Thursday, September 13, 2012


Which management philosophy is most like yours? 1. Keep your employees under your thumb. 2. Require strict adherence to your rules. 3. Teach and offer them direction. 4. They are adults: let them do their jobs.

Orange County [NY] Chamber of Commerce member, participant in its Small Business Resource Committee, and head of Capacity Consulting, Inc., Eric Egeland, gave a compelling Chamber webinar on 11 September in which he justified some surprising advice. For example, as nice as teaching and trusting sound, requiring strict adherence works better, as long as the rules are clear, sensible, and consistent.

Egeland is familiar with the personnel management literature, but also has extensive experience as an “undercover employee,” through multi-month gigs as “one of the team,” watching what employees do when the boss is unaware. “When the cat’s away, the mice will play” is often true on the job. Egeland gave three real-life examples, one being the sabotage of the sales performance of new hires by the “old-timers.”

Managers go wrong when they focus simply on the performance of specified tasks, rather than on the broader issue of behavior. Much that is important to business goes beyond the job description.

Humans tend to avoid conflict, but this can cause a manager to soft-pedal a criticism that needs to be made strongly. Treating employees “like family” is often unappreciated and can backfire, as any criticism comes as a surprise and is taken more personally. [How well do your in-laws take your criticism?]

We like to believe in the goodness of our fellow humans, but perhaps one in ten will disappoint us greatly, so we cannot count on their virtue. To be fair to all, we must be consistent in enforcing our rules, diligently but not militantly.

When the webinar was over, I congratulated Eric on his excellent presentation, and told him how I had lost one of my own best employees by not following a couple of his precepts.

A fuller presentation is available in his new book, EMPLOYEES, KIDS, AND PETS: How to Get Out of Your Own Way and Be a Better Boss, Manager and Parent, available though


Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is an author, freelance writer, and book-writing partner. He can be reached at 845.778.4204 or

Eric Egeland, CPCU, AU, is a management and business consultant.

He can be reached 845.888.5486 and



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