Stop Spoon-Feeding Your Employees. Please.

We are all guilty of it at one point or another. We mislabel it as hand holding, coaching, giving directions, leading, etc. In reality there is a world of difference between what we are really doing and all these labels we mask it under. I’m talking about nothing but that hideous spoon-feeding we all do.

Everyday we hear of stories from managers complaining about how over-reliant their employees have become on their managers to solve the tiniest of problems; how no one bothers to research an answer, and worse, as one manager put it, how this ’laziness’ as he termed it, is catching up with whom he thought were the stars on his team. The managers’ agonies are genuine and we do sympathise with them (by we I mean the HR community. After all, of all functions, HR suffers most from this spoon-feeding habit: as an employee, I don’t have to research what benefits I’m entitled for, I will call HR and they will read me that clause in the policy which by the way, is a click of a button away from me on the company portal!).

But being genuine doesn’t take away our responsibility as leaders for allowing this to fester. Let’s admit it, spoon-feeding is our own hands wrong doing. We do it with all the good intentions in the world but a time must come when we must push back if we want to institute a performance culture in our organisations.

For the one or two of you who want to know what sparked the idea of me writing this short posting about this topic, well the HR team literally spent the past 2 weeks answering employees calls and responding to emails of how to complete the employee engagement survey launched earlier last month. Despite the fact that the communication employees received was so clear, and contained a detailed step by step guide, yet no one seemed interested in reading and instead, the easy way out, ring HR, they will read for us!!

So yes, back to my point, for everyone’s sake, let’s please stop the spoon-feeding. And here’s why:

  1. As a leader, you want to encourage your employees to find solutions to problems they are facing. You expect them to have explored all possible solutions before knocking on your door with a problem. After all they are fully competent to do so. One leader I know constantly pushes back by asking his team two questions when they come to him with a problem: a- what in your opinion is the solution to this problem? And b- if you were me how would you solve this problem?
  2. Embedding the above within the culture of your organization is a perquisite of innovation. One effective approach is to challenge assumptions and stay in question mode. You want to ensure that your employees are exhausting all possibilities, and they are doing this on their own. Your role as a leader on the other hand is to trust and provide them with the right environment and resources. Do that and a new idea is inevitable. You start unearthing the potential in your team, which leads me to the third reason.
  3. Stopping the spoon-feeding is an effective approach to identify future leaders. Combined with the right level of empowerment, the stars on the team have an opportunity to discover new ways of doing things, do away with ‘that’s how things were done in the past’ syndrome, and outperform.  Spoon-feeding keeps employees stuck in a rut and breeds mediocrity.
  4. Spoon-feeding erodes accountability. There is no ownership, period. You, the leader, get sucked up into solving day-to-day problems. Productivity and performance suffer.

Moral of my posting today is to say “No” to spoon-feeding if you want an engaged population and you able to add the value a leader should be bringing to the table.

About the author: Hanadi El Sayyed is a Senior Human Resources Business Partner working for Majid Al Futtaim Properties, the market leader in development and management of shopping malls in the Middle East. Based in Dubai she  specialises in strategic workforce planning and development with an emphasis on corporate sustainability and sustainable development. You can reach her on Linkedin or on Twitter as@Hana_ElSayyed.

About the Author

Hanadi El Sayyed

My name is Hanadi El Sayyed and I am a Senior Human Resources Business Partner working for Majid Al Futtaim Properties, the market leader in development and management of shopping malls in the Middle East. I am based in Dubai, and specialise in strategic workforce planning and development with an emphasis on corporate sustainability and sustainable development. With over 10 years experience in Human Resources, my expertise include best practices, policies, performance management and organization health. You can reach me on Linkedin on or follow me on Twitter @Hana_ElSayyed


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Dorothy Douglass

Great post, and I agree with MIhai’s comment. We, like IT, can get lost in our own HR worlds and really forget that others are not as HR-savvy as we are – about whatever. Continual communication is important, if not key, to blazing that trail. Have I been or will I be frustrated with someone asking questions over & over. And over? Yes. Breathe deep, and ask of them, how could I communicate this better? And hang in there!

Mihai Calin

Indeed, sometimes employees can rely too much on their managers to solve their problems, but i don’t think that your example is truly the right one to enforce it. I understand your frustration when you have to explain every step of the procedure to the employees, no matter what it is related to, but sometimes, you also have to understand that what appears to be very simple to you, it may not be so simple to somebody that has no idea on HR procedures.

As a counter example, think of the frustration a sys admin feels when he has to explain the same IT procedures over and over again to a person who is not as technical as they are.

What I found to be a solution to these sorts of problems is to improve communication by following a few simple steps like:
1. Schedule communication, because even if you feel like your ideas have been absorbed when you had a friendly chat by the copy machine, it’s always better received when they are explained in a meeting.
2. Write it out first. Because sometimes you think you said, but you didn’t. Or worse, you did say it, but it was a long conversation and the importance was lost on your staff.
3. Blaze a trail. Follow up emails work wonders and serve as a communication trail. Use it to paraphrase tasks and restate deadlines.
4. Ask for status updates on an ongoing basis, and avoid surprises.
5. Ask your team to paraphrase their assignment, and you make sure they understand the task fully.


thank you Mihai for your comment, you bring out a strong point which I absolutely agree with. I must highlight though that the example I used is in context of some employees cutting corners and taking an easy way out rather than putting the slightest effort to read at least, rather than genuinely in need of support.

But back to your point, and to that effect, yes I 100% agree with your approach on improving communication.


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