Within the modern workplace, there is an ongoing debate as to if traditional problem solving or employee collaboration produces the best results. Even though some people see employee collaboration as a waste of time, employee collaboration should be encouraged because not only can it benefit the company, it gives employees the opportunity to grow. When an employer encourages open collaboration with its employees in order to solve a problem, many positive outcomes can occur. In his article Improving Efficiency by Improving Employee Collaboration Brian Middle stated “Tasks can be completed more effectively since individuals are concentrating on areas that they are well versed in and not in areas they struggle with.” This thought process takes the pressure off of one individual to have all the answers to every problem in front of them. Yes, it is up to the person in charge to ultimately make the final choice as to how to handle a problem, but expecting them to have all the information at any given time is not good business practice.
Bringing together a team to solve a problem creates an atmosphere of individual and company growth by giving each employee an opportunity to succeed, and having a more effective way of completing the tasks. At my own place of employment, a lot of the decisions are solely made by one individual on a day to day basis. This individual, while he is a fairly good leader is in no position to make choices concerning my work. As required by the state I live in, in order to perform my duties as a Wastewater Operator, a large amount of schooling and licensing must be obtained. With my job, I must make decisions about what to do when a large amount of rain has fallen in a short time frame. The process, in my opinion should be a combined decision by me, the other operator, and the Town Manager. The operators should be able to give him the vital information about what would happen with each scenario, our professional opinion as to how to best handle it, and then discuss it.
This process would take roughly 10 – 15 minutes, and wouldn’t affect the overall plant performance. However, this is not the case. We are told what he wants us to do without our input, and this has at times led to bad outcomes. The mine-is-better habit seems to be the issue within our organization. Working with a lot of older gentlemen, I have noticed that any suggestion given to someone is immediately shot down due to egos. Instead of taking a little bit of time to review all the information from individuals with a more knowledgeable background on the subject, a decision is made from one persons point of view. Luckily, for all major decisions that do not need immediate attention; we have a Town Council who must put it to a vote. As simple as this seems it should be, there are some mine-is-better habits within the council as well.
There are many routes I could take in order for my manager to overcome his habit of mine-is-better when making decisions. One of the approaches I can take would be to encourage him to take a moment to listen to what options we have, and how it would best suit him and the town to think things through. Giving him all of the information at hand, even if he hasn’t asked for it plants the seed within his own mind to consider everything before coming to a conclusion. The other option I can think of, is taking it solely out of his hands by involving the Department of Environmental Management.
Having them simply explain to him that it is up to the operators themselves to draw the conclusion on what is best based upon the professional standing they have may help him realize that his way is not always the best way of doing things. The town I live in and work for would greatly benefit from open collaboration with its employees. Many of us our highly trained individuals, who take great pride in their field of choice. With so many different departments, no one person can expect to know how everything operates and works within the entire town. Many laws and regulations confront us daily while we perform even the simplest of tasks. Being able to talk to each other, to know how each decision made can affect the other departments and their processes can help us avoid unwanted extra paperwork and fines.