And the Cheese Stands Alone

There have been a number of experiments and historical events where people have been systematically excluded from the larger group. In some situations this meant that they were forced to forego privileges while in others it meant the extraction of their personal rights and freedoms. Regardless of the severity, case, and background, the results are always the same. The excluded group begins to resent the controlling party and the ‘elite’ group who have greater privileges and powers. This resentment boils and eventually simmers down to outright animosity and anger, which will eventually culminate in conflict. What applies on the world, social, and environmental stages applies equally to the business environment. When people are of equal rank, value, and position, they should all be treated uniformly. Always.

Take Steve R. Fictional for example. Steve is a middle manager who has a good track record, solid industry experience, and has been in the field for well over a decade. Over the past couple years Steve decided that he wanted to pursue more of a leadership track and moved from an employee to a manager role. He has done well so far in this role and has always achieved the tasks set in front of him. Steve is a good employee and a good manager and gets along with everyone. But Steve finds himself systematically excluded from meetings, team building exercises, and other functions. Attributing the exclusions to oversight Steve contacts people to make sure he is on the right mailing lists, that HR has been advised of his role, and so forth. Yet he is still excluded.

So now that we know Steve’s background, let’s take a look at what is going on with Steve. If he is like most people, which we will assume he is, Steve is beginning to feel devalued and cast aside. He is beginning to feel that he is the repeated target of lip service geared at simply appeasing him. He is thinking about moving on.

The attrition rate for a company will inevitably be higher when there are a lot of Steves. Likewise, it will inevitably be lower when there are few Steves. So the impending question is, how do you avoid Steves? The answer lies in equal treatment. Always. Treat all employees the same, all managers the same, all directors the same, and all executives the same. If people are categorized in the same way, regardless of whether it is by rank, title, status, or something else, they should be treated uniformly. If a directors meeting is held, all directors should be included. If a team building exercise is scheduled, all team members and the leader of the team should be included. No exceptions.

If you want your employees to be happy, productive, and lasting, make sure they feel like part of the group. If you want to watch them drop away one by one, systematically exclude them.

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Jason McDonald

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  • Don’t cry – it’s ok.

    Perhaps he’s not much fun – I don’t really know as I made him up this morning. But when looking at the situation from a management perspective it doesn’t matter. The point of the post is that employees must be treated uniformly by their superiors, not that peers must treat one another equally. Favoritism breeds resent.

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