As I learned in one business in particular when I was just out of college, squeaky wheel syndrome can infect an organization. So, we’ve all heard the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This means that the person who fusses or argues or pitches a fit is often the one that gets what they’re asking to receive. And certainly, there’s something to be said for asking for what you need and being persistent. Agreed.
But there’s a difference between persistence and bad behavior, rudeness, or tantrums.
When we are leaders (or parents or teachers), we must be very careful. There are people, by nature, who ask for what they need but they do not yell. They do not scream. They do not stomp their feet. They do not behave badly. They don’t squeak.
However, if these people who ask persistently without bad behavior exist in an environment that has “squeaky wheel syndrome,” they’ll be ignored.
Because organizations infected with squeaky wheel syndrome respond quickly to bad behavior but to little else.
Think about it.
When a person who never squeaks asks for something, you really should listen. I know when a student who never asks for anything makes a request, I try to stop everything and handle it. Not because they are more important than other kids with issues, but because they have so few issues – this one must be important. And if I can handle it quickly, they’re less likely to have to squeak to get me to handle it.
Then, consider this.
- Do you really want to reward bad behavior?
- Or do you want the kind of environment where people have civil conversations, listen to one another, and an open flow of communications?
- Or do you want to embolden those who behave badly?
How people ask is important. How people work together is also important.
The wheels of business, schools, and families need to turn so we have progress. But why do they have to squeak? Why can’t they just work liked well-oiled machines, cooperating and communicating?
How Do You Respond to Squeaky Wheels?
As we pursue excellence, consider how you respond to “squeaky wheels.”
Do you excuse bad behavior?
Do you encourage people to treat each other poorly or do you encourage civil discourse?
Grease all the wheels. Encourage smooth cooperation. And sometimes wheels that only squeak and are dysfunctional might need to be replaced because some wheels will always squeak, no matter how much grease.
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