If you are in a position of supervising peons, drivers, housekeepers in an office, you may often face difficulty, or a mental block, managing blue collared workers. This is especially true if you are younger than them. But, you cannot avoid interactions with them as a lot of the office work depends directly or indirectly on them. So, how to strike a balance between managing them so that you get their best performance?
The First Tip for managing blue collared workers
One of the first things to remember in your interactions with blue collared staff is that there must be mutual respect between you and the staff. This is irrespective of the work they have to do. Remember that though they are not customer facing. The customer-facing staff depends on them for a lot of work, which in turn impact their work for the customers. Tea, photocopying, office cleaning, your desk cleaning, bank work, other errands – What would we do without them? So, respect them for enabling you to work well.
Everyone works better if they are respected. So, if you are on first name terms with housekeeping staff, peons, add a “ji” after their name. Explain to them how people will refer to them and how they should refer to people. Set the protocol in place. My advice: Do not call anyone uncle or aunty. Just add a “ji” after their name. This will allow you to maintain your authority and you will still be respected for the respect you give.
Say please, thank you, sorry, where ever needed. These really are the magic words. Don’t use degrading or insulting words with your blue collared staff, just as you would not with others. As much as possible, don’t raise your voice. Correct firmly but not angrily/rudely.
The second tip for managing blue collared workers
You should make their job roles clear right at the beginning. Make the extent of their work clear to them. Make a to-do list for them, along with the time by when it should be done, if applicable. Put it up where they can readily refer to it. In the beginning, you can also help them tick off the work done, daily by putting a smiley against their duties completed well. This will give them the satisfaction of doing a job well. A list ensures that nothing is left in a grey zone, there are no assumptions and the Helper has no excuse to leave anything out.
Tip Number 3 for managing blue collared workers
Next, emphasize the importance of their work in terms of the larger picture. They will function better if they are made to feel that their roles were important.Make them know that they have a part to play in the smooth running of the office. It is a major thing to keep the office looking clean, keeping the staff well cared for, taking good care of guests, and so on. There’s nothing inferior about it. Peons, housekeeping staff, Field staff are like the backbone of an organization. Make them understand that.
Without being rude or arrogant explain to them that everybody in the office is paid to do their jobs. If anyone falls short of that expectation, there are bound to be consequences. Explain these consequences in the beginning only: What happens if work is not done in time, what happens if they are late for work and so on? Explain the impact of this on others as well as on their career. For example: If the housekeeping staff does not wipe the washroom dry, someone may fall and be hurt. And, they may lose their job. Or if the office boy is late for work, everyone will get their tea late, and they may have to miss their own break time.
Do not allow them to take you for a ride for fear of what will you do if they leave you. Today it is easy to hire housekeeping staff, office boys, drivers, delivery staff not only in cities like Mumbai, Delhi but also smaller town like Jaipur, Noida, Ghaziabad. Just check out the online services which allow you to connect directly with the Job Seekers. They don’t even cost much and offer opportunities for immediate hiring of staff with verification.
Tip Number 4 for managing blue collared workers
Next tip is: Find ways to make them confident about their jobs. Praise and encourage them publicly when they do something well. The tea can be very good, the washroom may be smelling really nice, someone may have replaced the toilet paper in time and so on. Sometimes, choosing to overlook the mistakes and flaws and magnify the good things. If you need to talk about the mistakes do it in private. That is the key to managing blue collared workers, just like it is with anyone else.
While you are their supervisor, be their friend too (though not a buddy). Make it clear that they can approach you if there is a problem. But, also ensure that they follow all rules, else they get pulled up. Establish boundaries right at the start to be successful in managing your workers well.