Getting oil without being the squeaky wheel

On a daily basis I hear stories of the same 5-6 yr. olds that throw fits, have their “behavior cards” moved and keep the rest of the class from being awarded a dance party at the end of the day. I began to think, either these kids have a great PR person or the same thing holds true today that existed when I was in elementary school… the kid that tends to act out in class gets most of the attention and word of mouth publicity. While the teacher doesn’t set out to deprive the other hungry little minds of time, more times than not his or her energy is spent reeling in a classmate that is not as engaged.

It holds true with adults. As a manager, it is natural to focus time and resources on those that are disengaged and disruptive. The squeaky wheels get the oil they always say. But you know, the last time I literally had to replace a wheel/tire, it didn’t make any noise. I woke up one morning and it was flat. No warning, no reminder, it just silently checked out. So maybe it’s the quiet wheels we need to take more care of.

We don’t want our exceptional team members checking out or leaving for lack of personal attention or opportunities. We need them…even though we assume that they’re “O.K.” or they “Got it!” because they’re doing their job and doing it well. How valuable are your good employees to you? Are they worth changing how you focus your attention? It costs much more to replace them than to “pay” them attention. What would happen if we were brave enough to focus not on the employees that were gossiping in the break room or being negative in our team meetings, but those that took the concepts we taught and applied them and helped to make the team better? What would happen if we did not take for granted those employees that enjoy what they do and take pride in the organization they work for? We’d retain them and grow our organization, that’s what.

Employees that positively impact our teams with their work get better when they are nurtured. When hard work is rewarded with positive reinforcement, work goes to another level and people will consciously and subconsciously do what’s necessary to keep getting it.

And those negative, attention seeking team members looking for cronies and conflict will do either one of two things:

1. Make attempts to be a part of the solution and the now positive atmosphere that’s been created, or

2. Realize that their squeaky antics are no longer tolerated and they will do what’s best for all parties involved….leave.

It’s amazing how drastic of a behavioral change occurs when an Amen Corner has decided that they’ll follow management’s program and there is no one left to cheer and support negativity.

Once a squeaky wheel gets to a certain point, oiling it no longer works. There will be silence, but the true issue remains. We must come to the realization that the wheel/employee just needs to be replaced before it begins to infect the performance of those that remain. Proactive management, maintenance and diagnostic tests help to determine where your valuable managerial time and effort should be focused. While you may need to jack the car up occasionally to replace a wheel, it’s far better and less costly than having to put the whole car up on bricks needing a full set.

Three tires too late….

One thought on “Getting oil without being the squeaky wheel

  1. Finally! Someone gets it! I have constantly made these suggestions at my current place of employment. A simple thank you, to show appreciation for keeping up the good work. The director replied that she did not need to say thank for “doing what you are SUPPOSED to do.” Wow! Now, being that she is a wife and mother, that surprised me. I’m sure that if her husband never showed appreciation for what she does for her household, she would FEEL unappreciated even though she is supposed to do those things. Most managers/directors forget that they are humans working WITH humans….. forget about the TITLE and step off the pedestal! I agree with getting rid of nonproductive employees. Of course, we naturally question hard work, when we see others who do poorly remain on the staff. But, most people want to perform well on the job, and not for a pat on the back, but because of self satisfaction. And that deserves recognition.


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