Some of the biggest sources of contention a manager may face in his shop may, at first glance, seem trivial. Things such as playing radios in the shop and on the jobsite, using cell phones for work-related and personal calls and wearing uniforms and personal appearance can all be sources of friction at work. What can we do to minimize the large effects of these seemingly small issues?
First I have to say that radios in the shop seem to be one of the most hotly debated issues I have come across. Wow! This is a big one! Everyone in the shop seems to have an opinion on whether or not the radio should be on, what music should or should not be played, at what volume and on and on it goes. Music certainly is a powerful force that motivates the masses in many ways, unfortunately not always in positive ways. Personally, I would prefer not to have any music played in the shop. There are some people that can't seem to live five minutes without it. Obviously, we have to strike a balance.
Everyone's preferences cannot be accommodated at the same time. Five different workers with five radios on five different stations at five different volumes are just not feasible. The key here is compromise.
It just makes sense that the shop manager should control the music. This is not to say he becomes the dictator, playing only his own personal preferences. He should take into consideration the tastes of the entire shop and select accordingly. We use a satellite radio company that plays a variety of music with no commercials. The receiver is placed next to the manager's desk. The volume is preset and cannot be changed. Speakers are set at various locations. No music that is in bad taste with offensive lyrics is allowed. There are times when no music is played at all to accommodate those who just prefer not to listen to it.
There are earmuffs now available that play music. Some people feel this is a good alternative for people who prefer to choose exactly what they want to listen to. In our shop we do not allow the use of personal radios. We feel it is an issue of safety. If the music in the earphones is too loud, then it is possible that there could be an emergency or an injury and people wouldn't be aware of it because they cannot hear anything but their music. This could present a safety hazard. Some people may find it hard to believe that so much time and thought must be put into developing a music policy in the shop. Believe me, it is necessary. Any company with more than just a few employees needs to have a policy regarding the playing of music to head off potential arguments before they happen.
Now let's tackle the cell phone. It seems to me that everyone, no matter who they are or what they do for a living, owns a cell phone. It is impossible to go in any public place without hearing someone's cell phone ringing or having to overhear a loud cell phone conversation. Cell phones can be a valuable tool for your workers if used properly. But often this is not the case. It's a nice perk to allow employees to make occasional personal calls. The issue is how much time they spend on these calls, and if they are making them during working time. I once worked with a person who was making calls that amounted to three hours each day. Obviously he was not getting much work done during that time. Workers are now watched to be sure that calls made during working hours are work-related. In addition, a policy was started that workers could use their phones, which the company provided, until the allotted minutes were used up. After that they were responsible for paying the overcharges.
As far as workers using their personal phones in the shop while fabricating, it is simply not allowed. Someone tried to make a case for talking on a headset while working, reasoning that his hands would still be free to work. Well, would you allow family and friends to stand next to your employee talking to him all day while he was working? It just doesn't make sense. The worker cannot be completely focusing on his work while socializing on the phone. Also, what about safety? In some states it is illegal to drive while using a cell phone because of the obvious issues of becoming distracted and compromising safety. This same principle would apply when operating tools and machinery.
Another area of concern is your employees' personal appearance. Some may feel they should have complete freedom of expression by wearing whatever they want to work. They may argue that while working in the shop customers do not often see them. We are not running a boot camp, so imposing our personal views on haircuts, beards or jewelry is probably undesirable except in extreme cases. However, we do have the option of controlling what our employees wear.
This is where a uniform policy is helpful. It may be a bit expensive in the beginning (there are tax benefits), but it is a great investment in your company. Having everyone appropriately and neatly attired shows your customers that you take pride in your employees, and helps your workers take pride in themselves. If a customer does get a glimpse behind the scenes, you will be glad your employees look like a team of professionals.