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5 Employee Behaviors Owners Shouldn’t Worry About

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After working with advisory firm owners for a long time, I think I’ve heard just about every complaint about employees that you can imagine. Many of them are valid and lead us to work with those employees so that they can make a greater contribution to the success of their firms. But others fall into what I call the “Really?” category, i.e., those in which owner-advisors are simply being overly critical, or more commonly, venting their displeasure with an employee for an unrelated issue.

Either way, here’s my list of nitpicky criticisms that I would love to never hear again. They should also should be a sign for any supervisor to take a step back—and think about what’s really going on. 

1. They have a messy desk.
Here’s the deal: some people are just neater than others. If someone isn’t organized, they are probably not going to get organized. What’s more, people are “organized” in different ways. Some of the smartest, most organized people I know have workspaces that look like rats’ nests: picture the movie cliché techno-geek, whose workstation is decorated with candy bar wrappers, soda cans and half-eaten burgers.

We’ve found that the most successful firm owners recognize that people work and organize in very different ways to work best. To get the most out of their employees, they’ve learned to stand back and let them do it their way.

2. They don’t take their laptops home.
After having gone to the expense of providing their employees with laptops so they’ll be more productive, many firm owners have a hard time with employees who seem to never take them out of the office. But what these advisors seem to forget is that in today’s virtual world, the location of one’s computer is practically meaningless. With cell phones, iPads and that thing called the Web, most of us can work from anywhere.

What’s more, probably all of your employees have a computer at home, or access to their spouse’s/significant other’s computer.

3. Using a cell phone, listening to music, and/or other social media at work.
Back in the day, people took cigarette breaks, coffee breaks and hung out at the water cooler. With bottled water, coffee machine, and predominant non-smoking, most employees don’t take those breaks anymore. But in today’s virtual world in which we’re all confronted with an endless stream of questions, requests, projects and problems, they need to take mental vacations—probably more than ever.

We Gen Xers and Yers do this by talking, texting, tweeting, listening to iTunes and emailing. So don’t begrudge your employees their “breaks.” They’ll be more productive because of them.

4. Showing up late or leaving early.
This is always a big issue for many firm owners. I know, I know, many employers like to know that they’re getting “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay,” and no one likes to feel they’re being taken advantage of. But our P4 employee studies show that there are few things an employer can do to demotivate employees faster than being a clock watcher: It just sends the wrong message.

Think of it from the employees’ perspective: “You trust me with your clients, their personal info and access to their accounts, but you don’t trust me to know when it’s okay to go home?”

Our data shows that when owners trust their employees to come and go from work responsibly, they work longer hours, take fewer vacations, exercise more initiative and are more productive. Try it: you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

5. Closing computers and apps when the owner/manager comes around.
I don’t know why this is even a concern. I guess they worry that their employees are up to something. Look up “trust” in the dictionary. My sense is that some employees are sure how their “boss” will feel about their using social media.

If firm owners make it clear that they don’t care how their employees take their breaks—and that they are expected to let their brains rest every now and then—employees won’t feel the need to cover it up. 

In our experience, advisory firm owners have many very real concerns they should be focusing on every day. The items on this list are not among them. When it comes to employees, what owners should focus on is whether every employee is getting his/her job done, getting results and being a good employee. If they meet these standards, then quit worrying about where their laptop is and when they got into the office. If they aren’t, having a neater desk probably isn’t going to be the solution.