insider_imageAs well as writing this column I also cover rugby matches for the local Sunday newspaper. I was covering a match recently which had to be abandoned after a nasty alleged stamping incident which caused tempers to boil over both on and off the pitch. It was something I feared would happen because the referee hadn’t been able to control the match or the players for much of the game.

You’re probably wondering what on earth this has to do with warehousing but people management is an essential part of running an efficient warehouse as much as an efficient rugby match. The referee in this match failed to explain his decisions, frustrating the players and causing frustrations to manifest in an unproductive way. Failing to effectively manage people in a warehouse can have similarly unproductive consequences – although I can’t imagine there will be any stamping involved.

I have worked in a busy warehouse, staffed almost 24 hours a day, six days a week with a large turnover of employees. The night shift – my shift – was overseen by a night manager who spent the majority of the shift shut away in an upstairs office and there was no warehouse supervisor on the shift. The result was that too many of the workers didn’t take their job seriously; one guy even spent the whole shift listening to an mp3 player despite it supposedly being against company rules.

Goods weren’t treated with the necessary care and when it came to loading delivery vehicles towards the end of the shift most of the workers would just sit around in the corner – out of the eyeshot of the manager’s window of course – and do as little as they could get away with, which was extremely little as it happened.

Eventually, and presumably after being tipped off about the lack of productivity, the shift manager installed one of the team as a warehouse supervisor. The problem was he chose the ringleader of those who had been messing around in the first place, demonstrating just how little he knew about what was happening on his shift.

That was a final straw for me and I left that job soon after because I wasn’t prepared to take orders from the new warehouse supervisor. What’s the lesson to learn from all this? It’s that a group of people is not likely to work efficiently on their own so make every effort to stay in control before your better staff leave. That would be a real kick in the teeth – metaphorically speaking that is, unlike the earlier rugby reference.

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