They don’t listen and just do what they want

How many times do I hear a business leader say this?

They get so frustrated at their employee’s not doing as they’re asked.  My thoughts on this; are they being asked in a clear and concise way, or is it an assumption they know what you want?

As leaders it is all too common to think you are communicating to the employees correctly, when in all fairness it all seems a little confusing on the side of the employees.  Repeatedly I listen to the frustrations of leaders telling me that ‘when they did that job nobody had to tell them what to do’, or that they  ‘told them’.

I get this however,  a) not everyone thinks the same, we all have different beliefs, values and understanding, was this considered? and b) was the individual advised of the end goal but more importantly the plan of how to get to the end point of what was being asked?…..I fear not.

Every plan has a beginning, middle and end and this is exactly the same when communicating something to your employees.  Tell them not only ‘what’ you want doing but also ‘why’ and ‘how’ you would like them to achieve this.  It’s always a good plan to advise of the consequences too, so the understand the full picture.

For instance; Leader tells the factory workers that 2000 products need to be out the factory by the end of the month.  Employees perceive that as; ‘work as fast and hard as you can’.  Using a suitable line of communication this could be advised as; ‘We’ve received an order in for 2000 items which is great, that means the orders are increasing and this then, if we are smart and think about how we achieve it, can be a good result for us all.

This could include what time is physically needed, if so how do they achieve this with the staff they have? Is overtime needed? Could anyone take on a little more? Are the materials readily available? Plan, Plan, Plan…..with employees involved.

Communication is more often than not the biggest downfall within a business.  People ‘think’ they are communicating but in reality it can be a bit of a guessing game to the recipient.  This then results in individuals doing things the way ‘they think’ it should be done, or they assume to do the things the way they are doing it is ok.

Lack of accountability is the frustration that rises as a result of this, or what is perceived.  Quickly this creates an ‘us and them’ between you, and that gap will only widen if you don’t get to the root of the cause……..swiftly you’ve got a situation of ‘the tail wagging the dog’…..or so it seems.


Your thoughts, ideas, instructions can quite quickly become dismissed because your employees have switched off from you.  This is not acceptable,  it isn’t conducive to the business and you are in danger of all respect lost by both parties. To spin it on it’s head and get yourself back in control it’s all about communication, communication, communication.

Begin by involving your staff in the planning within the business.  Together make goals, align them to the wants and needs, letting them contribute with their ideas and opinions.  Assign them responsibility, share it around rather than ‘doing it yourself because it’s easier’, how will they learn?   Your most annoying, trouble causer being given a voice, and extra responsibility, can transform them into your shining star.

Once changes become clear to the team with communication consistent, they don’t feel dictated to or suspicious.  Let’s face it our first thought when someone announces change is ‘Why’?

The human mind is resistant  to change if they don’t understand its true motive, they will always fear the worst.  Humans have an emotional behaviour process to change starting with the feelings of; Loss, Doubt, Discomfort, to Discovery, Understanding and ending in Integration.  Alongside those feelings are displays of behaviour: Shock, Denial, Anger, Blame, Bargain, Apathy, and then Acceptance, Explore.  All these feeling are emotional and rational responses, as leaders reinforcing what you want, how you want it and why, is satisfying those emotions and behaviours until acceptance is reached.

Soon after the acceptance of change begins it is time to introduce another change. Now I have been frowned upon many times at this suggestion but, once change is introduced, reinforced and accepted so many times it becomes normal behaviour and change doesn’t pose a problem.

Your tail wagging the dog is a distant memory.  Working together, accountable as a team is  exactly where you will be.