So regular readers will remember my posts about how the short-sighted and small-minded managers at a certain company are doing really stupid things, and in the process, discouraging and demoralizing their employees. Back in June it had to do with an employee’s expense statement, and later in July, it was about a “thank you” event for their employees. Well, they’re back at it again. Last week I got yet another update in this continuing saga of stupidity and short-sightedness.
Many of the employees at this company travel for business, working with staff at various remote locations to implement a new version of a computer system. While away from their homes, as is usual in most organizations, the employees are permitted to claim their meals and other expenses on their routine expense statements. Occasionally, if they’ve spent the day working with a local staff member who has assisted greatly in getting things done, the traveling employee will invite the local worker for dinner, both as a thank-you and as a way to continue the business discussion after work hours. Well, it’s coming close to the end of the fiscal year and budgets are tight. In order to reduce expenses, management has issued a mandate that these types of dinners are no longer permitted unless they are approved in advance and in writing, and after demonstrating just cause. Most of the employees are puzzled by this management decision. For the relatively small cost, these dinners which are actually not that frequent, are an easy way to build goodwill with key local staff and go a long way towards assuring teamwork.
After the edict was issued, one (brave and fearless) employee spoke up and proposed that instead of the mindless paper-pushing need to pre-approve these dinners, perhaps managers might use their time more effectively (and save much more money) if it put some effort into better travel planning. Turns out the staff are routinely kept waiting for approval for their travel requests. By the time the managers get around to giving authorization, the travel dates are usually less than a week away, and the price of flights are almost double what they were before. “Why don’t we take the time you’d use to approve these dinners and instead approve travel requests on a timely basis (such as more than two weeks in advance); we’d save far more than the cost of these dinners?” suggested the forthright employee. The astonishingly mind-boggling reply from a manager (and a senior manager at that), “These are the rules, I don’t make them, I just follow them.”
Really? You’re a senior manager. If you don’t have the ability (or the energy) to listen to what your people are telling you and facilitate these kinds of changes, then who does? Your employees are making valid suggestions that will not only reduce expenses but also allow them to make minor decisions in the field without having to get approval from you (translation: improved employee morale)! Company management, let’s put this in perspective. The average cost of an extra diner is $50. The flight savings that could be achieved by promptly approving travel requests range from $200 to all the way up in the thousands. Is it better to work on shortening the time required to approve travel requests or should you get all tied up in approving and denying $50 dinners? C’mon, is it really that difficult a decision to determine where to focus your energy?
As always readers, your perspectives are welcomed. Tell me what you think.
Merge, interesting article. Unfortunately from my experience, common sense is not that common!
Yes agreed, budget constraints are in place in many organizations, and the validity of looking at the travel planning is where there are cost savings that will net out the dinners to build good morale with other associates and businesses.
Suki, I have to agree with you. My experience as well is that common sense is sometimes quite uncommon! But I would expect much more from a senior manager!
sk, thanks for your input. Employee morale is SO important that I shudder when I see managers make decisions that are not only economically stupid, but also destroy morale.