Is there a contradiction?

I thought of an odd thing. (This happens all the time – just ask my wife!)

On one hand, emails come from time to time thanking various employees for efforts in getting a client live on a new product or some other major undertaking. These emails tend to speak to fellow-employees’

  • helpfulness
  • expertise
  • professionalism
  • going out of their way to accomplish what needed to be done
  • perseverance
  • generosity
  • excellence

and other such traits. It is not uncommon for such an email to conclude by saying what a blessing it is for the writer to be part of the company “family”, and “You’re the best!”

On the other hand, one of the comments that comes up often when I raise the issue of needing flexibility and trust is something along the lines of “That might work for you, but there are many others that would not be able to handle that flexibility.”

Questions

  1. Are the qualities noted in the emails really present somewhere in our company? (Or is the issue possibly that the thankful email writers tend to perceive things in a more positive light than merited by the facts.)
  2. If these qualities are present in some places within the company, are they to some extent missing from the Engineering division?
  3. If the answer to #2 is no, why would we be afraid to grant arbitrary amounts of flexibility to people who are demonstrating such self-motivated excellence?
  4. If the answer to #2 is yes, why is the Engineering division doing worse than other places in the company?
        • Do we have many lower performers in our division?
        • Were they lower performers at the time they were hired, and our screening process failed to weed them out?*
        • Were they higher performers at one time who did not “keep up” and their knowledge has become somewhat stale?*
        • How important is it to the company’s success for its engineers to take the initiative to keep on top of their craft?
        • To what extent is our current system encouraging our engineers to take the initiative to keep on top of their craft?
        • What types of things can a company do to encourage engineers to take the initiative to keep on top of their craft?

          *I am indebted to the Accountability book for these two ideas.

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          1. #1 by jbranam on February 7, 2008 - 2:54 pm

            I’m concerned that the thought of “That might work for you, but there are many others that would not be able to handle that flexibility.” has become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

            Those that could “handle it” are very frustrated by the lack of trust and freedom and those that can’t “handle it” are not encouraged to grow so that they can “handle it,” but are accepted as they are.

            [The company’s] (I should say Engineering’s) inability to deal with those who can’t “handle it” is contributing to the constriction of freedom and the flight of those who can. It is clear that few of those who have left are one’s of which you are glad they left. I think the result of that is a higher percentage of those who can’t “handle it” being rewarded for their immaturity.

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