Why the “Squeaky Wheel” Doesn’t Always Need the Grease

You’ve heard it before – “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” – and probably assume that this age-old idiom will inevitably hold true in all aspects of work and life. Those who are most vocal about their obstacles will receive the most help, right? Not necessarily.

Good leaders know that it’s up to them to provide the tools their employees need to succeed. They stay on top of progress and know that effective communication is a two-way street. Here are four reasons why the “squeaky wheel” isn’t always the most urgent, and how leaders can better identify need from noise:

They don’t know any better. If team members are only given attention when they complain, then naturally that will be what they resort to when they are in need. Encourage your team, at all levels, to come to management with solutions. Establish guidelines as to what constitutes as an appropriate problem to approach management with, and which problems (and resources) can be worked with independently for a bit more.

They don’t feel comfortable speaking up. It is no secret that people are different and therefore work differently. Some are more likely to make noise at the smallest inconvenience, while others might struggle quietly with an important project. Create an environment where everyone is comfortable engaging in office dialogue – whether that be talking in meetings, offering ideas to management, and, yes, sometimes just small talk. Many companies have found success by coordinating team “offsites,” kind of like field trips for work. Your offsite could be a weekend camping getaway, or a casual company picnic. These build a positive company culture and help to make everyone more comfortable with each other.

They can’t see past their preconceived notions. In these cases, the departments are so disconnected from each other that one of them does not even know that they are doing something wrong. When the error does eventually get caught, it’s at stage that will take a lot of time and energy to reverse, not to mention that some team members already lost a lot of time and energy working incorrectly. Avoid this by being clear with expectations, particularly in writing (like an email) that team members can refer back to it, rather than guess. An email chain is also great, because most questions that come up along the way can be quickly addressed in a reply.

There is not a good system of engagement in place. Managers’ “open door” office policies are good in theory, but they do not work for all team members. Regular check-ins, as well as an alignment platform like ThinkTank, are the best way to establish engagement while encouraging independence. With ThinkTank, team members can easily communicate with managers on their own time. Try ThinkTank today and avoid the “squeaky wheel problem” entirely.