The idea of ownership of an employee has always intrigued me. At a former company of mine the idea ran rampant and inhibited the workforce from actually producing on any meaningful level. When a manager would refer to his staff as “my people” it drove home the message that these are “his toys” and you’re not allowed to play with them. Very few things create stronger silos than such strong words of employee ownership.
When a manager acts as if he owns his employees he’s telling other departments that they must have permission from the manager himself before they can approach the employee to solve any problems. What if your sales staff weren’t to be bothered but you had a big lead on a possibly large account? You’d have to go through the manager and in today’s deluge of emails, phone calls, and texts can you be certain he’ll get the memo?
Perhaps you take another approach and go directly to a salesman, and he goes after your big lead…which ends up being a bust. You’re then admonished by the manager for wasting “his peoples” time and it’ll be a long cold day before you share ideas with your sales team again. The sharing of ideas and creating communication between departments can be the difference between a successful company with a driving vision and a company that stays in a rut with stagnant growth potential.
We also don’t want to be mistaken. A manager’s staff does, in some sense, belong to him. A manager is tasked with getting certain goals met and to drive different tasks within a company, or else he loses his job. From that aspect, a manager needs to be sure his or her employees aren’t chasing ideas or small tasks all over the landscape and that they’re focused on the goal of the department. He shouldn’t let him lose sight of the fact that his employees work for a much larger organization with much larger goals in mind. Like all things in life, a balance must be struck and employee empowerment, trust, and a decided lack of strict “ownership” is key.
How do you know if a manager feels as if he owns employees?