Everybody is selfish. There, I said it. Yet to so many the concept of this is foreign. What's even more intriguing is the fact that so many people get bothered when somebody else has an agenda different than that of their own. This shouldn't be surprising to anybody, ever.
One of the greatest examples of this comes from kids. Looking back at myself as a child, I was incredibly selfish when it came to sharing with my Brother and Sister. Toys were my territory and you better not mess with my territory. They were also protective of their "stuff" and it created a lot of friction (to put it lightly) within the Goninen household.
Our parents would encourage (or yell at) us to share our toys. Isn't that the way that most of us were raised? Share your toys or beware of the consequences, right? It didn't matter….I didn't like it and threw a fit every time I had to do it.
As I've matured, which is still debatable itself, I've learned that it's really not all that different when it comes to adults. Think of politics and who you personally vote for. Are you voting for somebody else's best interests? Of course not. Based on how passionately this can be debated during family functions, I can assure you that people vote on behalf of their best interests. Same with Religion. But we're always taught to stay away from conversations such as these because they cause similar fighting to what we did as children arguing over toys. So, we completely avoid the conversation all together. It's probably not the end of the world because the likelihood that you'll persuade somebody to see from your point of view is highly unlikely.
I don't think that the work place is all that different. The employer is thinking about their bottom line, how they are going to pay their bills and run their business. An employee is typically thinking about the same things, just about their home rather than their business. Is there anything wrong with that? Each of us has responsibilities that require us to be selfish in some way, shape or form. If we weren't at least a little selfish, we'd find ourselves homeless, giving our money away to every charitable organization that comes knocking. This is a fundamental part of capitalism….and it's a great thing as it drives progress.
Where I see a major disconnect when it comes to an employer/employee relationship is the assumption that the other has their best interest in mind. Don't get me wrong, most of us truly care about the other and want to see the employer/employee do well. If somebody works hard and puts effort into things that are hard to do, they should be rewarded. This shouldn't be a bad thing or something that we're ashamed to talk about! Let's be candid for once and get to the core of the issue, which is that everybody has needs that need to be met in order to stay happy.
At it's core, we battle this on a daily basis and it's magnified even more in the service business. Shop Owners and Managers feel like Techs are overpaid while Techs look at the billing rate of a shop and feel like they are drastically underpaid. It's a bigger gap than I think most can see. It's because both sides are being selfish, right? The shop management wants to pay the Tech less to produce more because it helps their bottom line, which helps them grow the business and allow more opportunities for the employees. The Tech wants to make a better hourly wage to have cash to pay bills, buy tools or get their own shiny new adult toy.
When both sides come to the understanding that we're fundamentally selfish and have to be in order to succeed, I think we can make some real progress. When I say this, I mean that it should drive an open, transparent and candid conversation about what each side needs and how to get there.
A great example of this is when a Tech is thinking about going off and starting their own shop. From a management standpoint, this is typically frowned upon. "How dare you think about going to start your own shop!" a Manager might say. From my experience, this conversation usually leads into Management telling the Tech how difficult the path is and that owning your shop means giving up actually working in the shop. "Hope you like calling to collect on bills!". Or, even worse, a Mechanic or Technician gets fired because of it. How many Techs do side work that have aspirations over and above what they are currently doing? If you're being honest with yourself, a lot! In my experience with shops, I see it consistently and it creates a great deal of distrust. What's confusing to me is that, in many cases that I've personally seen, the shop owner or manager took a similar path to get to where they are.
Here is where I see the potential for changing the game in terms of management/Tech relationship. As a manager, what if you were able to truly sit down and ask a Tech what they see for their future without the threat of punishment? What if, instead of downplaying their aspirations, you encouraged it and expressed a desire to help them reach their goals? Do you think it would have an impact on how they feel about your company? Do you think they might buy into what you're trying to do?
My feeling is that you're going to get the buy in that so many shops desperately want. When you start to understand that their goals and aspirations might be different than yours and you are ok with it, you start to build trust with them. When you start to view yourself as a mentor or coach to truly help them attain their goals, you'll start to grow genuine trust. On top of that, how cool will it be when you help make that person wildly successful on their own? Can you imagine what it would look like when they tell others how instrumental you were to their growth and helping them get to where they are right now?
I've been extremely lucky to be involved with such an great industry for most of my life. I was once the guy who had high aspirations but was afraid to tell my employer out of fear of being fired. I challenge you to make your relationship with your team a safe place for them to dream big. It could pay off in a big way!