Flipping the switch 4 – The story of Sam

In the last article I posted the first two motivational triggers Boomers respond to. If you’re just now checking in, you can read that article here.

I want to share a story that was told to me since I posted last week. I am doing so because it directly feeds into the theme of flipping the switch I am covering in this series.

On Friday, I met with a former colleague of the big box home improvement store at which I worked for a short time, I’ll call him Sam. The colleague has been there for a good many years, has developed his skills as a salesperson, and has gathered a significant clientele who bring to him repeat business.

One recent afternoon, the department manager called Sam in to the front office. Sam sat down across for the DM wondering the nature of the summons.

“We’re not singling anyone out,” he began, “we’re doing this with everyone. Company policy allows for 5 sick says per year but you’ve taken 9. Consider this a friendly warning that this should not continue.”

Now, let me stop here and offer my perspective about this. I worked for that company and never heard of a 5 day limit on sick leave. We were told of a 3 day limit without a doctor’s note which seems reasonable, but the 5 day limit was never discussed when I was there. Sam apparently did not know it either and he has been there a good many years. Employees at that company accrue sick time by a formula which awards it based on the number of hours worked. Some employees have weeks, even months of accrued sick time since it rolls over from year to year. A few have used long periods of time for major medical incidents which resulted in no repercussions. After all, a benefit is a benefit, right?

Sam had the opportunity to respond. “Oh,” he said, “I thought you were calling me in here to congratulate me on my $70,000 in sales so far this month. You’re not doing that?”

The DM began to clumsily backpedal. “Oh, yeah, that too. Good job,” the DM stammered.

Sam explained the 9 sick days – sickness and a new grandbaby filled the time. Common sense finally prevailed when the DM withdrew the reprimand, soft as it was.

Here’s the problem, I encountered only one manager at any level, Store manager, Department Manager, Zone Manager, or Sales Manager, when I worked there who had any clue about managing people. Only one! She was not a boomer but understood perfectly how to manage them. More about her in Thursday’s post.

The other managers were mostly nice folks and were quite good at shuffling paper, completing reports, and monitoring numbers. They were almost completely ineffective at managing people.

Odd, isn’t it? It is not the product that ultimately produces a company’s profit or fulfills an organization’s vision. It is people. Even big box stores are not really self-help. It is interaction with the floor staff that pushes sales numbers. Yet, the incidence of effective leadership and people management is almost non-existent.

I chalk that up to the integrity and work ethic of the people who man and staff companies and organizations who get the work done, not because of the management or leadership, but IN SPITE OF IT!

Managing numbers is not motivation and will not effectively motivate people in and of themselves even though too many managers think it will. In Sam’s case, one number, 9, was used to reprimand while another, much larger number, 70,000, was ignored.

Tell, me what do you think should have been done? How should it have been handled? Describe the situation as you would have dealt with it. Share with us similar examples of missed motivational opportunities you may have witnessed or experienced for yourself.

2 thoughts on “Flipping the switch 4 – The story of Sam”

  1. Thanks for this! Yes, this happens even in the school system where I worked many years. At my first end- of- the- year evaluation, the principal was NOT looking at the two kinds of test results that showed my third graders (bilingual class/English/Spanish) had excelled beyond the other six third grade teachers who had been there years. I know that this principal was being difficult with me but the reason was not my performance nor my class scores! She needed to cut staff who were older for economic pressures from the district office. (Two of the other older staff had the same kind of evaluation.) I guess even the best I could do/promise to do…would not have changed her eval!! Oh, my.


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