Today is April Fool’s Day, a time for pranksters to have some fun and have an excuse to justify it. These impromptu games might be acceptable today, but they are characteristic of the same kind of irritants that managers unknowingly create for employees on any given workday. Some employees feel invigorated by spontaneous announcements, but others can get rattled. You need to know your audience for best results.
Our two cats, Oliver and Dodger, are skittish. Not quite as bad as Grace, who has a long history of dealing with fear, but these two feline brothers are definitely a cautious pair. For example, they startle very easily. Moving a toe in front of them when they aren’t expecting it can make them jump three feet high from a solid standstill. It’s pretty funny to me and my husband, but I’m quite sure they don’t appreciate the jolt to their mental state. And don’t walk into the kitchen while they are drinking water from the dish that has been in the same place for the last five years. They take off so fast that I’m convinced they think I’m going to torture them. Still, they love a chase of a laser beam light that darts unpredictably around them, or a bug that buzzes to and fro in their space. They have some tolerance for change, you just have to know what is exciting to them versus what is frightening.
As managers, you need to work with some employees and understand that same tolerance line. For some folks, you’ll need to make sure you don’t spring big surprises on them. If you know a significant change is coming, start talking about possibilities as soon as you can. Don’t dump it all at once, begin with the reasons for the change, so there is context with any breaks from their routines. Giving them options, and ways to manage the change, will also help make things go smoother.
For others, offering a drastically new opportunity will create a welcome challenge. They want and need diversity in their workday — and their future.
I would never intentionally goad Grace (even with any good-natured intent); her guard is constantly up too high. But Oliver and Dodger can take a wee bit of rousing. They’ll peek out from their surroundings and be entertained by favorite toys, even when they are a bit uncertain about what’s next.
Don’t fool around with those that don’t like fooling. But don’t miss the opportunity for a little fun for those who do.