Mon | Jan 21, 2019

The big-stick mentality

Published:Tuesday | September 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

I saw a notice on the bathroom door of a certain company. It said:

Kindly ensure that you flush after use.

Signed: Management

Many, many, many questions immediately arose in my mind. I wanted to know, specifically, which member of the management team took ownership of the sign? Did it form part of their strategic objectives? And would one day "90 per cent increase in toilet flushing" eventually make it to their resume's list of accomplishments. If the sign were signed by the cleaning lady, would compliance have been lower?

To me the sign was very troubling, and my questions remain unanswered. What also troubles me more than the sign is the power of Bossy's beating stick. Management say I must flush, so I had better ...or else.

The perceived weight of 'Management' drives me bonkers. Both the reverence bestowed upon them by their staff and also the self-importance some place on themselves. As a fledgling CEO on my own journey, I'm at a stage in my business where I'm carving out my management style, and figuring out the kind of boss I want to be. One thing I know for sure, this boss won't have a beating stick.

I love Richard Branson's radical approach to corporate governance, specifically HR. He announced this week that staff in his US and UK offices could take as much time off as they needed to - "a few hours, a day, a week, a month". The assumption being that each employee ensures that his or her absence doesn't affect business and work carries on. There is no backra about to watch their time clocks and each staff member is held responsible for his or her own productivity. That is 'Management'.

In my humble opinion, managers should spend more time managing the affairs of the business rather than the people that work there. Major in the major: strategic objectives, growth plans, budget spend; not who flushes the toilet or who came in at 9:10. Hire competent people and let them loose to do their jobs.

Too often in their high and mighty rule, managers forget that their staff members are people. People with initiatives and brains. I've seen evidence of managers who let their egos get in the way of productivity. You probably can't do your staff's job better than they can. Allow them to do their work without your interference.

Trust in your people's ability to do the job you hired them to, with your guidance, or you stand to develop (and encourage) mindless drone behaviour. This can in no way augur well for the company. Manage your business. Supervise and support your staff.

Too often in their high and mighty rule, managers forget that their staff members are people. People with lives and families. One of my top motivations for working for myself was in preparation for the day that I become a mother. Why should someone have to sacrifice sports day for a conference call? Why can't you leave early on your birthday? If that two hours your team member spends at sports day is going to mean the collapse of your business, you have bigger problems. Manage that!

Manage with love, not fear. As it relates to people management, your objective should be the development and welfare of your staff. Treat them well and facilitate their growth. Management by fear is ineffective and very destructive. Manage with common sense above rules and policies. You play strictly by the rules, and so will your staff, and they will do barely what their contract says and not a drop more; in at 9 and out at 5 on the nose.

The Great Harry Smith taught me perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learnt in my career. When I just started working for him, I was pulling really late nights, trying to impress the boss. He came in and saw me diligently working at my desk one night and said, "Why are you still here? You here, at this time, means either that you can't manage the work I've given you to do during working hours or you've been idling all day and are now trying to catch up ... .and neither is a good look. Close your computer and go home to your family."

Lesson learnt. It's not about the hours your people spend at work. It's about the quality of their output. The days of the plantation are long gone. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.

Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to and, or tweet @findpatria.