Common Sense

Do you get peeved when an employee doesn’t seem to have common sense?!

Common sense – two deadly words for a manager to dwell on. (with all due respect to Thomas Paine!)

How come?

We all get irritated when someone doesn’t do something that is common sense.  For example, they don’t respond to an email, don’t say thank you, don’t tell you there is a problem.

Whatever you think is common sense is common sense – for you.

But that’s the problem!  Common sense is different for everyone.  Many of our communication failures are because we think something is common sense and someone doesn’t do it, and we get irritated/annoyed/stressed.

Common sense is based on assumptions and you know what happens when you assume (for a funny explanation of what happens when you assume, I refer you to, where you can see the legendary Tony Randall as Felix Unger explain it in a scene from The Odd Couple)

I’m not proposing to treat everyone as simpletons.  But when you’re having communication problems get back to the basics.  Where does the disconnect start?  Where do you need to go back and talk about something that might be seemingly obvious to you?

When we stop ourselves from getting irritated at things we view as common sense:

  • We are being solution oriented vs staying stuck in our indignation
  • We are willing to have a conversation about the situation
  • We can listen and question for solutions

After all, you have at times not done something that is common sense for someone else.  Wouldn’t you want them to come back to you and try and rectify the situation?


Are you talking gibberish to your employees?

I think managers, at one time or another, have found themselves speaking “company talk,” standard lines that don’t sound sincere to you, but you say them anyway, and you know they sound like gibberish!

Lines such as “everyone needs to pitch in,” “you need to be more of a team player,” “doing the task is good for the company.”

Guess what?  If you think what you’re saying is company talk/gibberish, then there is a likely chance it’s taken that way, and the conversation is ineffective.

How do you change the talk?

Figure out what’s in it for them.

No one does anything if they don’t know what’s in it for them.  You don’t do things for the company if somehow, you didn’t figure out what’s in it for you.  Mother Theresa did a lot of good helping the poor, but she wouldn’t have done it if she didn’t get personal satisfaction from it!!

Company talk sounds like gibberish to employees when they aren’t connected to what it is they need to do.

How do you figure out what’s in it for your employee?  A good place to start is to ask them.

Two things are in it for them, as they are for everyone.  There either is a benefit or a consequence.  Meaning that those of us who might do things for the benefit of the company, have found the benefit for us as well, which could be that simply following the rules is easier than resisting them.

When we find out what’s in it for our employees to do tasks:

  • We are getting them to connect to the motivation, whether it’s a benefit gained or consequence avoided
  • They are more likely to complete the task
  • You will have a process to get other tasks completed

And you’ll find yourself talking less gibberish!

Fake news and Management

How do you unbiasedly listen to those employees you don’t trust?

The term fake news has become prominent in our culture, causing more people to question what is true and what isn’t.

As managers, you have that challenge every day, especially with those employees you don’t trust.

Your lack of trust can prohibit you from being effective as their manager.

So how do you rectify this?

You need to separate what you think is true to just the facts.  You need to be objective instead of being subjective.

This is quite simple to do while being one of the most challenging things you can do!

When we have negative opinions about someone, we often don’t realize they are opinions and not facts.

My employee has a bad attitude.  My employee isn’t a team player.  My employee isn’t working hard enough.

All of these are opinions.  They aren’t facts!

So, what are facts for each of the above?

Possible answers

Opinion Fact
My employee has a bad attitude They turned in a report with three errors
My employee isn’t a team player They were late to the status meeting
My employee isn’t working hard enough They got only 70% of their calls done


Think about it.  If you were the employee, if you had to hear one of the above, you’d probably not want to hear either, but if needed to hear one of them, I’m guessing you’d rather hear the information in the right column.


Because it’s not attacking you personally.

If you told someone they weren’t working hard enough, most people wouldn’t say “I know.”  They would get defensive, because you attacked them personally.

When you talk facts with your employees:

  • Your discussions will be aligned with results, not human flaws
  • You can solicit and create better work habits
  • Trust between the two of you will grow

And you will find that those you don’t trust, you start to trust.  Thus, you are more effective as a manager, and you have to do less work to get more results!

Employees with bad attitudes!

What progress do you make with employees having bad attitudes?

Probably not much.  More likely, it’s a regular source of stress and irritation to you.

I remember a former manager told me I had a bad attitude.  I had two words for her, which, while proving her right in that moment, didn’t do anything to build trust and rapport between us.  My lack of respect for her decreased.

Telling an employee, they have a bad attitude, usually will not get them to do what you want them to do.

It is a personal attack, which most will defend (although a genius answer an employee could give if told they have a bad attitude would be thanks, that’s what I was going for!)

A bad attitude is your opinion, it’s not a fact.

Most people don’t think they have a bad attitude, they think you have the bad attitude, or they are justified in feeling the way they do.

These opinions and discussions will usually not get the work done.

The big challenge for you would be to get past your opinion and come up with a fact.

How do you come up with a fact for someone with a bad attitude?

Focus on something they aren’t doing.  Don’t mention the attitude.

Some examples include:

  • Your report had three errors.
  • You missed the deadline.
  • You aren’t responding to my emails within X hours

While your employee might come up with excuses for anything mentioned above, its less personal because their character is not being attacked.

Giving feedback that is factual, objective, specific and measurable makes it more about the work and less about the person.

When we can change telling someone they have a bad attitude to something factual:

  • We will listen more to what they’re saying
  • It’s not about you being right and they being wrong
  • There is more common ground between the two of you

Being factual, objective, specific and measurable could be very challenging.

It requires you to get past those thoughts that keep us irritated.  But when we’re able to do this it will help us be more effective as managers.