avoid squeaky wheel syndrome

Avoid Squeaky Wheel Syndrome

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.

Pay Attention

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.

This post is day 21 of 80 days of excellence. I've created an email list below for those of you want to be emailed the full posts written as part of this series.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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1 comment

KDB April 30, 2019 - 3:11 pm

I would find out how time sensitive the issue is. Does it need to be handled now or can it be handled later? I might ask for them to write me a note. For most issues, I ask for time to think about it. For example: I will address your issue at last recess, tomorrow before lunch, etc. I ran a monetary system in my classroom and it would be very likely that I would tell the student that for each time he/she “squeaks” he/she will have to pay me $5.00. I had a mailbox where the shyer students could place notes and where they knew I would respond.


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere