The world of pain offers educational opportunities for subcontractors. Cost depends upon the length of time you’ve been in pain. On a scale of 1 to 10, how strong is the pain your feeling? Where does it hurt? Who’s causing the pain: clients, employees, vendors, you?

I’ve been getting calls from East Coast subcontractors having some pains. After talking to them, I’d rate the majority of their pain at a five on a scale of one to 10. In other words, their pain level is increasing, but they’re reaching out before the pain reaches eight, nine or 10. How does an employer or manger feel and act when his or her pain level is running high: controlling, depressed, angry, or distant?

How do employees feel when working for someone whose pain level is between an eight or 10? Do they feel confused, in doubt, frustrated, or defensive?

In August, my wife drove me to the local emergency room due to severe pain. I knew it was a kidney stone the moment the pain started. In any case, after waiting two hours to see the doctor, they hooked me up to an I.V. and added some pain medication. Then it was off for an M.R.I. After returning to the emergency room, the doctor came in and said, ‘Well, you have a kidney stone and it’s small enough to pass, so I’m going to write you a prescription to take care of the pain.’

He wrote three prescriptions: one for oxycodone, one for a new non-narcotic pain pill and one to make me pee like a racehorse. With prescriptions in hand, we drove to a 24-hour pharmacy at 3:00 a.m. to learn that my insurance would only cover the cost of  five of the new non-narcotic pills because they were so expensive. However, they gave me a huge bottle of the oxycodone.

I’ve taken oxycodone for kidney stones before and they turn me into a zombie. Knowing this I was forced into making a decision to either cancel my upcoming fishing trip to Alaska or go because I didn’t buy trip insurance. I decided to cancel, and I let my friends know that I wouldn’t be going and that if they knew someone who could go they could go on my dime.

Pain and Change

I hated having to tell the guys I couldn’t go, but being on a boat in a rough sea is is not the best thing to do when you’re on zombie medication. The point is that the pain and the meds forced me to make a decision I really didn’t want to make. The pain business owners and managers experience can have the same effect if the pain is bad enough.

Take Mark from New York for example, a subcontractor doing about $5 million a year in revenue, as he put it, “I’m totally burned out because I have to do everything.” Mark’s having growing pains but the real problem is that he doesn’t think anyone can do anything as well as he can and he’s angry that his employees won’t step-up.

The question becomes, “What happens when you work for someone you just can’t please?” Many employees in this situation become overly dependent on the boss, meaning they rarely make a decision on their own. In Mark’s case, he feels none of his employees can do anything right and he knows that he can’t keep up the pace he created. Although he’s angry and depressed most of the time, the pain isn’t bad enough to make him change.

For most employers and employees, pain has to exceed a 10 before action is taken. Mark may be at a 10, but a few of his employees are beyond 10 and that’s why they recently left the company. Since this happened, Mark is beginning to understand that he’s the source of his and his employee’s pain.

Pain Points

Take some time away from the office and jot down some pain points you as an employer or manager are suffering with.  For example: culture, difficult people, control, communication, trust, etc.

Let’s say that one of the things causing you the most amount of pain is that you commonly give up and then take back control when an employee handles a problem differently than you. Another pain point might be your obvious lack of trust in some people and not others or the unhealthy competition you create between employees. Understand there are three types of employers and mangers. Those who create pain, promote or relieve pain. 

Pain Relievers

Until Mark from NYC decides to change his behavior, his and his employee’s pain will continue. Not only does he need to change his behavior, but he also needs to change his belief system. He has to realize that other people can do things not only as well as he can, but some can do things better if he just gives them the chance.

How do you become a pain reliever rather than a pain creator or promoter? Here are a few ideas to consider: identify company pain points, take responsibility, take corrective action(s).

Mark from New York City realizes that he can’t grow his business unless he changes his behavior and beliefs, and he’s getting very close to taking responsibility for what has occurred. Mark is now faced with having to take action to replace the staff he lost, knowing that he will have to treat new staff differently.

For larger companies, with multiple locations, an employer may want to say, “I wish all of our offices were like the Southwest office.” Some things are better left unsaid, unless you want to create division between the Southwest office and the rest of the offices. Creating unhealthy competition between offices creates the pain of division. If you don’t care about creating division, it simply means that you have a different pain point to overcome.

The good thing about pain, it warns and can cause change. The bad thing about pain, it can get worse.