Recently, I had the privilege of patronising a small business in an attempt to print and bind a document. After agreeing with the supervisor on what I needed, I proceeded to wait to collect my items and make the payment. However, it was apparent that the supervisor made an error in processing my order; this resulted in the production of my order plus a duplication of the order. Upon realising the mistake and immediately seeing an opportunity for us both to benefit; I offered to pay for the balance of the order that was missing, along with the additional accessories to complete the product, in exchange for the extras that would have otherwise be discarded. To the rationale mind, this would have been a sensible and efficient approach to reduce the cost of the mistake to the business. However, the supervisor did not agree, she explained that while she understood what I was proposing, she did not have the authority to allow it, as it was the business policy to discard documents that were printed in error, rather than allowing the customer to leave with the items.
This is a perfect example of an employee’s failure to use initiative in unique circumstances. It is believed that this may be because employees fear the repercussions of their actions. A number of managers complain about their employees’ lack of initiative and in the same breath chastise employees for making decisions without consulting them first. In the world of business, ‘you simply cannot have your cake and eat it too’. Managers can either choose to micro manage every action of their employees or enable employees to put common sense above business policies when it becomes necessary, even when they are not in total agreement with the decision.
It is believed that while company policies are useful, there is no single best response to every situation that may arise during the day to day operations of a business. As such, the best response is to take into account the uniqueness of the challenge and the prevailing factors. This can only happen when managers stop being afraid to allow employees to use their initiative and instead empower employees with the skills and confidence to make sensible decisions. The fear of making decisions can seriously cripple your business, hence there is nothing to fear but fear itself.
Dr. Wendyann Richardson is a Management Consultant who specializes in corporate governance, business operations management and refining of skills through training. She can be reached at [email protected]