What Is Your Responsibility?

Let’s say you are a supervisor or middle manager at a small company.  Nearly 52% of workers in the US work for small companies.  In many ways, it can be a better place to work.  There are no big company politics going on, everyone knows everyone else, and there is typically a family feeling between the owner and the workers.

However, that isn’t always the case.  80% of new businesses fail within the first five years.  Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have only a 37% chance of surviving four years and only a 9% chance of surviving 10 years.  The number one reason for failure is inexperience, but not in the area of the business, instead the failure is in the actual running of the business.  Here are two examples:  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were the two genius inventors of Apple Computer but they didn’t know very much about marketing, accounting, finance, and business management.  Paul Allen and Bill Gates of Microsoft had a much better balance.  Paul Allen was the computer science genius whereas Bill Gates was the business genius.

So you work for one of these small companies, you really need your job, and you are able to see some of the classic mistakes that small business owners make on their way to failure.  So what do you do?  What is your responsibility?

Here are some classic cases:

–       The owner hires all new employees himself with little input from you.  However, you have to manage these new employees.  Training new people is expensive and there is a 200% turnover rate.  You are blamed for the poor employee performance and company profitability.

–       The owner likes to have people around him that agree with what he wants to do.  However, in many cases what he wants to do is wrong.

–       The owner has a prejudice against women.  He believes they are only worth a low wage no matter what job they do in the company.

–        The owner does not believe what his employees tell him, from simple things like the phones being out of order to more complex process and procedural issues.

–       The quality of the company’s products has been falling but the owner blames “customer support” and “customer training” for the drop in sales.  Because the owner designed the products, the failures can only be in the manufacture or implementation of those designs, never the design itself.

–       The owner can do no wrong and any failures are blamed on the employees.

–       The owner recognizes no managerial chain of command.  He wants everyone to work for him.  He is the classic micro-manager and most of his decisions are wrong.

–       The owner does not believe that his people are his greatest resource.  The offices and equipment are small and antiquated.  He provides the smallest employee benefits he can.

  • He provides a sick time benefit but gets upset when an employee calls in sick
  • He provides a vacation benefit but argues about, and often denies the employee the vacation.
  • He refuses to allow his employees to write down the hours that they work.  He insists that everyone put down 8 hours per day, however he insists that everyone work extra hours each day.

Some of these cases are criminal, some are just bad management, and some are just plain stupid.  However, you need your job and you know that you may lose that job if you point out the problems in any of these cases.  Unfortunately, many employees encounter these cases during their working lives.  It is simple “fight or flight” in most instances.  A small business owner that is smart enough to listen to the expertise of his employees will probably beat the averages and remain in business longer than 10 years.  The others are doomed to failure.

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About J T Weaver

The author of "Uphill Both Ways," a thought provoking series of stories about life, family, and growing up.
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14 Responses to What Is Your Responsibility?

  1. I guess it’s the classic question – what do you do when you work for morons but you depend on them for a paypacket. Change jobs, I would say, if you can. Or do what needs to be done, however you can – it may take strategy, flattery, or a certain amount of judicious deception.


  2. jguenther5 says:

    It’s generally unwise to work for a schmuck any longer than you have to. Always have a Plan B.


  3. skinnyuz2b says:

    Many truths in what you write. I couldn’t figure out why the VP (owner’s son) was so rude and downright mean to me. He intentionally gave me incorrect information. I joked to co-workers that I must remind him of an old girlfriend who dumped him. Turns out he didn’t like my voice!
    When I got hired for a new job, I only gave him one weeks notice, although I usually gave two or three. VP yelled that my notice was not adequate and wasn’t professional. I responded that I was treating him much more professionallyl than he ever treated me. VP wanted me to stay the extra week to help the office pack up, clean, and move to a new location.


  4. ebeams says:

    I smiled because this blog confirmed if I only have myself to manage in my business, I’ll probably be okay! 😉 Nobody to blame or be blamed by but myself! Ok, seriously, great blog!


  5. Jaime Shine says:

    It’s frustrating (and scary) when you witness – and are subjected to – these practices firsthand. Thanks for helping to shine the light on these issues, JT. It’s sad that they’re so prevalent.


  6. findingmyinnercourage says:

    Absolutely positively the truth! Great Blog today!


  7. Absolute truth as written. I have firsthand knowledge with these types of owners. It was incredibly frustrating work experience, and a huge shame that the businesses couldn’t grow or flourish. They were really great ideas for businesses, but with a singular mind in all planning, they were wasted efforts for everyone involved..


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