New Year, Same Stuff: 10 Things I Hope Companies Stop Doing in 2014

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Yes, it’s 2014, and here is my New Year’s list.

A drum roll, please …

1. Begrudging employees for all they “take”

As a parent, I’d be lying if I claimed to have never said or thought, “You kids are driving me to the poor house!” because children cost a mint to raise to adulthood, and they can be little ingrates, too.

But no matter what anyone says, employees aren’t children. The relationship between employer and employee is transactional, not parental.

Why then, do so many employers assume the attitude that employees are like pesky little rug rats figuratively clawing at the company ankles while whining and crying for “More, more, more!” instead of adults who’ve made the decision to exchange time and talent for money?

Whatever the reason, I wish they’d stop. The “employee as a cost center” mentality is getting old.

2. Confusing being an “extrovert” with the ability to get the job done

I’m introverted, but when I first started hearing about work discrimination against introverts, I laughed a little. (Well, come on.) But then I started seeing job ads describing extroversion as a desired trait (and apparently everyone’s an expert now), and my opinion began to change.

But this is ridiculous! Introversion/extroversion is on a spectrum. You can’t rule out all introverts from certain jobs.

It’s true that introverts enjoy spending time alone, but that doesn’t mean an introvert won’t engage socially (even in the dreaded group situation), or speak publicly, or whatever when doing so is necessary (or because he gets to talk about something he’s really passionate about).

Darn employers. Stop thinking you’ve got everyone figured out before that could possibly be true.

3. Insisting that the only bad behavior is illegal behavior

If you’re an HR professional who is sick and tired of fielding grievances that upper management cares nothing about because the bad behavior in question is not illegal, raise your hand.

It’s infuriating. Forget decency, fairness, regard for the dignity of fellow human beings, and addressing needless work disruptions caused by someone’s big mouth and dumb views. If the behavior isn’t illegal (or causes a big PR stink), some folks just aren’t interested, and they might even consider it a good idea to penalize HR for causing someone to have to think about this stuff.

Yeah. I definitely wish companies would stop doing that.

4. Insisting that business smarts and concern for people are mutually exclusive

Is it me, or is the notion of a “successful business” as one that squeezes every last cent from employees, vendors, and customers while giving as little in return as possible completely outdated?

5. Not allowing people to make mistakes

Human beings are fallible. Unless someone makes an egregious error in judgment that results in a huge consequence that can’t be undone, for goodness sake, give people a break every now and again.

We know you can, Mr. Employer, because you’re always giving a break to that numskull down the hall. Spread a little of that love around, why don’t you? Oh, and that reminds me …

6. Extending breaks to the numskull down the hall

Well OK, perhaps “numbskull” is a bit mean-spirited, but everyone knows this individual is doing a lousy job, and it may even be worse than that. He might take credit for others’ work, be a bit of a bully, dump his responsibilities on others, or make work more difficult for his co-workers  due to his incompetence.

Once and for all, do everyone a favor and either develop this guy or fire him.

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7. Not evaluating managers on how well they manage

A company that doesn’t evaluate managers on how well they get work done through others, or how well they motivate or develop other,s doesn’t really value management.

Yes, we’re all busy, and many managers don’t have the luxury of managing exclusively without regard to their own project work, but the point still stands. If a manager isn’t any good at management and still gets good reviews, something’s off, and employee relations and productivity will suffer as a result.

8. Classifying abuse as a management “style”

I can’t even count all the ways in which this notion is offensive. Screaming, intimidation, and mind games are not the tools of the effective manager.

Nope, not even. I don’t care if “she’s from New York” (a real comment), or about some silly notion that “if you make her feel appreciated I’m sure you’ll get along better” (it’s a long story). Abusive management is a big, damn problem.

Deal with it, and stop talking crazy.

9. Expending energy in all the wrong places

For example, the same company that won’t expend any energy dealing with ineffective and even bullying managers (see No. 8 above) will spend all sorts of time harassing and intimidating employees at unemployment hearings when said employees finally leave.

For God’s sake, if you’re going to allow competent employees to be forced out of your organization by managerial foolishness, at least have the decency to let the poor souls collect their unemployment in peace.

10. Making things way harder than they need to be

Raise your hand again if the most difficult thing about your job is dealing with the people who work there.

Look, we’re grown ups here. Nobody expects that a job will be all sunshine and roses, and who doesn’t know that workplace conflict is a workplace staple?

But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about meanness and egos run amok, and goofball processes that slow everything down, and inexplicable sacred cows that create all manner of problems and cause people to wonder who’s got the dirt on whom, as in “I can’t understand why so and so still has a job. She must have some dirt on management.

Well, that’s my list. What’s on yours?

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR, is an HR consultant and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She also writes at her blog, HR BlogVOCATE. For the past 15 years, Crystal has focused on building HR departments in small- to mid-sized companies under the philosophy that "HR is not for wimps." She is also the CEO and Founder of Work It Out! and partners with HRCVision, a full-service HR consultant practice specializing in leadership and diversity training. Contact her at crs036@aim.com.

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