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Do you remember how Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada wants her steak in 15 minutes and Andrea, her assistant, needs to dash across the city in her heels to find one at 11:30 am? Although Miranda is known for her demanding personality, you may just be another devil in the office without you realising it.
Writing in Wall Street Journal, Standford professor Robert Sutton shared some scenarios based on the findings of his study with fellow scholar Huggy Rao on organisational friction. These real-life scenarios illustrate how bosses often waste their employees’ time, either intentionally or unintentionally. If you don’t want to be known as the Miranda in your company, be careful not to fall into these traps.
Ignoring the complexity of a task
Sutton shared in the column that sometimes bosses give orders without realising how much work needs to be done to accomplish them. In one example cited in the study, a boss had a habit of announcing new initiatives a few times a year, but he wasn’t aware how much training and paperwork each one entailed. One new initiative in particular led employees to abandon previous projects altogether because of limited time.
Sutton commented that many leaders don’t mean to waste employees’ time, but it is not uncommon that they have no clue they are heaping unnecessary work to workers.
Miscommunicating causal remarks or comments
In another anecdote shared by Sutton, a CEO made a casual remark at a breakfast meeting that there weren’t any blueberry muffins. This random comment eventually led to employees busying themselves making sure there were blueberry muffins in every meeting.
Sutton suggested that leaders should clarify whether their words are commands or just random ideas. One could say something like “Please don’t do anything, I am just thinking out loud.”
Trying to do everything themselves
This is probably the most common mistake that managers make. Sutton cited an incident of a CEO who insisted on meeting every job candidate in person even after the company has more than 500 employees. Given the busy schedule of the CEO, she lost some candidates to a different company.
Loyal employees may drop everything to cater to the boss. Therefore, managers need to be sensitive about their actions and how they could be interpreted by their employees.
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