I work as a mechanic at a car dealership. One of my pet peeves is tools not being put back in their proper place. It drives me nuts. So the other day one of my colleagues asked to borrow a socket-wrench, and I asked him why he needed it. When he told me, I said a spanner would do the job just fine – and probably work a little better (I also knew he had one). Still, he insisted – so I handed it over. As he walked away, I reminded him to “be sure to bring it back,” and he shot me a dirty look, which I don’t think I deserved. I mean, I’m sick of chasing down tools every time I need one. – Name withheld
Yeah – so don’t do that anymore.
By suggesting he use a tool other than the one he’s asked for, you imply he doesn’t know his job well enough to make even the most rudimentary of professional decisions. If he wants a socket wrench, spanner—or even a monkey wrench—for whatever he’s working on, who are you to say otherwise?
You then add insult to injury be “reminding” him to bring it back (or is it you who’s failed to return it to it’s proper place?). In effect, this is to reprimand him even though he’s done nothing wrong. In fact, by asking you first (for something that’s not even technically your property, I might add), he’s extending you a professional courtesy. Keep this up and don’t be surprised if, in the future, he simply takes whatever he needs without bothering to tell you.
(By the way, you fail to mention whether this particular individual is in the habit of failing to return things – although given his reaction to your comment, I suspect he’s not.)
So the sum total of your not-so-subtle message to your coworker is the following:
You’re bad at your job, and irresponsible too. Furthermore, you ineptitude is predictable, and something I have anticipated. As a result, I am now taking action to protect me from your incompetence.
No wonder he gave you a dirty look.
If, as I do, you pay attention to current thinking regarding effective management practices, you’ll notice a lot of attention these days being paid to organizational “culture.” More specifically, there is a growing recognition of the importance of creating environments in which employees feel engaged, and are thus able to perform at the highest possible level. With that in mind, I would remind you managers aren’t alone in being able to impact this. Individuals workers such as yourself exercise enormous power when it comes to effecting the quality, tone, and character of the workplace.
So my question to you is: What kind of environment would you rather work in?
One that is cooperative? That is, in which coworkers genuinely enjoy working with each other, and are happy to not only share company equipment and resources, but their knowledge, expertise, and perhaps even their time too, should one of their colleagues find themselves in need?
Or would you prefer a workplace that is more territorial? In other words, one in which employees simply put their heads down do whatever job has been assigned to them, and where the requests and needs of coworkers are viewed as unnecessary intrusions on one’s time, and therefore a nuisance to be avoided?
I probably don’t have to tell you which one is better for business.
So I suggest you start cutting your colleagues some slack. More frustrating than not having the right tool for the job is knowing the right tool is available, but not being allowed to use it. And micromanagement isn’t something only a manager might be accused of, so keep that in mind too.
Finally, it occurs to me that you may be justifying your “return it or else”-approach to tool-sharing as a way of preventing equipment loss, and therefore conserving valuable company resources.
But even assuming a worst case scenario here – namely, that your colleague loses the tool you’ve “loaned” him. I assure you the cost of replacing a misplaced wrench every now and then is far cheaper than the toll your suspicious attitude exacts on the morale and enthusiasm of your fellow coworkers.
Those organizational resources are truly priceless…and should be the ones you make an effort to protect.