Interpersonal Edge: Getting 'stupid' employees to execute simple instructions
Monday, March 31, 2014

 By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Media Services
 Q. I was just promoted into management and am shocked at how stupid my employees can be. I give them directions and then they do 18 things I didn't want. I'm getting really frustrated and curt with them. How do I make sure they do tasks the way I want them done?
  A. To get subordinates to deliver the performance you want, you'll need to start by realizing you've been assuming everyone thinks the way you do. You'll also need to get over being mad that people don't think the way you do.
  People come to work with multiple different perspectives on the "right" way to get work done. If you fail to be idio- proof specific about both the process of a task and the outcome you want, you will spend a lot of time at work both disappointed and angry.
  As you become more specific about what and how you want things done, you'll discover most people aren't as stupid as you now believe. They just think about problems in different ways than you do.
  Here are some ways around the common problems managers face:
  -Repeat instructions to employees who don't listen. Communicate in every medium even when you believe someone has understood you. Verbalize a request, email a request, demonstrate the task, and watch as the employee performs the task. 
  -When you believe you have been understood, look at employees and ask them to repeat what you are asking them to do. Nine times out of 10, you'll discover before they screw up that they misunderstood you.
  -Examine ways you can establish repetitive protocols for simple tasks that you post all over your office. Email these protocols and make sure employees read both the emails and what you post. People will stop annoying you with simple mistakes if you post easy instructions on how to do what you want.
  -Put your most annoying employees in charge of training other employees. You'll discover that when an employee has to train another employee in a task, they realize just how frustrating it is to keep repeating themselves. If you want an employee to learn a skill better, make them the corporate trainer for that skill.
  -Let employees save face. If they keep trying to solve the same problem the same way and then whining, point out that you are certain they are trying different approaches to a solution. Don't bite their head off for expecting different results with the same approach. Encourage them to continue to try different approaches when they are stuck before they come to you.
  Being a manager is very similar to being a parent, and parenting has been compared to being pecked to death by chickens. The difference, of course, is your own children seem so adorable that most days you can tolerate the frustration of parenting. Employees who are frustrating seem anything but cute.
  Your frustration can be your ally if you use your anger as emotional gas to brainstorm solutions that make it more likely employees will do what you want. Wishing and hoping employees will someday think like you is about as effective as waiting for a unicorn.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This was printed in the March 23, 2014 - April 5, 2014  edition

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