Giving Instructions

Work instructions come in various strengths.  How strongly you make a request depends on the situation and the team member/s.

Emergencies and dangerous situations, for example, require prompt action.  They call for clear, decisive instructions.  You may not even have the time to explain them.

At the other end of the scale are situations where there are options and enough time.  Here, you can afford to take a more considered approach.

The people you work with may have different skill levels and expectations of their jobs, too.  Those who are highly motivated and self-directed generally respond best to instructions that state the end result and let them decide the best way to achieve it.  People who are just learn­ing a job need step-by-step directions.  Those lacking motivation need frequent guidance.

It’s ok to use a direct approach, and even call on your formal authority, when giving instructions that must be followed without question.  For example, if a team member is engaged in an unsafe work practice, prompt action is required and you may need to resort to giving a direct order.

Occasionally, there may be team members who, because of past experiences or their attitude to the job, respond only to direct instructions.

Explicit instructions spell out the what and the how.  They state the result or goal that’s required and describe, step by step, how to achieve it.  Explicit instructions are good to use with new, unskilled or inexperienced team members.

Generally, though, under normal working situations, direct and explicit instructions can cause re­sentment.  Too many commands and direct orders often reflect unsure or immature managers and rarely achieve more than grudging compliance.

When cooperation is lacking, team members will rarely do more than what you specifically tell them.  This stifles initiative, creativity, suggestions and ideas and you then face the problem of directing reluctant staff.

So, avoid giving direct and explicit instructions if you can take another approach.  If you use this type of instruction only occasionally, team members will know it is for a particularly good reason and will respond more positively.

Give instructions in the right way to ensure the job gets done!