Home > Post A Week 2013, The Work Day > Teaching the Team a Lesson

Teaching the Team a Lesson

I work in the corporate learning and development field so I read a lot of training material in an effort to keep abreast of developments that could help my company’s employees learn or build on skills that will make them successful—and happy—in the workplace. Websites, articles, professional association blogs are all part of a day’s work—and research—for me. I came across this question in an Admin Pro forum today:

How do you deal with the ‘lesson-teaching’ co-worker?

Question: “On our admin team we have ‘Karen’—a good worker except when it comes to helping out others if they haven’t met her precise expectations. Her view is that if people don’t follow procedures to the letter, then their problems should be ignored in order to teach them a lesson, even if this means a deadline is missed, a report goes out incorrectly, or a very minor mistake that could easily be fixed is left to become a bigger one through her inaction. I know she has a point about showing people the need for order, but aren’t we here to help those we work with above all things?” — C., Operations Clerk

A couple of things jumped out at me when I read this admin’s question: lesson teaching and procedures.

As a travel enthusiast, I relish every opportunity to travel, whether physically or virtually. During July, virtual travel absorbs my attention through the “toughest cycle race in the world”, the Tour de France. This year’s race began on June 29, and I diligently watch the nightly replays to see what happened at each stage and root for my team retroactively. If you have never watched the Tour de France but you dream of visiting France someday (a bucket list item, perhaps?), check it out; the scenery of the French countryside, villages, mountains and ultimately the streets of Paris as the cyclists speed toward the finish along the Champs-Elysees provides a virtual tour that is second only to actually feeling the whoosh as the teams race by the crowds. I also owe much of my enjoyment of the race to the commentators who report on and educate me on the strategies that the teams use to win the coveted jerseys and stages. Imagine, then, if a member of Team Europcar, for example, took Karen’s approach: What if a team member refuses to help his team’s sprinter get back into place in the peloton after a crash or flat tire? Who suffers the consequences—only the sprinter or the entire team?


Wouldn’t it be better to give a team member or co-worker the benefit of the doubt and treat the mistake as just that, a mistake. Use the moment to guide and correct rather than to set up the person and the rest of the group for a bigger defeat? On the Tour, as in the workplace, each person’s goal should be to contribute whatever it takes to move the organization forward. To sabotage a team member is to sabotage oneself.

The second point is on the strict adherence to procedures. I like rules and procedures. I like structure. When everyone on a team is following the same procedure, time is saved, results can be measured and compared more easily than if everyone did their own thing. However, if a person does not “follow procedures to the letter”, is it possible to achieve the desired result? Whose expectations are we talking about—Karen’s or the company’s? Is there any room for flexibility, creativity or improvement? Not in the minds of the “Karens” who lie in wait for the offending team member to crash and burn. The result could be a lost—very important—contract. Or the adjustment of a piece of machinery that, if left faulty, could result in a serious injury. The result could be a lawsuit, a missed flight, a wrong diagnosis. “Karens” may feel validated about being right when things go wrong, but who loses?

The very, very (enormously) large majority of us will never wear the yellow, green, or polka dot jerseys in the toughest cycle race in the world. We are, however, all team members of the human race. It serves no purpose to sabotage the next guy just to teach him a lesson. Let us, instead, help those we work with above all things.


This information is proudly provided by Business Management Daily.com: http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/35949/how-do-you-deal-with-the-lesson-teaching-co-worker.

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