Should Managers Let Employees Struggle?

1358007_monarch_and_zinnia When I hear that any of my staff has a problem that they are dealing with I like to step in to help them fix it (make things better for them).  Training and helping them is part of my job, but I think back when I just started out at my job (it was just me, no other staff), I had no one to help me figure out problems and I had to reach out to other medical office managers for help or just try to figure out what was the right thing to do.  Sometimes I did figure it out what was right and sometimes I made mistakes, but with the mistakes I really learned a lot and I would not trade the knowledge of those lessons for anything.  There is something about learning on your own and figuring things out that builds your confidence and makes you feel like you really do have a brain and it works, it gives you experience.  It is not that I want my staff to struggle, but it might be good for them to try to solve the issue first, or at least come up with a solution that they think would work to run by me before I step in and help them.  They are smart people and I trust them and after reading the fable below, I certainly do not want to be the cause of stunting their growth.  What do you think?

The Butterfly Story

A man found a cocoon for a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared stuck.

The man decided to help the butterfly and with a pair of scissors he cut open the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. Something was strange. The butterfly had a swollen body and shriveled wings. The man watched the butterfly expecting it to take on its correct proportions. But nothing changed.

The butterfly stayed the same. It was never able to fly. In his kindness and haste the man did not realize that the butterfly’s struggle to get through the small opening of the cocoon is nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight.

Like the sapling which grows strong from being buffeted by the wind, in life we all need to struggle sometimes to make us strong.

When we coach and teach others it is helpful to recognize when people need to do things for themselves.


2 thoughts on “Should Managers Let Employees Struggle?

    • Thank you very much Dr. Jenner, I have really enjoyed your posts and passing them on to friends and colleagues. My goal is to do exactly that, provide practical management tips that apply to our everyday work life.

      Thank you!

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