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Talk About Anything and Listen to Everything

If a boss or a parent represents oppression or micromanagement, the employees or the children will hate to be around them. They may even hate them.

Bosses or parents may think that they have to order their employees or children around or they won't do anything. If that's the kind of relationship that exists, they are probably right, and in those cases the employees or children will do the absolute minimum they can get away with.

A better relationship is possible. It's called friendship. Let's think about ourselves. How much effort will we put into anything for a friend? How much effort will we put into the same thing for someone we don't like, or someone who threatens us, or someone who yells and screams at us? So how much effort will employees put into their work for a friend and how much will they put into the same job for someone they don't like, or someone they feel uncomfortable with? How about children and parents?

I am aware that people have different philosophies and say that it's better to be feared than to be loved, or it's better to be respected than to be loved, or it's better to be obeyed than loved. People used to call their bosses Mr. or Mrs. It used to be more common for children to call their parents Ma'am and Sir. Of course nothing positive comes from fear, and respect and obedience are not mutually exclusive of love and friendship. My philosophy is that the only way you can get anyone to do what you really want them to do is to be their friend. There are things that just won't happen any other way. Employees and your children are not machines; they're people. People will not cooperate well and accomplish great things except in an environment of love and friendship.

So before a boss or a parent ever expects to get productivity out of an employee or a child, he or she should be friendly. A boss should talk to her employees about whatever comes up, and she should listen a lot. Just converse. Yes, on company time. Time spent engendering trust and caring will pay off in initiative and productivity from then on. Be friendly. Becoming friends will happen spontaneously. Once the boss and an employee are friends, then they can work together toward the same ends. Parents should talk to their children, without judgment, about anything, and again, listen more than talk. Children and teenagers put a lot of emphasis on feeling that someone is listening to them. They validate themselves that way. I don't think a child will ever respect or really obey his parents until he feels like he and his parents are friends and that his parents care about what's going on with him. Once they are friends they can trust each other. The child will believe that his parents really do want only the best for him, and he will be more likely to listen and be less rebellious.

By the way, I think it's best that employees be allowed to talk to each other about whatever, also. They need to be friends before they can cooperate to make the company and its products and services better. "Well, no, Weldon," you say. "That's exactly what we don't want to happen. We want our employees to stay focused and to get their work done! They can't get anything done if they're up talking to each other." Are you sure that they are more productive acting like machines? Or might they be more productive acting like people? Don't worry so much about what happens between you letting employees know what is expected of them and them delivering it. Don't delegate methods; delegate results. If they can be happier and thus more productive by being a friend and having friends at work, let it happen.

If employees seem to want to talk only about work with their boss, and are uncomfortable talking about other things that interest them, that indicates that the relationship that has been established is one of fear or lack of trust. Again, nothing good comes from fear or lack of trust. That is not a good relationship. A boss should keep coming around and be willing to be friends until it happens.

If children respond to their parents' efforts at friendly conversation with monosyllables and grunts, again there is a relationship of lack of trust. That's what happens when parents talk only about homework and deportment and ways the children need to be better. Children don't want to talk if they feel that the conversation will turn to how inadequate they are. (Same with spouses talking to each other.) The parents need to keep at it; keep trying until the children let down the barrier and let friendship happen.