The print on the stomach instead of the chest — (Part I)

The thumbnail version:

  • A story that illustrates the wrong way to manage staff

The full version:

Well you are a */!!/%# idiot!

I recently saw a Harvard Business Review article with the title Why Compassion Is a Better Managerial Tactic than Toughness. It immediately reminded me of a textile screen shop incident in which the owner of the shop could have used the advice in this article.

The staff were on a lunch break. The owner was wandering around the deserted shop looking at the jobs in progress. Suddenly he appeared at the door of the staff room where everyone was gathered around the table having their lunch and chatting. He was clearly agitated as he held up a sweatshirt with a print on the stomach area instead of the chest.

“Who printed this?” he demanded.

Reluctantly one of the staff raised his hand” “I did.”

“Well you’re a (expletive deleted) idiot!” he yelled, loud enough to be heard in the parking lot.

I covered this incident in my book, Characters Who Can Make or Break Your Small Business, and have often wondered what impact this had on the ego of that employee. Surely there has to be a better way to handle a situation like this than humiliating an employee in front of his colleagues? Well, the author of the HBR article had some suggestions which we’ll cover in a future post.