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Why Employees Hate Business Processes and What Can You Do About It?

Let’s face it. Business processes are tools of control and employees hate it when that type of control is being used against them.

Why Employees Hate Business Processes

I’ve seen it countless times: Someone tells their employees they are about to start managing processes within the company and soon enough they may be facing a real threat of mutiny.

Whether you like it or not, there are legitimate reasons for this behaviour, both good and bad.

First of all, most people believe they don’t need processes and checklists to do routine work correctly. But they’re wrong, of course. Not only are all of us prone to forget and skip important steps in workflows, but we also suffer from many cognitive biases that make us ignorant to those very flaws. Experts and well-educated people are no exception. We all share the same traits.

Everyone tends to be overly self-confident when it comes to repeating tasks from memory, even when these are complex workflows. As a result, it is quite understandable why so many of us see the introduction of processes with their steps and checklists as a form of oppression.

But there are often darker issues lurking in the background too.

Process management is obviously a tool to impose even greater control over what the company does. In some cases, it may even force the organization in question to become completely transparent for the owners and their management team.

Suddenly, all kinds of information may come to the surface. It may disclose huge gaps in productivity between departments, teams, even individuals. This is where it may get really nasty.

Individuals have emotions, agendas and motives, both high and low. Looking into them through the prism of an objective, well documented process might be like opening a Pandora’s box. And if this change stirs up some emotions, trust me, they won’t be the good ones.

But even if we look away from individual fears of being revealed as someone lazy, unproductive, unnecessary for the company or simply prone to making too many errors, there is still the issues around privacy and surveillance. If processes go too deep in recording what and when your employees do something, it may be easily viewed as immoral or outright evil. Not speaking of being even illegal in some countries.

And there’s even more. Some employees simply don’t trust their employers. Let alone that those processes would be implemented in a meaningful and helpful way. Many have previous experience with ineffective or just plain stupid processes and having to write useless reports that no one ever reads. Can you really blame these people for being skeptical, when there are legends circulating in the corporate circles about processes running wild?

As you see, there are quite a few reasons, why employees hate processes even before you start to introduce them. We are over-confident, scared of being rated, evaluated, surveilled and some of us have heard enough to distrust processes altogether.

Herein lies the great challenge for any business owner or CEO. How to overcome such huge obstacles?

Fortunately, there are ways. Here’s my basic advice:

  • Expect and welcome employees’ resistance as a natural aspect of introducing processes. It may never occur, but the bigger your company or organization is, the more of a diplomat you will have to be.
  • Explain processes as an effective counterbalance to human forgetfulness under stress, fatigue, boredom, etc. Make time to describe how can processes relieve the cognitive load by providing support for one’s memory.
  • Be prepared to start slowly, perhaps introducing only one process at the time and only after you have proven to everyone how easy, helpful and uplifting it is, move on to the next. Don’t hesitate to slow down or stop for a while, if the morale is getting worse and there are issues to be resolved. No process is worth breaking up the company for.
  • Make time to talk to the individuals whose work is touched the most by this new approach. Try to understand their points of view to further improve your strategy. People are generally pretty ingenious when it comes to trying to outsmart boredom and useless work. By listening to them, you may discover improvements that will be in the best interest of everyone.
  • Hire a competent, experienced business or process consultant to help you avoid the worst pitfalls.
  • And last but not least, make absolutely sure that you are working towards a meaningful and agile enough form of process management, that it will help people work with less stress and mistakes while also improving the atmosphere in your team or organization.

May the Order be with you…

Robert Vlach, January 21, 2019

Business consultant, writer and EUpreneur. Proud founder of Procesoid and Na volne noze — one of the largest national freelance communities in Europe

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