Let's look at an example. Suppose one of your fabricators routs the wrong edge on a countertop that is progressing through the shop on a tight schedule. Suddenly the attention of the entire shop is focused on you while your employees wait to see how you react to the problem. Yelling is an option, but what will that accomplish?
A better solution is to determine how the mistake occurred and find a way to remedy the problem. But don't stop there. Work on a solution for the future, and show how everyone in the shop can work to help prevent it from happening again. That turns a negative event into a positive learning experience. Again, your example as a manager sets the tone for the shop.
If you were to react in a negative way to the situation, trying to implement a plan to prevent it from happing again might be difficult. Why? The only thing the offending employee can remember is how poorly you treated him -- especially if you yelled at him and humiliated him in front of his peers. He will eventually vent his frustrations to a fellow employee, who will often complain about something else he can't stand. Before you know it, the workforce has lost its positive edge.
Managers aren't supermen, but the fact remains it is up to them to guide the ship. Yelling at employees can foster an environment where everyone blames someone else for problems that arise. You might think yelling is a way to assert your authority ("I'm the boss!"), but how valuable is that if you don't have the respect of your shop?
Employees need to know what kind of attitude is needed and expected from them. Help them understand that they can either complain to their work mates, who can do little about the problem except develop their own bad attitude, or make suggestions to a manager who has the power to do something about it. Then, as a manager, make sure you listen to and act upon employee suggestions.
We have had weeks at our shop where I wondered how we would get all the work done, and our employees have risen to the occasion to meet our deadlines, for which they deserve all the credit. It is refreshing knowing you can ask your work force to go above the call of duty and they will do it willing. But as a manger you can also take stock in knowing you played your part in keeping a positive attitude in the work place.
About the author: Jon Olson is production and operations manger for Sterling Surfaces in Sterling, Massachusetts. A solid surface fabricator since 1982, he has gained experience in all phases of solid surface fabrication while helping the company grow from 10 to 50 employees. Currently, Olson teaches a course entitled, "How to Mange Shop Employees" at ISSFA's ITEC in Henderson, Nevada.