A Manager's Metric: The Employee Weigh-In

Dwayne Phillips

Revision History
Revision 1.028 March 2007

If you are reading this, you probably manage an organization of people. How well do you manage? Would you like to have a simple, quantified measure of manager effectiveness? I think I may have discovered one, so read on.

I recently had a conversation with a colleague named Rob. Rob and I used to work together in another organization - call it Office C. Rob left Office C several months ago as did I a couple of weeks ago.

Our current pace of work is slower than it was in Office C. Rob now goes to the cafeteria everyday for lunch - something he rarely did in Office C. I asked in jest if he had gained weight with all these relaxed lunches. His reply was an emphatic, "No!" He continued on with, "In fact, I have lost weight."

This surprised me and spurred the conversation. Rob told me about half a dozen people we know who moved on to other jobs. Every person he mentioned had the same experience - they lost weight after leaving Office C. I knew of another person who also lost weight after leaving Office C. I myself lost weight and lowered my blood pressure.

We speculated about reasons for weight gain in Office C and weight loss after leaving it. Eating regular meals is better for you than catching snacks between meetings. Eating regular meals probably means eating more salads and fewer candy bars. A regular schedule is less stressful than racing all day, and stress leads to eating the wrong foods at the wrong times - both of which leads to weight gain.

Rob and I are neither medical doctors nor dieticians. Our explanations are merely guesses. We can, however, observe facts - almost universal weight loss after leaving Office C.

We had stumbled upon a quantified measure of a manager's effectiveness. Every person we knew who lost weight could trace their management line up to one person who was responsible for Office C. That person, in my opinion, was a poor office manager. The people working for him raced through the day skipping meals, eating snacks between and during meetings, and gained weight because of it. Weight gain indicated poor management.

A lighter workload, more organized meetings, and projects that were fewer in number and more systematic in nature could have reduced stress on the job. Those items were the responsibility of the Office C manager. He didn't arrange them well, and the health of many people in his office suffered because of it.

How are the people you manage doing physically? Are they eating regular meals? Are they eating at noon? Is their weight and blood pressure rising?

I urge managers to use this simple measure of your effectiveness: your employees' weight. It is a single number obtained from an inexpensive and readily available measuring device. Consultants, metrics, and other complex initiatives are not necessary. Simply weigh your employees every week.

Life isn't that simple. There are real, legal issues about personal privacy and the confidentiality of health records.

Measures aren't that simple. There are many causes for weight gain other than stress caused by a manager. A manager can create a healthy office environment where nothing is accomplished and everyone loses their job for lack of product.

What can you as a manager of people do? One answer is to have real conversations with the people you manage. The, "How ya doin'?" and "Fine." conversation is insufficient. Relate the story of Rob and I, weight gain and loss, and not so good management. Encourage people in your employ to weigh themselves weekly and, if they can, have their blood pressure measured as well. If you can, arrange for a medical professional to visit your workplace each week to take these measurements.

Tell your employees, "I cannot pry into your medical records. I want to know how you are doing physically as a measure of my effectiveness. Are your numbers staying steady, degrading, or improving?"

If the numbers are degrading, talk about the possible influence that the workplace - the workplace that you the manager created - is having on their health.

Do these things for two reasons. The secondary reason is that healthy people perform better than unhealthy people. The primary reason is that you should not be degrading the health of any person - especially those who work under your management.