Employee Management

Leaders, Do Not Punish Employees for Doing What You Asked!

Punishing an employee for doing what you wanted them to do?  Sounds absurd!  And it is absurd—absurdly common, that is.  Coast to coast, it happens daily in the workplace.  What’s the cause of this phenomenon?  Well, usually it is the boss’s reaction to an employee’s actions that is sending the wrong message.

A few years back, I coached an operations manager on how he communicated with his team.  After an employee admitted a mistake that she had made, the operations manager said, “My thirteen-year-old daughter could have done a better job than you!”  This employee stormed off and gathered her coat.  When the operations manager asked where she was going, she said home.  He asked who she thought would do her job. 

She responded, “Why don’t you get your thirteen-year-old daughter to do it?”

Today, he would tell you that he should have done things differently with this employee.  At the time, he punished an employee for acting the way that he treated her.  In the employee’s mind, she was punished for doing the right thing.

To look at this from another angle, take an employee who consistently performs better than average.  You, the boss, know that they will complete any and all tasks that you delegate to them due to this wonderful work ethic.  Without thinking about it, you pile the work onto this employee.  When they continue to rise to the occasion, you continue to “reward” them with more work.  As a result, this bright employee begins to burn out.  When you say that they have a future with your company, they begin to believe that you are making false claims.  It is only a matter of time before this employee seeks out opportunities elsewhere.  When this person resigns, you’re shocked.  But where you saw a dependable employee, they saw nothing but more work and no pay off. 

If this example sounds familiar to you—maybe it’s happened more than once within your business—you are guilty of punishing an employee for doing what you asked of them, even though you meant well.  As a result, you have lost a high performer from your team.

Think about the way you ask for ideas in a team meeting.  No doubt when an employee speaks up and offers an idea, they get more work to do than your other employees.  You mean to give them more responsibilities, but instead you have just taught your team that when the boss asks for ideas, they better stay quiet.  Otherwise they will get more work to do.

Think about the dynamics of your team.  How do you delegate tasks among them?  Do you dump menial tasks onto the most cooperative and willing people time and again?  Eventually, these employees will tire of always getting the bad news jobs.  They will either leave to find new employment or will become uncooperative and unwilling in the workplace, as they are looking to avoid continuously getting the worst jobs. 

Think about how you recognize employees who have performed well.  Is it in front of a group?  After all, not everyone likes to be recognized in front of the group.  You might not realize it, but you’ve created one of their worst nightmares live and in action!  They may not perform as well the next time in order to avoid such a situation.

Think about how you communicate with your team about unwanted behavior.  Many of us fall into the trap of the office-wide memo about not following a policy or procedure when only one or two people are guilty of breaking the rules.  Your team begins to question your credibility, saying to one another, “You do a good job around here, but you still get your butt chewed out.”

As a speaker, author, and consultant, I try to remind all my audiences that problems with their employees often start at the top.  When employees are not doing what they should be doing, it’s time to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself:  What are you doing?  And what should you be doing?

Employees: Your Number One Renewable Resource


Machinery, methods, materials, money, and employees.  These are all resources that management relies on to get the job done.  If you had to pick one of these resources, which do you think is the most vital?  If you’re like me, the answer is easy: employees!  Imagine, for a second, if all your employees decided not to attend work one day.  What kind of work would be accomplished that day?  Would any?  Probably not!

In my most recent book, Leaders are MADE, Not Born! I outline three of the biggest complaints employees have regarding their leaders.  This May, let’s break those complaints down and take a look at how you can address them in your company!

Boss, Get to Know Us on Our First Day of Work!

Getting to know new hires only takes a few minutes out of your day.  After all, this person is the newest member of your team.  Studies show that employees who feel a sense of ownership in their work and place of employment are more engaged and more likely to go above and beyond the expectations set for them.  Make sure your employees know from day one that you value their work, their ideas, and their time.  You’re the leader, yes, but lead by example.  Model the kind of behavior and work ethic you would like to see in your team.

Boss, Take an Interest in Us!

Your involvement doesn’t end on day one of a new hire.  Developing a relationship with all members of your team from the newest to the most senior will take you far.  Find out what their plans are for an upcoming vacation, express sympathy if they’ve recently lost a loved one or had to put a beloved pet down over the weekend.  Even something as simple as remembering their kids’ names will go a very long way in establishing a relationship with your team.

A word of warning, though: you are still the boss.  Be careful not to become your employees’ divorce counselor or therapist. Taking an interest in their lives and stories doesn’t mean trying to fix all their problems.  Get involved but keep boundaries clear and everything professional.

And, hey, I get it! Things get busy, and sometimes the personal details can fall through the cracks.  Don’t be afraid to make building a relationships with your team a priority, even if that means delegating more often when it comes to other tasks.

Boss, Don’t Become the Invisible Leader!

You might be wondering what, exactly, an invisible leader is.  This leader is only interested in good news and is otherwise absent—aka, invisible.  This leader is ill equipped to deal with anything beyond the good.  Got a problem?  Take it elsewhere.  This leader’s door is usually closed, and they are often uninvolved with the day-to-day of the office or workplace.

How can you avoid becoming an invisible leader?  Easy. Use the MBWA way.  That is to say, Manage By Walking Around.

The MBWA way is has been around as long as dirt.  Maybe even longer!  It basically boils down to a leader making themselves not only open and available to complaints and conversations with their team, but actively seeking out these conversations.  While walking around the floor, I often pause to ask employees what’s going on today. I make a point to find out if anything is preventing them from doing their jobs.  What I’ve learned is that employees are more likely to tell me what is on their minds point-blank in this context.  Even further, they give me bits and pieces of information that I needed to develop solutions.

In the flurry of activity to keep an eye on over-arcing goals, it can be easy to lose sight of the day-to-day details that build a thriving business.  But leaders, remember: your employees are your number one resource!  Keep them content, heard, and interested, and you’ll soon find a happier, more invested team ready and revving to work hard for you and your company.

No-Nonsense Tips for Effectively Managing Generation Z


As a speaker and trainer on generations in the workplace, I often witness older employees assuming that Gen Z and Millennials (also known as Gen Y) are identical and interchangeable.  This couldn’t be further from the reality of things!  Just on the basis of who raised each generation—Baby Boomers raising Millennials, Gen X raising Gen Z—differences will make themselves apparent.  Drawing generational lines can be tricky, but most sources agree that Gen Z consists of adults born between 1996 and 2010.  The older section of this demographic is almost 22, and more than ready to make a real jump into the business world.

So how can we prepare ourselves to successfully manage the next wave hitting our companies?


Millennials typically received a good amount of feedback from their parents, most of it positive reinforcement.  We all know the old stereotype of a Millennial continuously knocking on their boss’s door just to “check in” and see how they were doing. It spread across workplaces like a wildfire!

There are some similarities between Gen Z and Millennials in this regard.  However, when it comes to Gen Z, the feedback loop becomes even tighter.  This is a generation that has grown up constantly monitored and observed.  They’ve spent their childhoods on the internet and using smartphones. Everything they’ve done—from grades posted to online portals to iTunes and Amazon purchases—has been tracked and documented.  And Gen Z is fully aware of this tracking and have opted into it.  They are used to frequent recommendations and suggestions. It’s no surprise that they want their workplace to reflect the rest of their lives!

But there’s good news—where Millennials typically want things sugarcoated, Gen Z prefers their feedback straight and to the point. Their parents never gave a rose-tinted version of things, so why should their leaders?


Like we said above, Gen Z lives in a world of continuous updates. What counts as “relevant” is constantly being reworked and redefined.  Their lives are in a state of constant flux, moving from one social media platform to the next, jumping from app to app, staying on and ahead of the trends This can lead to a shorter attention span, as they’re used to jumping immediately into what’s next.

While this might seem like bad news, it’s also very, very good news. Gen Z, as a direct result of that shortened attention span, are better multi-taskers than their Millennial counterparts.  They’re used to typing up a document on a laptop while doing research on their phone and streaming a movie on the television and—well, you get the picture! They can shift gears quickly, code-jumping between work and play, and keep an eye on multiple projects at once.

Great Expectations

Did you know that 72% of teens say they want to start a business of their own one day?  This Entrepreneurial spirit is really what defines this up and coming generation. And now more than ever, with the world just a wifi connection away, it’s not as far-fetched a goal as you might think. Gen Z appreciates feedback, but they’re ready to work independently and hit the ground running.

That’s because Gen Z has great expectations.  Millennials remember coming home, logging into AOL, and waiting for the dial-up connection to rev up.  Gen Z was born into a fast-paced world that never stops moving.  This does lead to some pitfalls, like the tendency to panic when something doesn’t work right away.  But it also leads to quick and quality turn arounds on assignments.

The Takeaway

Like with every generation—the Greatest Gen to Gen Z—there is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all answer to managing a specific generation.  It’s easy to say that Millennials can’t take bad feedback or that Gen Z is flighty and easily distracted, but they’re really no different than the generations that came before.  We all want work that matters, and w all want to know that we’re performing above the expected caliber in our positions.  It’s common sense that is unfortunately not so common any more.

Don’t fear Gen Z coming into your workplace.  With a little time and a little feedback, you’ll have a strong team that will help support your business for generations to come.