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‘Lazy git’ or industrious twit?


Alan Sugar’s comments this week about PwC's actions, reminded me of McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X is characterised as managers believing their employees are less intelligent, lazier, and work solely for a sustainable income. Theory Y maintains a belief that workers are naturally self-motivated, taking more responsibility for themselves.


Lord Sugar pretty much nailed his colours to the mast when he said on Twitter – “The lazy gits make me sick. Call me old fashioned but all this work from home BS is a total joke”. This was in response to the news that PwC has told its 22,000 UK staff that they can have Friday afternoons off this summer.


In a previous role as a sales director, my chairman was very ‘activity’ focused, very keen on numbers – for both sales phone calls and visits. As a new boss, I thought it would be a good idea to visit some clients on my own to understand their views on us as a supplier, the relationship they had with the salesperson and how we could grow the relationship. One customer said to me “Terry is a great guy, he comes here often, but sometimes I don’t know why he’s here.” At this point the penny dropped for me, Terry was so conditioned into being activity focused that he was making calls just to get his numbers up and avoid implicit criticism that he was being lazy.


I decided to have a chat with the chairman about Terry, I suggested that it would be more productive to invest in improving Terry’s skills, getting him to spend more time prospecting and hence get a better conversion rate. “Great”, my chairman said, “Same number of calls, better conversion”. I explained how that wasn’t quite what I meant, I relayed the conversation from the client visit and said – “Which would you prefer? Five calls and convert two? or Four calls and convert three?” Whilst he knew which he would prefer, he couldn’t bring himself to say it!


The reality is that there will always be hard numbers and targets we must meet – that’s business, those are the goals we have to work toward. Where we need to be flexible is in the strategy we apply to achieve the goals. The same of course is true when we negotiate; good negotiators are tough on the goals they want to achieve but fluid enough in their approach to achieve those goals.


Now it is true that with any pipeline, there’s logic that the more that goes in the top, the more that comes out of the bottom. However, if we spend more time just filling the top with indiscriminate and inappropriate leads, then less will come out of the bottom (rubbish in – rubbish out).


Whether you like it or not, for most jobs, today’s new ways of working are here to stay and taking a Theory X approach is just not going to encourage many employees. Forcing employees back to the office full time is not going to improve morale if it’s not what they want. This can only lead to further fuelling of ‘the great resignation’ and potential skills shortages as employees vote with their feet and leave. Working from home, four-day weeks and flexible working are all different strategies to achieve corporate goals. Adopting a more flexible Theory Y approach should allow bosses to find the best mix of options that balance employee satisfaction and performance – it’s the future Alan!


Sam Macbeth, 11th May 2022



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