ClockShark Blog

3 Ways Employees Think Management is Contradicting Themselves and What You Can Do About It

January 25, 2018

The most common killer of work morale is a contradicting boss. No manager wakes up in the morning saying “I’m going to go to work today and contradict myself”, but it’s still a common mistake that many managers are guilty of, often without knowing they are doing it. Most of the time, from the manager’s perspective, they are not sending mixed messages. Everything is clear and lines up with the company’s goals and priorities. At the same time, from the employee’s perspective, things are not so clear and things seem to be in conflict. As a manager, you must ask yourself if you are modeling the behavior that you want your employees to practice.

Do you hold everyone up to the same expectations and does it look that way to yourself, even from the outside including yourself?

A sense of equity is a fundamental component of highly productive environments as well as the key to having happy workers. It creates commitment and promotes going above and beyond instead of settling for mediocrity. An unhappy employee will project a bitter attitude, an “I don’t care” attitude. If someone perceives themselves as being treated unfairly or differently than others, even their conduct at work can take a swift dive. It’s human psychology at its finest and it can apply to any workplace from construction to retail.

There are three major types of contradictions in the workplace that you should be aware of, real or perceived. Understanding what people deem to be unjust is the critical issue, what it looks like from their point of view with only the information they have or see. We are going to discuss specific contradictions and how it can affect your team members. Then we are going to learn what we should do to prevent these damaging morale contradictions to increase peace in your office.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

There is nothing as discouraging as the boss who tells you one thing but does the opposite. Nobody aspires to be that type of manager. More often than not, you are completely unaware that your actions are countering what you are saying, or look like they are.

BOSS:  “Personal call is not allowed at work.  This is my time, and I expect your full attention while you are working.”

One hour later…

Mary:  “Boss, your wife is on line 1, and your insurance agent is on line 2”

Actions like these can cause resentment and conflict. It causes strain between both parties, and it makes it difficult for your employees to trust your authority. It can result in their mimicking your behavior instead of doing what is expected of them.

You, as a manager, must be able to model the behavior you expect from your employees. Be mindful of your actions. Ask yourself what messages are you conveying? Start correcting your actions, hold yourself to the same standards as you hold them. Most importantly, hold yourself accountable. If there is a good business reason for your behavior to differ from what you ask of your employees, make sure they understand why.

Do As I Say, Not As I Say

Lack of communication can create a barrier to your company’s ability to perform at high levels. Your employees need to be able to come to you and to completely understand what is expected of them.

BOSS:  “Mary, I’d love for you to be creative on this project.  Pull out all stops and show me what you got.”

Three days later…

BOSS:  “Mary, let’s talk about this.  Why did you think doing it this way would be a good idea?  Have you ever seen do it this way?  What were you thinking?  Now I am going to have to give this to Susan to get done the way I need it done”

Situations like this are almost always due to a lack of clarity or information. This type of contradiction confuses employees about their role in the organization and what their duties in the workplace are. No one wants to approach their boss with inconsistencies. Most employees won’t. They are fearful of repercussions. So rather than getting clarity, they just pick one of the two ideas and run with it.

Try to be clear as possible when assigning a project. You need to try to be consistent with what you want from your workers, what the expectations are so hopefully they won’t have to come to you in a bewildered state. In case they do have questions, create an open environment for your company. You want your employees to be able to come to you without consequences. If they have questions, they need to ask to be able to do substantial work. It will benefit the both of you, and you will get the results intended from the assignment.

Comparing Apples to Apples

The biggest problem in workplace contradictions is different treatment between two equivalent employees. There are times that these perceptions are only the employee’s due to lack of information. They will base their understanding of a situation off of the facts that they see versus the facts that may not be out in the open.


  • The boss always picks the same person to lead projects or do the most favorable work assignments even though there are other employees that can do the work.

BOSS:  “Mary, I’d love for you to be the lead on this project.  You’ve done a great job positioning my messages so far and I would like that energy on this new project.”

Three days later…

Susan:  “Why does Mary get all the sweet projects?  I have been here longer and have more experience with this type of project…UGH”

There are few possible ways this situation plays out. The first is that the boss is actually showing favoritism and doesn’t realize it. Another is that there is a real business reason to keep selecting the same employee to lead projects or do what is considered a more favorable work assignment – that employee is just really good at it. That last way this happens is that the employee isn’t remembering things accurately, like all the times they got the assignment but forgot and now feel they are being overlooked when they actually aren’t.

In all of these cases, the best way to fight this problem is by having accurate, objective data. There is a large amount of research showing that relying on memory is very problematic. With objective data, you don’t have to rely on memory, yours or your employees, to see what actually happened.

For the cases when managers don’t realize they are giving one employee favorable treatment over others, one look at the data makes it clear who is being assigned what and how often. Using data this way allows you to identify issues that can be fixed. In the case where there is a good business reason for why one employee is getting the favorable assignments more often, that same data can be used to back up the claims that they are the best for that job. Now the complaining employee not only knows why this is happening but also knows what they should work on improving so they can get more of those assignments. In the last case where employees are not remembering exactly right, the data can show how things really went down and correct their perception.

This is why real-time tracking of time and expense data is so important. Most organizational decisions hinge on time and expense data – what’s it going to cost and how long will it take is the foundation for almost all planning exercises. By having good systems that easily collect and store your time and expense data, you’ll have all the information you need to identify, overcome and support your decisions.

Employees want to do right by their employers.

Companies want to do right in return. Workers want to feel accomplished when they receive their paycheck. They want to feel like what they are doing something important. It doesn’t matter if your employees are making pizzas, building skyscrapers or selling handbags. Most have the original intent to put in 100%. Nobody starts a job with a negative demeanor. That comes with soul-crushing experiences in the workplace, some real and some imagined.

Employers want to do right by their employees.

You want to be the best boss that you can be, not only for the benefits of work but your employees’ general well-being. They are human, just like you. As management, we tend to overlook that when we are sharing our expectations with them. Keep these approaches fresh in your mind every day as you head into the office. Be mindful of your words and your actions. If you pretend that these contradictions are invalid, you will make a challenging and impossible atmosphere for your workers. If you keep these ideas in mind and pay attention to the ways things can be misunderstood or misinterpreted and correct for them, you should have a happier and more productive workforce.

Article provided by ClockShark

ClockShark is a mobile time tracking and scheduling app designed for companies with mobile workforces. ClockShark was born out of the construction and field service industry and is dedicated to making running a business with mobile workers easier for its owners and managers. For more information about ClockShark, visit

Author: ClockShark | Mobile Time Tracking and Scheduling

ClockShark is the #1 time tracking and scheduling app for construction and field service companies.

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