more powerful drug than privacy. And in this case, once a few employees started talking, there would have been a riot.

At least that was my opinion. I was joined on that opinion that all the other board members, which surprised me. It also surprised the executive director, who admitted that it was a thought that had never occurred to him. Now, what I expect is that he’s coming from a position where he still leads employees on a daily basis. I work for myself, as does one of the other people who was at the meeting. One of the other members is retired, and the other two are disabled and thus not employed, though only one of them has ever had a full time job. So, it made sense that how we saw things was much different than how he saw things.

If you have employees, you need to pay attention to the patterns that continuously come up based on specific and repeating stimulus. There will be times when people are going to talk about things that occur; that’s just how it’s going to be, even if you have a policy of telling employees not to talk to each other about private stuff. It’s like having a policy that says no one is allowed to make personal phone calls from their desks and realizing that you have a mother with five kids working for you and it’s summer, which means school is out, or it’s winter, which could mean one of them is at home sick with a babysitter. It’s unrealistic thinking on a manager’s part, thus it’s incumbent on them to be smarter than that and think about how they’d act if they were in the employees shoes, which at some point in their business career they probably were.

Managers and leaders need to try to understand the mindsets of the people who work for them. If not, then they’ll be perpetually clueless, and continue making stupid mistakes that will cause turmoil and reduce working efficiency.