Paul Butler: Three types of employees

Paul Butler

I’ve come to the conclusion there are essentially three types of employees — those who need a light, those who ARE the light and those who need to be lit up! Let’s take a look into the working world of these three categories.

Many organizations invest a lot of time to create a compelling mission, an inspiring vision and a noble set of values. We could say the mission is the “why” — why does the organization exist? What is its purpose? What problem does it offer to solve in the crowded marketplace? We could say the vision is “where does the organization want to get to and by when?” We could say the values are the “how” — how do we want to work together as we achieve our vision and champion our mission?

My observation has been that our first category of employee (those who need a light) tend to do better in an organization that has a clear mission, vision and set of values. You see, they need a light to find their way. Without such a light they’d likely stumble.

The problem with this first category of employee is the light may dim or even go out completely because organizations fail; leaders fall from grace and co-workers can be fickle. My point is, this first category of employee has to be constantly inspired and motivated because the light is external to them.

Let’s move to our second category of employee — those who ARE the light. I can best exemplify this category by providing a case in point. I attend a local gym and the gentleman who looks after the cleaning of the gym is named Ricardo. I doubt very much whether he knows the mission of the management company that runs the gym. The management company has likely not communicated their vision statement to him. Ricardo also strikes me as the kind of worker who doesn’t need to be indoctrinated with a set of values as he sees his own value.

Ricardo is perhaps one of the best workers I have ever witnessed at work. I can see a light within Ricardo — I can see it in his eyes. He’s never late. His work is impeccable. I’ve never seen him in a bad mood. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him taking a sick day. I’ve never heard him bad-mouth management or other co-workers. His attention to detail is awe-inspiring. He lights up that gym by his presence.

I asked him recently where his work ethic came from and he replied: “I observed my father working hard and I believed that’s what a man should do. I work hard to provide for my family and set an example for them. I treat the gym as if it’s my home — I like a clean home and I know the members appreciate a clean gym. It’s simple really.”

Our third category needs to be lit up — meaning they have to be constantly managed, monitored and measured. These employees lack personal accountability, so supervisors have to watch over all they do. This third category of employees are exhausting for organizations as they absorb so much time and management energy.

Unfortunately, due to labor laws and inordinately powerful unions, you’ll often see this third category of employee protected in the workplace. These folks would have to do something bordering on the criminal to be fired. They want the most for doing the least. They are usually quite unhappy people. I believe this is because their conscience deep, deep down serves as a compass to call out their lack of workplace excellence.

I hope this short article encourages those who need a light to actually become more like Ricardo and be the light to others. Likewise, I hope this article encourages those who need to be lit up to appreciate what they have and commit in this new year to be more engaged; be more accountable; be more proactive and, in doing so, I’ll guarantee you’ll also be a little happier in your work.

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