A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about disrespect.
Hello, I am an extruder operator for a rubber factory. I have worked for my current company about six years, but I worked at the now closed Johnson Rubber for thirty-five years. I have moved up to middle management within these six years. From my experience as a floor worker who has moved up the ladder, I have noticed that the communication between the floor workers and the office users. The lower staff/ floor workers feel disrespected at times. What can I bring up in our daily/monthly meetings to improve the communication and relations between the levels of the company ladder?
Signed–In The Middle
Dear Extruder In the Middle:
Congratulations for your long years dong work that few of us know how to do and for earning promotion to middle management. Being in the middle is not always comfortable–too often those below expect you to make things better for them and those above or in a different department expect you to see that those below just do their jobs and keep their mouths shut. But being in the middle offers special opportunity to improve communication among those above, below and to the side.
There is nothing more discouraging than to feel your work and opinions are not valued. Your question asking what might generate respect for those who feel disrespect is important. It probably springs from sensing the way operators feel and observing how they are mistreated, taken for granted or ignored.
Rather than focusing on specific instances in which disrespect was shown, let me suggest several ideas you might propose that should have a good payoff–ideas you might do as an individual or things you might propose in a staff meeting or at an appropriate time to someone with whom you have shared your concern that extruders feel disrespected.
- Make a special effort to acknowledge work of extruder operators that you know is well done. A few words of praise go a long way. Those on the floor know you know what is good work and the kind of grit it takes.
- Analyze what information those on the floor need to get—when, where and how it is best understood and respectfully given. Talk with extruders. Learn from them what they want and want to be better. Make a list of what you learn. Perhaps then circulate it and ask those you work with to rate each item from Not Important 1 2 3 4 5 Very Important.
- Do the same with Office Staff–focusing on what they want from operators that would make their jobs easier and more effective.
- Propose Communication Improvement Effort. This might take whatever form a small committee would decide, such as a focus group made up of workers on the floor and of those in the office. This group could generate answers to two questions: a. when and how those on the floor get information from the office–by memo, via supervisors, etc.? and b. ways communication can be more effective.
- Shadow visit day. Such a day might entail select staff observing and talking with extruders and vice versa representatives of extruders observing and talking with office staff. The purpose of such a project might be explained as an office floor effort to payoff in workplace respect.
- Propose a quality effectiveness effort. Such a project might entail a cross-departmental team of extruders and office staff. Its goal would be to find ways to make everyone job easier, more effective and fun. Yes, fun! Work is hard and those who do hard work will do it better when they can smile and enjoy those with whom they work. That’s why some companies have a dress down day or Friday afternoon singalong.
Do any of these suggestions strike you as possibilities or spur you to think of others? The by-product of following through with one or more of these six ideas, I predict will be a more engaged workplace and feelings of being valued. Please feel free to tell us what you do and what does and doesn’t work. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.