An organizational chart is an easy way to stop playing the blame game.

How many times have you heard, “It’s not my fault.” How often have you said it? Or wanted to say it?

Possibly one of the most negative mistakes that managers make is to blame the wrong person for something that either wasn’t done right or wasn’t done at all. You all have had it happen to you and realize how demotivating and frustrating it is. It’s easy to understand why it is one of the leading causes of employee turnover. You can also imagine how much money that demotivated morale and negative attitude cost the company with an employee who stayed on your payroll but nonetheless “quit working.”

Fortunately, we have an easy solution for all of that misguided blame. Unfortunately, not enough contractors will use it -- or even believe in it.

“Blame” is a very negative word that can be controlled with defined responsibility. When an employee knows what he or she is responsible for and is provided the proper tools and know-how to do it, they will apologize and accept the blame if it doesn’t happen.

Who's The Boss?

As with most other effective management tools, you need documentation. Put it on paper. We have far too many loopholes in verbal communication. A great place to start is by writing and posting a chain of command.

Let’s take a look at the simple rules for an effective profit-producing organization chart:

  • It must be written and posted or a copy should be in everyone’s company policy.

  • A vertical line on that chart is called “line management” and defines total control as well as total responsibility for all of the employees below your line. They are responsible for their performance and actions.

  • There is no limit to the number of employees who can work for you. The reason for writing a chain of command is for the number of people who can work over you, which is only ONE! No one can answer to two bosses. If I told you what to do and the second boss gave you hell for doing it, you can easily see the frustration.

    That number of subordinates depends on the difficulty of the task and the abilities of your employees. If your crew is doing a menial task, such as demolition or cleanup, you could easily supervise 10 or even 20 unskilled employees. When you are doing layout or complicated installations, your crew will naturally be smaller depending on their skill, knowledge and ability.

  • primary reason this written chain is so effective is the difference in two little words, “ask” and “tell.” When an employee is under you on that chart, you can “tell” them what to do, which definitely makes you responsible for what they’ve done. When an employee works for someone else, you can only “ask” them to do something.

    They will either make that decision themselves or go to their assigned boss, which relieves you of any responsibility or blame. That is so simple, it’s hard to understand why contractors do not use it.

  • Horizontal line on your chart is called “staff management,” which means that other employees assist or advise you, but they are not responsible for the employee under your line of command.

    Typically, this would be an EEO officer, personnel director or safety director, etc. In a larger company these employees may have their own staff, which would be defined by a vertical line below their position.

    Writing and explaining this organization chart is relatively simple. Restraining yourself and your other bosses from breaking that chain is not so easy. It is very difficult to walk through your office or visit a jobsite and see something that is costing you money (or maybe could be done better) without sticking your nose into it. This is especially damaging with blood relatives and seasoned employees with seniority.

    I hope your written (and posted) chain of command along with proper explanation will encourage your employees to caution you to explain your request to their immediate superior. If you can swallow it, you should remember that you own this company and you sign their paychecks, but you are not their boss. They work for Pete, Mike or Mary or whoever’s name you placed above their line.

    This takes care of the “who’s” -- who you are responsible for and who others are responsible to. Next month, we will help define “what” each employee is responsible for.

    Ridilla At ISH NA

    Paul Ridilla is a scheduled speaker at the ISH North America trade show debuting in Toronto. Paul will present two sessions of "Manpower Miracles: How to Recruit, Motivate and Retain Employees" on Thursday, Oct. 31: the first running 10-11:30 a.m., and repeating at 3:30-5 p.m. To register for the show, visit