The Peon Book

How to Manage Us

David Haynes (Author)

Publication date: 04/01/2004

The Peon Book
  • Not written by an "expert"-learn from a living, breathing employee what does and doesn't work to get him motivated and productive
  • Funny, irreverent, fast moving, and written in a direct, in-your-face style
  • Packed with real-life examples that show the actual, sometimes unintended, effects of management actions on employees
  • Not written by an "expert"-learn from a living, breathing employee what does and doesn't work to get him motivated and productive
  • Funny, irreverent, fast moving, and written in a direct, in-your-face style
  • Packed with real-life examples that show the actual, sometimes unintended, effects of management actions on employees

Management books are traditionally written by industry "experts": scholars, consultants, senior managers. They're writing about how to manage workers, but none of these experts really understands the viewpoint of the average worker, the regular grunt in the trenches-the peon. Peons are the ones affected when a manager decides to manage-in-one-minute, to move somebody's cheese, to try that fifth discipline. Rather than consult some expert, why not go to the source, and ask the peons? Who better to teach you how to train a dog than the dog himself? And who better to tell you how to manage than one of those who are being managed? The Peon Book gives managers the perspective they've been lacking. Author and self-proclaimed Chief Executive Peon Dave Haynes' sole, powerful source of expertise is that he has been managed in different companies and in different industries, and he knows what worked-and what failed catastrophically. In irreverent, straight-talking terms, Haynes tells managers what they really need to do to make their employees motivated, committed, and productive-and it's not memorizing yet another "technique" or "strategy" or "discipline." Haynes writes in a common sense, easy-to-read style that is both witty and wise. Every boss can benefit, and every employee can empathize with the words in The Peon Book. "The inability to empathize can be a real speed bump on the road to a trusting, personal relationship with your employees. So how are you supposed to show more empathy? I take issue with management books that give you a phrase to say to show empathy like 'I understand,' or 'I know what you mean,' or that say that by rephrasing a statement you can show empathy. Don't use some coined phrase to show empathy, just mentally put yourself in our shoes. Sometimes it's just a matter of remembering what it's like to have to get all those reports turned in on a Friday. Or remembering what it's like to have to ask for time off. Or remembering what it's like to be the new guy on the job, and have a hard time remembering everything. Do you see the key concept I'm getting at? Empathy = remembering. Who said you'd never use math in the real world?"

  • Not written by an "expert"-learn from a living, breathing employee what does and doesn't work to get him motivated and productive
  • Funny, irreverent, fast moving, and written in a direct, in-your-face style
  • Packed with real-life examples that show the actual, sometimes unintended, effects of management actions on employees

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Overview

  • Not written by an "expert"-learn from a living, breathing employee what does and doesn't work to get him motivated and productive
  • Funny, irreverent, fast moving, and written in a direct, in-your-face style
  • Packed with real-life examples that show the actual, sometimes unintended, effects of management actions on employees
  • Not written by an "expert"-learn from a living, breathing employee what does and doesn't work to get him motivated and productive
  • Funny, irreverent, fast moving, and written in a direct, in-your-face style
  • Packed with real-life examples that show the actual, sometimes unintended, effects of management actions on employees

Management books are traditionally written by industry "experts": scholars, consultants, senior managers. They're writing about how to manage workers, but none of these experts really understands the viewpoint of the average worker, the regular grunt in the trenches-the peon. Peons are the ones affected when a manager decides to manage-in-one-minute, to move somebody's cheese, to try that fifth discipline. Rather than consult some expert, why not go to the source, and ask the peons? Who better to teach you how to train a dog than the dog himself? And who better to tell you how to manage than one of those who are being managed? The Peon Book gives managers the perspective they've been lacking. Author and self-proclaimed Chief Executive Peon Dave Haynes' sole, powerful source of expertise is that he has been managed in different companies and in different industries, and he knows what worked-and what failed catastrophically. In irreverent, straight-talking terms, Haynes tells managers what they really need to do to make their employees motivated, committed, and productive-and it's not memorizing yet another "technique" or "strategy" or "discipline." Haynes writes in a common sense, easy-to-read style that is both witty and wise. Every boss can benefit, and every employee can empathize with the words in The Peon Book. "The inability to empathize can be a real speed bump on the road to a trusting, personal relationship with your employees. So how are you supposed to show more empathy? I take issue with management books that give you a phrase to say to show empathy like 'I understand,' or 'I know what you mean,' or that say that by rephrasing a statement you can show empathy. Don't use some coined phrase to show empathy, just mentally put yourself in our shoes. Sometimes it's just a matter of remembering what it's like to have to get all those reports turned in on a Friday. Or remembering what it's like to have to ask for time off. Or remembering what it's like to be the new guy on the job, and have a hard time remembering everything. Do you see the key concept I'm getting at? Empathy = remembering. Who said you'd never use math in the real world?"

  • Not written by an "expert"-learn from a living, breathing employee what does and doesn't work to get him motivated and productive
  • Funny, irreverent, fast moving, and written in a direct, in-your-face style
  • Packed with real-life examples that show the actual, sometimes unintended, effects of management actions on employees

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - David Haynes

Dave Haynes has been a lifeguard, a telemarketer (the real obnoxious kind), a school bus driver, a marketing professional, a "pool guy," and a salesperson. He is the publisher and one of the writers for "TheArizoner," a humorous email column.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Get Trustworthy

Chapter 2: Get Real

Chapter 3: Get Personal

Chapter 4: Get in the Trenches

Chapter 5: Get Feedback

Chapter 6: Get Organized

Conclusion: To Change or Not to Change

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Excerpt

The Peon Book

Introduction: A Change of Focus

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Another management book? Who is this guy, Dave Haynes? I’ve never seen him as the keynote speaker at a lecture series, or presenting his company’s year-end report to . . . . . . . . . . Wall Street. Who is he? Some Harvard professor, some expert on synergy, some business psychologist? Not exactly. In reality, not even remotely.

I am Dave Haynes, and I am a peon. I am a worker, a scrub, a subordinate. I hold no distinguished title, I don’t have a special business card, and my office is a cube. I am not embarrassed by this; it is simply a fact. I have not successfully climbed any corporate ladder. I have not spent hours in a lab researching employee blood pressure levels in a work environment. I don’t have time for that; I am too busy working. Too busy slaving away for some company somewhere, trying to put bread on the table and a little money in the bank. Too busy driving in rush hour traffic and preserving my remaining vacation days.

So why would I, an underqualified peon, write a book about management? And what can some underclassman tell you about managing your team? That’s a very good question. Let me answer with a scenario.

Let’s say you set out to train a dog. You have three options for sources on how to train that dog. The first is a training manual written by a PhD in dog psychology who has spent many hours observing dogs being trained. She tours the country giving motivational seminars on dog training and sells millions of copies of her dog-training books. The second option is an experienced dog trainer who has a proven record of training success. He once trained a dog that won top prize at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and he brought a dog from the brink of death to being a top breeder. The third choice would be the option to actually talk to the dog, to know its thoughts and wishes, to have a frank conversation with the animal about how it prefers that you train it.

Which would you rather have? I’d much rather get the information straight from the dog. How invaluable would it be for your dog to be able to tell you, “Look, Buddy, you’re a nice guy and all, but the doggie biscuit thing just ain’t workin’. You call that a reward? Come on. Calamari! That’s what I really want; that’s the key to getting me to do all those stupid tricks. You feed me calamari, and I’ll dance the Macarena. Whatever you want me to do, reward me with calamari, and I’ll do it.”

If calamari is indeed the key to complete obedience when training a dog, how else would you discover that than by talking to the dog itself? Only the dog would know that. The experienced dog trainer wouldn’t know that, and the PhD certainly wouldn’t know it, but the dog would.

Since many employees feel like they are asked to sit, beg, and roll over on a regular basis, and since many managers feel like they are taming a bunch of animals, I figure it isn’t too much of a stretch to draw the comparison here between dog/trainer and peon/manager. How valuable would it be for you as a manager to be able to hear honestly—and I mean completely honestly—what your employees are thinking?

Sure the company has open door policies and employee satisfaction surveys, but you and I know such measures are like telling your neighbor “If you need any help, let me know” when you see him pull up with a new piano. You probably don’t really want to help; in fact, you offer your help, knowing darn well he isn’t going to ask, just because it is the right thing to do. Similarly, surveys and open door policies are not getting you accurate employee feedback.

How valuable to your success as a leader would honest, effective feedback be? How would you benefit by knowing exactly how your team evaluates your management style? Don’t tell me that they are already up-front with you. If you think your relationship with your employees is that good, that they tell you everything without holding anything back, then I would tell you to go get the milk, because it’s time to pour you a bowl of Reality Cereal.

Have you ever wondered what your people talk about around the watercooler, or in the restroom, or in the parking lot next to their cars? Sure, they bring up the last episode of some TV show when you are around, but the minute you leave, don’t think for a minute that the conversation stays the same. Once you are gone, they are probably talking about you. Think about it: When you get around other managers, what do you talk about? You spread gossip about subordinates and you spend a lot of time talking about your own boss. We peons aren’t any different.

“They talk about me?” you ask. “Really? What do they say?”

Well, first we talk about your terrible haircut, then we discuss matters of personal hygiene… Just kidding. Actually, most of the time we analyze your management skills—or lack thereof.

“I can’t believe he wrote that e-mail. Does he not have a clue about what we are already doing?”

“Man, I don’t trust her. She seems like she’d stab you in the back.”

“My manager is so cool; she took us all out to breakfast this morning.”

“Aw, man. My manager would never do that… You know him: Mr. Corporate Guy.”

Believe it. Your subordinates talk about you and analyze your management skills. It’s a fact of life—and one of the great rights of being a peon. But don’t get all depressed and down on yourself, thinking it’s all negative. We do notice when you do something right. It’s usually followed with, “Let’s see how long that lasts,” but at least we notice.

So why am I telling you this? Why tell you what the peons expect? Why don’t I just get back to work and leave things the way they are? For my own personal reasons, I have decided to break ranks, to be an informant, a snitch. I have seen too many good people show up day in and day out for a job that could be rewarding but isn’t. And I’ve seen too many managers try very hard, only to find they are spinning their wheels.

In truth, I want to help those managers be more effective and more centered on their employees. I want to tell all the managers in the world what it is we peons expect them to do, how we peons expect to be treated, how it is possible to get us peons to actually work. We may be peons but you don’t have to treat us that way, and frankly, we feel that you do. If you could learn how not to treat us like peons—and actually change your ways—I guarantee you would see a difference in your team’s productivity, happiness, and subsequent loyalty to your company. It’s really not that difficult, and my suggestions aren’t going to be anything earth-shattering, but the suggestions will be brought to you from a different point of view, helping you to see management with a valuable change of focus.

One of my sisters studied biology in college. One day she and I were talking about her schooling, and she informed me that in order for rabbits to fully digest their food, they double-digest it. In other words, rabbits eat their own poop.

Another sister was privy to the conversation. Her reply to this revelation of fact about rabbit feces was, “That is so gross! I will never kiss a rabbit again!”

My response was a little different: “No way! They turn on their own diggity? I want to see that! Why do they eat their own poop? All this time I’ve been around rabbits and never noticed. That is amazing!”

My sister and I received the same information, but we came to completely different conclusions. Our individual focus pointed us in totally different directions regarding rabbits turning around and eating their own little pebbles. In order to learn more about a rabbit’s digestive patterns, then, my sister would need to change her focus to be more like mine. In order to see the disgusting nature of this rabbit deed, I would need to change my focus to be more like hers.

What does a rabbit offal have to do with management? Everything! One’s focus can be crucial to one’s ability to interpret the world. Many managers are doing a good job, but if they changed their focus just a little bit and saw the situation from a different angle, they would turn themselves into great managers, well-loved managers, and promotion-worthy managers.

For this reason, I have put together some suggestions for managers, from the peon’s perspective. Not from the perspective of some PhD or “successful” manager, but straight from the horse’s—or dog’s, or maybe even rabbit’s—mouth. If all managers concentrated on these suggestions, their relationship with their subordinates would improve and they would be able to get more of what they want out of these subordinates.

In order to make these suggestions easier to remember, I’ve created a list of get statements:

Get trustworthy

Get real

Get personal

Get in the trenches

Get feedback

Get organized

Get it? I heard somewhere that our minds can remember any pattern as long as it contains less than seven items. That’s why there are seven numbers in a phone number and “seven habits of highly effective people.” There are even seven wonders of the world. But I have gone one better: I am only going to make you remember six suggestions. I realize that the first letters of the second words don’t make some catchy remember-all word (unless you can make something out of TRPT-FO), but I think they should still be easy to remember, even for you senior managers.

You might ask yourself if these suggestions are totally new and revolutionary. Probably not. Will they make you the greatest manager of all time? Maybe. They are simply suggestions that, if used correctly, can help you to be a great manager. They are things I have identified, through my countless appearances on the peon stage, as things that would have helped my managers to manage better. That is not to say I thought they were terrible managers, only to say that, with a little tweaking and the right focus, they could have been more effective, and they could have gotten more out of me.

I hope that by this point you have started to feel that it might benefit you to listen to what a peon has to say, that it might help you change your focus. But why should Dave Haynes tell you about improving the peon experience? Who am I to be the voice of peons? The answer is that I am a card-carrying peon, and I have been one for a long time. I am not a manager, but rather one of the managed. I look at my shoes when I walk, I work in a cube, I bring my lunch to work—I am a peon.

Perhaps peon is a politically incorrect term; I should probably call us managerial-title–challenged contributors. Since I am a peon, though, the ethics of political correctness allow me to call myself a peon. It’s okay for fellow peons to refer to themselves as peons in contexts such as “What’s up, peon?” or “Hey, peon. Get me a pencil” or “I am such a peon.” However, proper peon etiquette dictates that if you are not a peon, you may not go around smacking off the P-word. Management should never—ever—call us peons.

I am an expert in everything about being a peon because I have spent my whole life as a peon. As one of eight children, I was one of my parents’ peons. From the age of fourteen, I have held jobs in just about every field, from mowing lawns, to sales, to marketing, to bus driving, to lifeguarding, to rabbit re-feeding. I also have worked in all kinds of organizations— mom-and-pop businesses, large public corporations, nonprofits, government agencies—and while I don’t know what goes on in every department in every business in every industry, I have noticed that certain things tend to remain the same, and that the relationship between managers and employees generally needs a refocus, no matter where you go.

Like any suggestion, the power to act is in the recipient. You may read this book and say to yourself, “This is the biggest pile of tripe I’ve ever read,” and then run each page through the shredder. Twice. Or you may read it and say, “If I were a rabbit, I’d probably turn around and eat my feces too.” Or, if you are a good manager, you will say, “Wow! Is this really how my peons feel about me? I need to change.” In any case, it’s up to you to do something.

Knowledge itself is useless; knowledge that motivates to action is wisdom.

I hope you are wiser for reading this book.

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