Management Articles


One Minute Baby Sitter

By: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

President of The Mansis Development Corporation, Dr. Kent is a specialist in the structure and management of small and medium-sized organizations, and frequently serves as a personal coach and management consultant to executives for solving their management and employee performance problems. Before founding his consulting company, Bob held senior management and executive positions in federal and provincial government and private corporations. He has been a director of several health care and service organizations and a consulting member of private and government task forces in the areas of government finance, organization structure, personnel management and executive development. Since 1972 he has lectured in management at several Canadian and American universities in the faculties of Management, Administrative Studies, Medicine and Continuing Education where he has been an award winner for excellence in teaching and professional expertise; and he has published over 125 books and articles on management.

An often quoted line from a very popular management book is, "Instead of trying to catch your employees doing the job wrong, why not go out and try to catch them doing the job right?" Although this sounds like a very appealing philosophy, it does have a significant failing.

The habit of just waiting and watching until your employee does something wrong is, of course, not very constructive management. It presents your employee with a "you never can win" environment and the relationship with your employee is forever negative. The suggestion to do the opposite is more constructive, however, it's still an ineffective approach to managing your employees.

Think for a moment. Isn't it a shame if the only good work your employees do that you are aware of, is the work you happen to catch them doing! Is your employees' good work only commendable because you happen to take notice? If you think your employees are adults and you want to treat them as adults, why do you have "to catch them at it"? Isn't their word enough?

What an elitist approach! Can you imagine a corporate CEO tripping around trying to catch the VP Finance "doing the job right". Most CEO's presume the VP Finance does the job right and expects the VP to report to the boss what the VP is doing. CEO's have no patience or time to baby-sit. They assume executives are mature adults and know what to do. But they follow up by having the VP report up the line. Well, VP's are no more or less mature than the rest of the organization.

Sorry. Catching people doing good work is the same as treating them like children -- baby-sitting. And baby-sitting is a major time-waster for management and supervisors. Rather than following this over-simplified and misdirected guideline, what management in some companies is doing is, first of all, giving clear direction to all employees what to do -- the desired job behavior. Then each employee's responsibility is to let the manager know that those behaviors are being performed. The employee catches himself doing the job right!! The boss doesn't have to. If employees want praise and recognition they don't just wait for the parent figure to tour by and pat them on the head. They go get it themselves. They report up the line what's happening and get all the recognition they deserve.

But of course when direction isn't clearly given, the boss is forced to baby-sit and run around saying "That's right!" or "That's wrong!" because employees don't know what they're supposed to do.

What managers should do is to say to their employees, "Look, I don't have the time or the opportunity to stand and watch over your shoulder. But if I did, this is what I would expect to see you do. . . . . . Now go and do it and let me know how your doing."

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


Place "+" (without the quotes) in front of words that must appear; "-" to exclude articles with certain words; and put double quotes around phrases. For example, fantastic search will find all case studies with either the word "fantastic" or "search" (or both). On the other hand, +fantastic +search will find only case studies with the words "fantastic" and "search". "fantastic search" will find only case studies that with the phrase "fantastic search". Note: Searches will not find words, such as 'management', that appear in more than half of the articles or words less than five letters long.


Would you like us to consider your own articles for publication? Please review our submission and editorial guidelines by clicking here.