Eighteen months ago, armed with a new computer programming degree and an abundance of novitiate enthusiasm, John accepted a job with a company specializing in medical billing and accounting software. Six-months later, his initial excitement dulled, John, a prototypical wall-fly, found himself swatted to an office corner, buzzing anonymously through his daily diet of stale computer-code proofing.
As he scrolled through line after mind-numbing line of code, John happened upon a new method to streamline the programming process. Putting his squeamish introversion aside, he then delivered the exciting news to his boss.
“John,” the boss replied, glinting quizzically, “we already have a programming method in place. And I think your colleagues do a more-than-satisfactory job. I suggest you return to your desk, and continue to work on your current assignments.”
Ignore at Your Own Peril: The Overlooked Employee
“One of the most common complaints worker have about their jobs is that management doesn’t value their opinions,” explains Donald Ladew in How to Supervise People: Techniques for Getting Results through Others, “Each person in your department has something unique and valuable to offer.”
John’s manager not only overlooked his input, he squashed it; and John responded in turn by quietly pursuing employment elsewhere.
Soon, a rival firm, who valued his computer skills and high aptitude, offered John a position. Within days, his new supervisor confided, “We think you have great potential and want to work with you to our benefit … and to yours.”
John quickly found out how true that statement was as management frequently solicited his ideas and opinions. Within a few months, John found himself regularly seated in upper-management meetings.
During one of those meetings — echoing the moment of thwarted discovery at his previous employer — John offered an outline regarding a more efficient Medicare billing procedure. The idea, his colleagues wholeheartedly agreed, was valuable, perhaps revolutionary; and, as they would soon find out, John’s new program would add millions to the company’s bottom-line.
Those millions, as luck would have it, would allow the company to purchase one of their primary competitors — John’s old company. Now enjoying a promotion to Vice President of Software, John was asked to oversee sixty new employees.
One of those new employees? Yeah, you guessed it … John’s former boss.
Below the Radar: Three Specific Types
John’s corporate rags-to-riches narrative is certainly unique. But, the frustrating fact remains, too many managers ignore certain types of employees, allowing their insights and contributions to languish. In his book Ladew identifies workers who may have the potential to spark new energy in a department were they given the proper encouragement by upper management. He notes three specific personality types that tend to get overlooked:
- The Angry Worker. He or she constantly complains. According to the author, these individuals are often considered a nuisance, and thus ignored. However, this person may be voicing complaints about workplace conditions or procedures that others are too afraid to mention. Rather than ignoring this person, a manager might put this employee on-the-spot, ask how he or she would solve specific problems, then place them in-charge of improvements. In effect, Ladew recommends channeling the worker’s anger into constructive action.
- The Status Quo Worker. He or she doesn’t want to rock the boat. Ladew notes that this employee may be the hardest of the three personality types to inspire, as he or she may have slipped into a state of hyper-caution, considering self-censorship as the most effective means to guarantee job security. “Take a gentle approach with them,” recommends Ladew. “Realize their caution comes from the fear of losing their jobs if they make waves. Put them in situations where they must take small risks, and reward them by supporting their efforts and encouraging confidence in themselves and you.”
- The Quiet Worker. They simply get the job done. Time and time again. Ladew remarks that everyone has a different way of communicating, and, while it’s easy to take this type of invisible employee for granted, he or she may also be a potential wellspring of valuable suggestions, champing at the bit to contribute.
Energy Prompts Synergy
Finally, Ladew advises that management should recognize the unique and valuable contributions each type of employee can provide: “Identify what you think might be keeping them from contributing more, and then think of ways you can encourage them to unleash their inner energy.” The end result may be a sizable windfall, such as John provided with his dynamic software solution. Or, it could result in something less grand, but nonetheless beneficial, to your workplace. Regardless of scale, in an energy-depleted world any positive workplace advantage that can be discovered and accrued is well-worth pursuing.