Rule number 5 is closely related to rule number 4 both having to do with empowering employees. While rule 4 has to with decision-making, rule 5 deals with written work products. All large organizations are document driven (they may be paperless but they still have electronic documents) which have a number of purposes, most importantly documentation of the decision process. Documents flow up the chain of command often being reviewed by three to five levels before being finalized. Before the wide spread use of computers, the cost in retyping documents was at least a partial disincentive to making “nit picking” changes, but in today’s world, all bets are off.
My experience in both the Federal Government and in private industry is that the vast majorities of changes made to documents are based on personal preference and add little to the quality of the document. All to often document wording is changed to satisfy one level of review only to be reversed at the next level. Worse still are instances where reviewers change wording and inadvertently change the tone or content so it does not reflect the intentions of the originator. Some reviewers change every document crossing their desk because they feel their extensive vocabulary improves the document when in fact it merely obfuscates the originator’s point. Lastly, there are reviewers who will want changes to a document but can not clearly articulate what bothers them or how they want the changes to appear (“It’s like beauty, I’ll know it when I see it”).
Managers/reviewers need to recognize that their best employees take ownership of their work products and thus changes are construed as a criticism of the quality of their work.
While most employees (especially when they are new to their position), will recognize that every organization has certain preferences in style and tone and they need to adopt these “unwritten rules”. However, the seemingly endless corrections, which characterize far to many organizations, merely alienate employees and impacts productivity. My rule as a manager when reviewing documents was “if it is professional, clear, and makes the right point; sign (approve it)”. While this meant I signed some documents while gritting my teeth (after all I’m human and could always pick better synonyms) it certainly made for a better team effort. I would encourage managers to talk to subordinates if they spot correctable traits (e.g. over use of the same word, redundant thoughts, incorrect tenses..etc.). Lastly, mangers need to recognize developing employees is vastly different and far more rewording then merely correcting their work.
What do you think? How do you want your boss to revise your work? How do you revise your staff’s work?
Photo Published Courtesy of Creative Commons License by Flickr user “Crystl”