Black Box Employees

Do you have Black Boxes in your Organization? We probably all do. Black boxes are employees who know too much. Can you think of any of them in your Company? I am sure if you give it a couple of minutes, you can come out with few names who fit this criteria.

The first idea that probably comes to mind when you read this is “Oh, I never looked at things from this perspective before”. The reality shock sometimes might lead you to think that Black Box employees are a big risk to Business. They know too much, so they need to be neutralized. True that if those people decide to leak information they can cause harm to you and to the Business; in some situations you will find yourself subconsciously tending to keep them happy simply because they know a lot.

Yet, this need not be the case. Black Box employees can actually be a great treasure to your company if you know how to handle them smartly. If you look at them from a positive perspective they can:

  1. Stand for the institutional memory of the Company helping you and other staff in recalling the details of sensitive matters that happened in the past.
  2. Get your back during your absence as they know what’s in and what’s not in your benefit.
  3. Defend your strategies and plans as they understand the background of where you are coming from
  4. Act as gatekeepers in protection of Corporate Values and maintaining the soul of the Business
  5. Act as sincere advisors when things get tough as there are no psychological barriers between both of you

Then again, the main idea here is whether we know who are our ‘Black Boxes’ or not. Staying ignorant of who those people are implies a lot of risk. Knowing them is excellent; not having them is optimal, yet chances are.

Still, handling Black Boxes is not easy stuff. Trust is the name of the game, and if this is lost, it can get nasty. Your relationship with Black Boxes can have a lot of ups and downs, especially that what they know might exceed business boundaries. At times, you would mostly hate the fact that you have Black Box employees, yet in other instances they sound like an inevitable evil, even a blessing. Leadership is a lonely game, and having a black box beside you can help you at times of distress to release your steam without getting exposed.

Although my concept seems to be addressed exclusively to CEOs, this is not the case. All leaders, managers, and people in highly exposed positions have Black Boxes, and that is what increases the significance of the idea.

We all are surrounded by Black Boxes, yet, the question remains: do we know them?