The other day I had the opportunity to hear four managers from large companies give 15 minute presentations about things their companies were doing to improve productivity, morale and communication. The first speaker got my attention instantly when he said his people were always complaining about the “CARPET PEOPLE.” He had just been promoted as the new boss of one of the largest manufacturing facilities his company operated in the United States. A couple of days after his arrival he heard the term “CARPET PEOPLE.” He said that he didn’t want to look like an idiot not knowing what the term “Carpet People” stood for … so he kept his mouth shut for a while, hoping he would eventually figure it out; but to no avail. He finally pulled one of his employees aside and asked what the term meant.
That employee said the term “CARPET PEOPLE” was directed at management. The only place in their enormous manufacturing facility that had carpet on the floor was in the offices where management worked. If a question had to be answered, they had to go talk to the “ CARPET PEOPLE.” No supervisors had offices on the main manufacturing floor … so production employees would always have to waste time and go find the “CARPET PEOPLE” to get an answer. It was not meant as an endearing term … I can assure you. It was an US vs. THEM mentality.
He said that once he understood the term and why it was being used, he immediately changed things. He didn’t want production stopping on the factory floor because his people had to go find a “CARPET PERSON” … so he had those offices moved … to front and center on the factory floor … where production managers could be quickly located; it should also be noted … they had NO CARPET in their offices on the factory floor.
The next three speakers played right off of this story and used other non-endearing terms for their management people … such as the “Shiny Shoes”, the “White Coats”, and the “Suits”. In a lot of companies, the moment employees see “THESE PEOPLE” heading their way… they want to run, hide, look busy, and they know whatever they do … don’t get in their way, don’t strike up a conversation, don’t make a suggestion and don’t ask them a question. Speak only when spoken to and refer anything they ask to your direct supervisor if at all possible.
There are some managers out there who love being the boss, being seen as the Carpet Person, wielding a mighty “whip” of authority … with a “my way or the highway” mentality. Some even believe the best way to deal with morale problems is just fire anyone who complains. I learned years ago that effective managers help people get better and should be looked on as a “knowledge base” for employees to call on anytime to help evaluate, correct, adjust, or address any tough situation they can’t handle. If employees fear their supervisors, managers, or bosses … productivity and morale is sure to suffer. It has also been proven through countless studies, that employee turn-over will also become a problem.
If management is asking for teamwork, collaboration, synergy, unity, cooperation, looking for camaraderie, wanting employee input, seeking suggestions and new ideas … then management needs to pay attention to how they are being perceived. A hierarchy, top down, status based, authority riddle, pecking order … doesn’t seem to be very conducive to creating any of the things I just mentioned. One of the managers who spoke, said they decided that if management was to walk on the factory floor, then they needed to wear the same thing all employees wear wearing … so they came up with a corporate polo style shirt (all the same color) that everyone wore. Take note of the things you are doing that separates management from everyone else and try to minimize it as much as possible. There is a big gap of dissension between the “Carpet People” and having true teamwork.