Empowered employees versus following the rules

From Boing Boing, a piece on Bank of America’s treatment of a customer who was trying to do something right. It’s resulting in a great deal of backlash. To the tune of $50 million withdrawn from accounts (so far).

The summary and a link to the story can be found here, Boing Boing: Bank of America loses $50 million from customers upset by false arrest

When I read this story, after the initial “that sucks” wore off, I started to consider it from a management perspective. To wit, if the employee were empowered to resolve this situation would this have happened?

I mean, if the teller didn’t have a rote routine (ahem) that s/he was expected to follow, would this whole thing have come to a head?

The employee didn’t have freedom. The employee had marching orders: when this occurs, take it to the manager. Then the manager had marching orders: when your employee approaches you with this, call the police.

But see, somewhere along the line, common sense and logic got boiled out of the equation. And everyone got lazy. Because no one was accountable. The process was accountable.

But an objective process can’t deal with a subjective situation. A human can. No humanity in this story.

Put that one in your proverbial pipe and smoke it. And keep on smoking that pipe while you’re outlining the policies and procedures for your organization. And take a few more puffs before deciding how much you want to curtail your employees’ subjectivity for objectivity.

Again, if you hire smart people, you should let them work and let them be accountable for their actions. If you create rules that make smart people dumb and lazy by removing accountability, then you get what you deserve. And if you create inane rules so that you can cut costs by hiring lazy people, then I’m not sure I want you near this blog.

Scratch that. I’m positive I don’t want you around this blog. Unless, of course, you’re working to change.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
This entry was posted in Accountability, Management, Rules, Wrong. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Empowered employees versus following the rules

  1. Toby Lucich says:

    What is the difference between principle based rules and “letter of the law” rules?
    Human Judgment.

    A common flaw in business is to write very prescriptive, step-by-step rules that remove expert judgment from the equation (so that we don’t need to hire people with expert judgment).

    The company saves on salary and training, and we lose customers in droves because they want decisions and answers, not “I’ll route your request”.

    Hire good people.
    Train them to solve problems.
    Build a bigger doorstep – customers will be flocking.

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