• How and why managers create mind-numbing, stupid policies



    IN the first place, what are those insensitive management policies? Essentially, they’re corporate regulations, many of which are informal rules designed to curb practices that are wrongfully perceived to lower productivity, reduce product quality or whatever negative effects it could be in the mind of management. More often, these policies are made without serious considerations of employee morale and promulgated in an instant the moment a dictator-manager sees a “violation,” no matter how petty it is.

    One recent example of these stupid rules is the case of one manager in a small family business who was told to stand within viewing distance of a CCTV camera while he’s on a smoking break. Yes, even managers are victims of other managers’ foolishness. Another stupid policy was related to me by one of my students who told me they’re not allowed by their Chinese boss to take a nap during lunch break.

    The third example that I got from my Facebook survey was a management policy requiring all workers to wear deodorant, if not perfume, before they clock in for work and maintain that aromatic level throughout the day. Another illustration and yet very common is the multiple approval (sometimes, as many as five signatories) of a worker’s leave application.

    Surely, there are many every day examples that you can find in your respective organizations.

    The list can be endless, if only one is consciously irritated of all these mindless policies. If you’re not bothered by it, then most likely, something is wrong with your judgment. Of course, it’s only one side of the coin. But please tell me, how can you defend these policies that defy logic and humanity?

    Isn’t that man is basically good, unless he proves a contrary view in living color?

    Another six-million dollar question is why are these stupid policies happening? One explanation for this is that even in this age of employee empowerment and engagement, there are managers who practice the Theory X (dictatorial) mind set, almost every day. They believe that all workers are lazy who prefer to be closely supervised on what task to complete, without serious consideration of their basic needs like self-respect, among other things.

    Autocratic managers think that their workers are mere cogs in the production process rather than human beings who want to value the fruits of their labor aside from their salary and benefits.

    W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993), the American genius who taught the Japanese on the dynamism of quality and productivity said: “80 per cent of all problems are caused by management, and only 20 percent are traceable to the workers.” Absolutely! That’s because management has the authority and power—from planning, leading, organizing—up to controlling all aspects of corporate resources.

    Sure enough, Deming could be wrong at times. Whenever I visit some companies, or whenever I talk to some managers, immediately I can prove Deming wrong. Instead of 80-20, one can easily conclude that it’s more like 90-10, and in some cases, 100 to zero.

    So how many of us here belong to Theory X and how many subscribe to its opposite style, Theory Y (democratic) management style, or the belief that responsible workers outnumber their lazy counterparts. And they’re capable of active participation in problem-solving and decision-making under the principle of co-ownership?

    The answer may not come easy. It depends on the situation. As long as you practice Theory Y under normal circumstances, then you could easily get the best of both worlds—high labor productivity and the best employee satisfaction level.

    In case of an emergency, one can readily switch his style by wearing a Theory X hat.

    Therefore, be skeptical whenever a boss says something out of the ordinary. Beware and prepare to offer solutions assuming that he’s willing to listen. Strive to reconcile higher production and good product quality while maintaining the highest employee morale.

    I’m not telling you it is easy. What I’m saying is, it is worthwhile.

    And remember W. Somerset Maugham’s mantra: “If 50 million people say something foolish, it is still foolish.” This, of course is related to Lily Tomlin’s famous words: “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

    Rey Elbo is a management consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts on Elbonomics.


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