This I Believe

Sandy - Jamestown, Ohio
Entered on July 3, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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“Hey, you!” “Who, me?” “No, you!” “Follow me. What’s your name? Do you work here?” “What are you, crazy?” “You’re the worst person I ever saw!”

Ask any MBA or professor of business and they will tell you that’s NOT the way to talk to your employees. I always learned: praise in public, criticize in private. That was the key to dealing with your employees.

I have worked in the Olive Kettering Library for thirteen years and heard those statements and others like them on a daily basis. My boss, Joe never, EVER would use glowing phrases to talk to his employees. If you were concentrating hard on something he might come up behind you, shake his keys in your face and ask you “Are you awake?” It’s someone’s birthday and you want to have a little party at break time? “That’s sissy stuff!” Thousands of people across this country have listened to Joe. Many of them have gone on to manage their own businesses or supervise employees. Quite a few went on to become librarians.

I belong to several virtual communities and someone is always getting into a beef with someone else because they didn’t like how something was “said”. They’ll take exception to the “tone” used and the recriminations will go round and round, sometimes for days. Other people will get involved. You’ve heard of this. They’re called flame wars. Pretty soon no one’s sure just what the topic was in the first place. All because there were no visual cues to help people understand. Yes, I know about emoticons but it’s just not the same thing. The tone of voice and the cues just aren’t there.

My boss Joe died earlier this year. It was a great sorrow to those of us that have known and worked with him over the 53 years he was at the OKL and Antioch College. Joe didn’t need an MBA (the Idea Boys, he called them) to tell him how to talk to his employees. I’d give anything to hear Joe say, “You’re the worst person I ever saw!” with that twinkle he always had in his eyes, because this I believe – it’s not necessarily what you say but how you say it that really matters.

And Joe, if you’re listening – “Don’t fall down! That’s the whole key!”