Killing them with Kindness? Try ‘tough love’ with staff

"Biggest Goldfish I've ever seen!"

My youngest daughter Nicole had a goldfish (note the past tense). She’d inherited it from her older sister Amie who was basically too lazy to change the water, every 6 weeks or so (Amie could make a cadaver seem like someone with ADHT). Anyway, back to the goldfish. Despite swimming in a murky mess for most of it’s life and getting fed inconsistently, it somehow survived and was slowly but surely getting bigger. A marine miracle!

Water Change: Last week Nicole decided to change the water. She is basically kind and felt that the cold water must be uncomfortable for such a small fish. Can you see where this is going? Later I tried to explain to her that:

A. Goldfish don’t do the upside down backstroke (“Eh yes, it is dead”) &
B. Filling the goldfish bowl from the shower was a nice gesture but water that scalds your hand is not ‘tepid’.

The fish went on its final swim down the main toilet to join Nemo and friends. Nicole seems to have recovered well. We are now talking about a new pup.

Easy Life: Some people view staff relations in similar fashion to the way Nicole managed that goldfish. Either because of a genuine kindness (or, more often, an attempt to make themselves popular) they do everything in their power to make life easy for staff. They confuse empathy and sympathy and want to remove all the pain of everyday working. Bill Attley was the former General Secretary of SIPTU. Many times he told members: “I can protect you from exploitation, but I can’t protect you from work”. As a manager, you don’t have to apologize to anyone for asking them to do their job.

Don’t overkill your people with kindness. While the sentiment may be admirable, the results are seldom pretty. Push them off the edge of the cliff, and watch them soar on their own. Central point: Everyone owns their own happiness.

Paul Mooney

PS While on the subject of family, ‘hero of the week award’ goes to my sister Teresa. She sent me a first text message last Friday. Not bad for a 73 year old! There’s hope for us all yet!


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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