Is It Your Business … Or Your Busy-Ness?

Matt was the new supervisor of the A/P department where Jenna had worked for the last 7 years. He was hired after the former supervisor retired. I always believed Jenna wanted the position — but she didn’t apply when it was posted so she was never considered.

Matt worked hard to try to understand innerworkings of the department and our organization’s culture. To gain more knowledge and understanding of who we were paying, when we were paying and how much we were paying, Matt required his approval on every invoice and every check before it was sent out. He also required auditing of the invoices and checks much more closely and regularly than what had been done by his predecessor.

Jenna didn’t like it. She felt like the approval and audit requirements were slowing everyone down. She brought her concerns to the attention of the Director of Finance, who told her that he would look into it. She said he never followed up with her and the requirements didn’t change, so Jenna brought her concerns to me.

I went to the Director to found out why he didn’t look into Jenna’s concerns. He said that he did. And he said he told Jenna that he’d looked into the issue but did not see the need to make changes. He said the new process slowed things down some but didn’t delay payments going out by more than a couple days. He also said the additional auditing was a good idea that he anticipated would save some money in the long-run. For due diligence, I asked him to walk me through these changes so I could be confident in what was happening and put Jenna’s concerns to rest.

Jenna didn’t feel at rest.

What’s the point in telling anyone about things when they aren’t going to fix it?? I am trying to be a concerned and conscientious employee! No one wants to listen to me! I guess I will just not care like everyone else around here.

Jenna made the classic mistake of confusing business with busy-ness. She thought she was being concerned and conscientious when she was really insolent and meddlesome. Jenna was on the path to becoming insubordinate … unmanageable … and eventually unemployed.

Nowadays, the line between conscientious and insubordination has become thin. The area between encouraging employees to speak candidly versus courting contemptousness has become very grey. I experienced this first hand not long ago (Read about it). It is hard sometimes to know when and how to address this.

  • If the action undermines someone’s authority or the integrity of a process for personal comfort/gain, it is NOT business — it’s busy-ness
  • If the action causes disruption to the flow of work for personal comfort/gain, it is NOT business — it’s busy-ness
  • If the action causes the discomfort of others for personal comfort/gain, it is NOT business — it’s busy-ness.

Work should be about the work. We all show up every day to complete tasks in order to advance the mission, vision, values, goals, strategies, etc of whatever business we serve. Anything that doesn’t seek to advance these things is NOT business — it’s busy-ness!

Busy-ness, gossip, insolence, meddling, negative talk and other kinds of passive-agressive behaviors are insubordinate. They may not be belligerent or flagrant, but they are still insubordinate. In fact, the subtlety makes these MORE dangerous than the blatant kinds of disobedience. We must identify and address these behaviors head on!

Which is exactly what I did with Jenna. I reminded her that addressing and looking into concerns does not equal changing things to be how she wanted. There is more than one way to manage a function — she didn’t need to like it or agree with it to comply. And I let her know that failure to comply or any further disruption could result in disciplinary action against her.

Last I heard, Jenna was still working there and Matt was still her manager. He was no longer approving every invoice and check — but the audits were still in place and had saved the company almost $100,000 total.

Now THAT’S what I call handling your business!

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1 Comment

  1. Good one Buzz

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