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The Eight Rules of Management
by Gregory Blencoe


Rule #5: Issue Instructions in a Respectful Manner

Manager: “One, two, three, four.  Come on, sissy, march over to your desk right now and get that report for me or you will be scrubbing the toilets with a toothbrush.” 

Employee: “Sir, yes, Sir!!!”

Do you manage your employees like a drill instructor?  If your style of issuing instructions is similar to the techniques used at boot camp, then you are in trouble.  Although ordering people around is necessary and essential in the military, other methods should be utilized with the troops in the business arena.

People can be very sensitive and have a lot of pride.  As a result, the way a manager instructs an employee to do a task can have a tremendous impact on how well it is done.  Employees react very differently to instructions depending on whether the meaning is perceived as respectful or disrespectful.

Unfortunately, some managers still issue instructions by bossing employees around.  This antiquated management technique does not work well with employees.  The reason is that people hate being told what to do.  If this method is used, people become as stubborn as mules.  For example, when a Dad shouts at his son to “Go clean up your room,” do you think the boy is overflowing with motivation to do this?  In the work environment, however, managers should remember they are not dealing with kids.  Rather, most of the time, they are dealing with mature, responsible adults who deserve respect.

Managers should have empathy when an instruction is given.  Put yourself in the employees’ shoes. How would you want to be instructed to do a task?  The end result is still an instruction if you say it tactfully.  So why not do it that way?  The difference in how an instruction is worded is so small and takes so little time, but the reaction from employees will be much different depending on which approach is taken.  Employees will take a much more positive approach to the task if the instruction is given in a tactful manner.

Therefore, when managers issue instructions they should ask “Could you please do this?” rather than giving a direct order like “You must do this.”  The manager should then follow up by saying “Thank you” or “I appreciate it.”  This approach subtly makes people feel important, needed, and respected.  When employees are made to feel that way, they will show their appreciation by being much more productive.  This method makes employees feel like they are on a level playing field with the manager.  If this method is not utilized, managers are flaunting the status of their position by reminding the employees who is in control.  This will quickly lead to many negative repercussions such as low employee morale and decreased motivation.  Before you know it, employees will be packing up their bags and working elsewhere. 

This style of issuing instructions does not mean you are soft.  It means you are strong.  Ordering employees around does not take an ounce of toughness.  After all, employees must do what you say unless they want to get fired.  Therefore, bossing employees around is about as courageous as a high school bully going to an elementary school to pick on other kids.

The bottom line is that the human need for self-worth is either fulfilled or neglected depending on the way a task is communicated.  Directly telling an employee to do a task is a very condescending act.  People do not feel uplifted when they are bossed around.  To the contrary, a manager takes away self-worth from employees when this method is utilized.  Employees feel patronized and belittled.  By giving employees respect, the message being sent is that you hold them in high esteem which in turn has a positive effect on their self-worth.

Managers should realize that not bossing employees around does not mean that you become a pushover.  When managers ask employees to do tasks in a polite manner, the employees will usually respond positively to this gesture of respect.  However, in some cases, employees will interpret this politeness as a sign of weakness and ignore the instruction.  Employees will most likely do this during the initial stages of employment to test the managers.  When this occurs, managers should forcefully tell the employees what to do because they are being disrespectful.  If employees abuse the respect that is given to them, then they do not deserve any respect.

Managers should always remember to not bring the military uniform to work and assign tasks in a respectful manner.  Got it, drill sergeant?

Rule #6


The Author

The Art of Management

Gregory J. Blencoe is a management consultant and author of The Art of Management.  He has written articles for numerous magazines including Success, Human Resources Executive, Business Credit, and Canadian Business Franchise.  Please feel free to contact him with any questions at

Many more articles in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2001 by Gregory J. Blencoe. All rights reserved.

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