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Marketplace insights

Ever use the term: “My way is the best way” or “If you want something done right you have to do it yourself?” Regardless of whether you believe these statements are accurate, in business these assumptions can be paralyzing to a productive workforce.

Among one of the greatest complaints and frustrations of Native workers, is their inability to work independently and without constant monitoring by their supervisor, manager, oversight board and even tribal council. Trying to be productive while someone is looking over your shoulder or scrutinizing every little detail of your work can make for a difficult and frustrating work environment.

It is often unclear as to the origin of this type of behavior, perhaps it is a control issue, managers and administrators exercising an unhealthy need for power over their workforce, or lack of confidence on their own part, issues with trust or even problems with their leadership abilities. Sometimes it is a situation of new managers coming in from the outside and being unfamiliar with staff qualifications, but from a culture perspective, it may be more about creating one’s personal value or establishing the need for a lifelong mentorship role in a more communal system of interdependence.

Regardless of the reason, it can certainly create some significant workplace problems. One of the most critical mistakes a manager can make is to micromanage their workforce. It can result in their staff’s loss of confidence in their ability to complete even simple work tasks, fosters unnecessary dependence on their supervisors and co-workers, halt productivity, reduce the quality of their work product and complicate the work process. It can also create confusion in roles and responsibilities in the workplace. Sometimes this even becomes evident with clients and customers, they will begin to suspect an unproductive work environment and begin to draw away from this type of business or organization.

It is important to have faith in, not only your staff’s qualifications to complete their job responsibilities, but your own ability to teach and train your staff effectively.

You hire staff to perform a certain role in your organization. They should be selected with confidence and trusted to fulfill their roles successfully; after all, you DID hire qualified adult professionals and/or experienced personnel to become a part of your department or business. If problems exist, you might want to explore ways to deal appropriately with problem employees. But for the most part, employees can be nurtured to function at their most productive mode.

Learning to trust your staff and their professional abilities is an important part of being a good manager or business owner. As we look for ways to increase productivity and ultimately business success, we might want to consider how we can improve our business or organization’s functions. Learning to groom a confident and qualified workforce is one important step to take. This can help to make us more productive and competitive in our work environment, and for today’s modern Native professional manager and leader it is an important option to achieving organizational and business success.

Lucinda Hughes-Juan has many years of teaching and training in the fields of business and management, with a focus on the cultural dynamics in Native businesses and organizations. She is an enrolled member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. She holds an MBA in global management, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in business and organizational management. E-mail her at