Employees Don't Want Responsibility


From original questioner:

Interestingly, one of the most recurrent problems I run into in my shop is employees who avoid any type of responsibility. I have a 5 man shop and I am often elsewhere doing estimates etcetera. It is very hard to find people who are interested in taking on responsibility for managing the details on larger projects. The result can be lots of loose ends. I'm not sure that higher salaries work even, as this business seems to attract a lot of introverts who would rather, frankly, be working alone. Any ideas?

From contributor Ji

I have two employees. One has been with me 7 years, the other about 8 months.
The more I take responsibility for, the less they assume.
I now have a MANDATORY "team engagement meeting" at 8am sharp EVERY morning. First thing it does is let you know who's late and how often. We address this at the meeting as well, so everyone is clear on expectations.
I have a large white board with the various project headings along with job status and any materials/hardware not on hand for each project.
We can quickly cover the board, assesing whats here/not here, done and needing to be done for completion to ship.
If we cover anything thats not in inventory, my job immediately after the meeting is to source the material or hardware needed. If we agree that we have everything needed, we now need to agree on a completion date. It will be completed or there will be repercussions or heated exchange about why- usually revealing their taking off unscheduled time or tending other personal issues. That let's us address that as well. If need be (rarely), we can go to the office individually to further discuss their absenteeism, tardiness, or quality issues and remedy.
I also include having the install truck organizing and trailer preparedness on the schedule, so there is no free time for them to monkey off. We also have an after lunch huddle to see that were on target for the day.
It's made a huge difference in production and completion for delivery, because they know everyday whats expected, because we covered it at least within the last four hours.
I found if you don't cover it they will assume it's not critical or holding a job from completion.
Make it a point to "inspect" what you "expect".
Next step is to let one of them lead the meeting.

From contributor Pa


The real problem is you haven't trained your guys.

It is hard to be responsible for something you do not know or cannot control.

lf someone puts you in an airplane you are going to be reluctant to take responsibility for flying the airplane because you do not know how to control an airplane.

From contributor Sc

Employees need to be given their job description/responsibility expectations. This information should be discussed with the employee to make sure they understand what is expected; have the employee sign off on it and then monitor progress giving feed back(coaching and encouraging)each day. You should see progress. If you don't……why? Then communicate that to the employee. You must be able to decide: 1) are they competent? 2)are they having personal issues? 3)are they properly trained? Let the employee know the team needs them to perform so the entire team succeeds and their annual review will reflect their accomplishments. Ultimately write ups will reinforce the accountability you are expecting. I recommend reading the "The One Minute Manager" as it is a great book! Good Luck!

From contributor Ro

I get it. Some have the eagerness and hunger inside of them and some don't. You can't train that. If you need guys that take on more responsibility then you have to keep nexting guys until you find one that will do that.

There are some though that won't step up until they do feel more comfortable with what they are doing, but they are rare. Usually the initiative is shown from the get go and it's not trainable/teachable except to very small degrees by the time men are grown until they face a crisis in their life that make them reevaluate themselves. But trust me, you don't wan't to go through the crisis with somebody unless you have to. So either find someone that was born with the ability, had it trained into them thru their raising or someone that has already crossed that crisis bridge and decided that they are up for that responsibility.

From contributor La

There is no absolute answer to this. Hiring for attitude VS anything else.
Training for the tasks.
Learning through repetition.
Being allowed to make mistakes and not feel put down, but showing they have learned from them.
Positive encouragement.
Be put in a position where they know it is their responsibility to get it done and not be micro managed.
Then there is the Peter principle of advancement.
Not everyone has the motivation to do anything other than the minimum to meet there personal goals, payday is Friday!

From contributor pa

I don't disagree with the peter principle as it is true.

But considering how much effort is put into establishing the shop we put hardly any effort into training.

To only give a guy feed back once year with a xmas bonus is driving down the road by looking in the rear view mirror.

The starting point of a training program is a metric of how the worker is doing.

I think a primary benefit of design software is that it makes policy clear, really this is training.

Policy is an accumulation of the reason we do it this way is to avoid that that just occured again... How many us make our policy clear?

How many us have everybody do every thing rather than training someone to do one thing really expertly? I have heard of German machinist apprenticeships taking 15 yr. If you watch a journeyman German cabinrtmaker at work you realize there is more to know than the 5 min we spend showing a guy how to do a task.

How many of us have a chart showing everyone who's function is who's? And then making sure they are trained at that function.

When everyone is certain of these things and in agreement with these things it is the equivalent of a winning team verses a losing team of super stars who don't play as a team.

I look at Paul Akers spending a hour every morning on trainng with his entire company in attendance. He says it is worth it.

It seems to me that a lot of the problems are caused by a lack of training.

From contributor Ma

I think without a doubt when you move your shop/business into the realm of a Toyota plant these issues become more an more sound. Of course in theory and practice, simply being in business we are all already "the Toyota plant" but I think a lot of these rah rah, tony robbins, mantra's, dont account well for the fact that many of these small shops are a much more intimate affair. Of course its likely smart to avoid that and keep your shop strictly to a lean/book/business philosophy (we'd all likely retire with more in the bank) but the sad fact is its much harder in practice.

I have been dealing with these very issues for perhaps the past ten years no different than anyone here. You pick up a guy who says he is, and seems to be, motivated at the onset only to find its a lot of hot air. As one reply stated, you just start "nexting" people hoping to hit the powerball one day by chance finding "Neo". The books try to tell you you can fabricate "Neo", I dont believe it.

I have personally tried nearly every technique I have read and heard of to craft a future "me" but the simple fact is, and not that I or anyone here am anything special, I think the people who really apply themselves and push themselves (without having to be pushed) are either few and far between, or are being wrung out of the workforce before they even get there.

My personal belief is, in wanting ever more for their children, the past several generations have expected less and less of them which has done all of us, and them, a great disservice. I coined a phrase a long while back (may not even be original) when a friend much older than I was complaining about his grandson who he and his wife had pampered an coddled through this boys entire life.. I said "you cant expect anything from someone who has never had anything expected of them". I feel thats the truth. Sadly they unleashed a burden onto the workforce to do their dirty work and re-train him at the hardest time in ones life.

Ive said for a long time, I honestly dont think I ever went to work to make money? Its just that thats what you do. It wasnt that I inherently wanted "stuff". I didnt go to work to buy a new pair of pants, or car, or gee gaw. I just worked because thats what your supposed to do? Right? You want to work your way higher and higher. If I saw my boss do something I wanted to do it as well or better.

It just doesnt seem to exist anymore (and I am only 46) and no amount of training, compensation, or pep-talking is going to "instill" that in someone it seems. It has to be in there from a young age.

It seems to be a recipe for reducing your production down to kindergarten tasks and being at peace with going through lots and lots of staff.

From contributor La

OK, The recession has ended, lots of work. Have added some equipment and rearranged some to improve flow. Now need two or three motivated employees, no prior experience required. The area we are in has a sub 3% unemployment. my ads have produced: people looking for something to put on their form showing they are actively looking so they can keep their unemployment money. One guy so stoned he needed help back out the door. Two who had lost their drivers licenses due to DWIs, and the usual couple that knew everything there was to know about this business and couldn't identify to equipment but were sure they would be fine with it in a day or two... etc.... What's the secret to finding them? You'd think that after 30 years in this business I'd have figured it out.

From contributor Pa


If you can't tell the difference between what I'm saying and some rah rah blather, then what I'm indicating will be of no use to you.

The question is were those disciplines created because Toyota got that big or did Toyota get that big because of those disciplines.


There is a dearth of worker because # 1 there are rewarded for not working, # 2 because of the demographics, # 3 because technology creates the ability to produce more in less time, people instinctively go towards technology.

The answer is more technology certainly in the case of entry level workers.

BTW entry level jobs are what create the work force. Minimum wage eliminates this eventuality from the work force.

From contributor Da

Brian - I find that employees are like children. I mean no disrespect by saying that (to either group), it is just that their behaviors are similar, so the solution is also similar. One might also say the same about dogs....

Children and employees benefit from a set of expectations, goals, support, structure, recognition, discipline and good examples. Just as the kids in a store that are screaming, or running around in restaurants, or stabbing the teacher, employees will goof off, miss goals, shirk responsibility, steal and more. You cannot expect the shop hands to come together and do good work just because they are there and on the clock.

First, have known procedures and then have known methods for those procedures. Shop standards printed out and for everyone. Litter the shop with them so not having access is not an excuse. Bathrooms, break room, work stations, etc.

Depending upon what you do, you should have weekly or even daily stand up meetings where you discuss what is to be achieved that day, and perhaps an end goal for the week, or ship of the current project. The next day you should mention whether the goal was met, short or achieved with room to spare, and praise where warranted. If you estimated the goal wrong, admit that clear and simple, and promise to do better.

Ask quick questions of the workforce to see if there is anything holding them up, or what can be done. Recognize this will be a pendulum of responses - first, there will be none, then a few, then everyone will have 18 things they want done, then it will slow back down. Then it will get practical and useful.

The important thing is to establish goals and do things to meet them. Get everyone in on the effort, and those that can't or won't can be replaced. They will stand out. Let your foreman know what his responsibilities are, and hold him to them.

For those of us that are motivated and understand the big and little picture, we often overlook the fact that the employees have entirely different goals that we do. They do not think like we do, just as my dog does not think like I do. But we can all get along and do well by providing the structure and path towards what we all want.

Accountability. It's what works.