Let me share an example of a motive problem I have encountered: One Monday morning one of our employees came in with what I considered a bad attitude. He was clearly mad at the world and refused to talk to anyone.
My first thought was that it would pass. So, I overlooked it for a couple of days. However, when Wednesday rolled around, the situation had escalated and many of his co-workers were approaching me and asking, "What is his problem?" By then, I was thinking the same thing.
I decided to approach him, not with the intention of helping, but to let him know he needed to snap out of it. He was making our lives miserable in the shop.
Boy, did I make a mistake! It turned out that one of his relatives had a serious illness and they didn't know what the outcome would be. Even a typically great person to work with can be difficult under such circumstances. If I hadn't been trying to escape the problem, I could have rallied everyone in the shop to pull together to help him over his fears, rather than making his difficult situation even more stressful.
It was at first a case of trying to escape confronting something that needed attention. It then became a case of bad motives. I wasn't showing concern for the troubled employee. I was just trying to make my own life easier.
This leads nicely into the point of having empathy. Everyone has problems sometimes — and sometimes they are big ones. Remembering this will help to temper any memos or decisions you make concerning shop policy.
I once read an interesting quote by Bonnie Jean Wasmund that said, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." This is so true. As managers we certainly don't want people to remember how bad we make them feel.
Lastly, before we have a face-to-face meeting with someone, we have to be sure that the individual is the one with the problem. Is it possible that we are struggling with a personal problem ourselves? Are we facing too much stress, or too little sleep, and unwittingly blaming others for situations they didn't create? This is where we really have to examine ourselves and be honest about what we see. One of the worst mistakes we can make as managers is to project our own faults onto our employees.
Keeping the previous points in mind, don't be hesitant to deal with problems that arise with your employees, even though it may at times seem difficult. Escapology may have made Houdini famous, but it simply has no place in shop management.