Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I was having a conversation with a friend the other week and she expressed frustration that her boss has high standards for her and the other employees, but he repeatedly doesn’t hold himself to the same expectations. He gets upset if someone is late, even if it’s for an emergency, and yet he is regularly late himself; he expects a prompt response to his emails, but some messages sent to him will never be answered; and the list went on.

I asked my friend how this behaviour impacted her and the other employees. Her response was that the boss wasn’t well-liked and that no one respected him. Engagement in her workplace was low, and while everyone generally got along with each other, it didn’t feel like a real team because their boss wasn’t trusted.

Without intentional effort, it can be easy to fall into the pattern of having different expectations for employees and managers.

The phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” has always sent shivers down my spine. It conjures up the exact scenario my friend described – where there are rules for employees but those same rules are optional for managers. In my experience, organizations where this happens are rarely healthy places to work, which of course inevitably effects their productivity and sometimes their viability as well.

We have worked hard in our organization to not have a separate set of expectations for employees and managers. For example, we have an expectation that people don’t have a that’s-not-my-job mentality. This means we are flexible and willing to pitch in where necessary.

At a practical level we are small enough that we don’t have a full-time custodian on staff. This means the job of keeping our office clean falls on everyone – including managers. So while an employee might empty out the recycling, it’s a manager that shovels the snow away from the building. And while an employee may empty the dishwasher, it is a manager who picks up trash that accumulates outside our building.

Without intentional effort, it can be easy to fall into the pattern of having different expectations for employees and managers. My encouragement for all leaders is to consider if this pattern exists in your workplace, and then develop a plan to address it.


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Randy Grieser, Author, Speaker

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