What does it mean to be compliant? Most people would say it means that you do what you’re told when you’re told to do it. That’s about right, but not quite. Emotionally mature people have the ability to do what they’re told, when they’re told to do it, with a good attitude.

In my years as an administrator and teacher, I observed many teachers and students doing what they were told, but what was missing was the good attitude. Although they complied with directives or instructions, they grumbled or cursed under their breath and definitely did not have a good attitude. Often they complained to co-teachers or fellow students while they were complying.

Mature people have the ability to cooperate even when they disagree. They don’t waste time complaining about what they have to do. They spend time getting the job done.

People with a poor attitude never give it their best when they do a job. They give a half hearted effort and are usually considered second rate students or employees. In contrast, compliant individuals give everything their best all the time and earn the confidence of their parents, teachers, and employers. Compliant people also know how to make correct appeals if something doesn’t sit quite right with them. They always look for clarifications or help when they have trouble getting something done.

As a young administrator, I was given the responsibility of issuing paychecks to the employees in my school. On one occasion, the checks arrived one day early. I was told by my superintendent not to issue the checks until the following day. A custodian, who already had been told that he wasn’t going to be rehired, asked me if he could have his paycheck early. I felt sorry for him especially because he was being let go. You have to understand the reason why he was being let go. This custodian was non-compliance personified. He argued no matter what he was told to do. When he did what he was told, he was miserable and he let you know it. My boss couldn’t stand him and rightly so because he was a terrible employee.

Well, I made the conscious decision to issue the check to him even though I knew I wasn’t doing what I had been told to do by my boss. I did this without asking permission. Of course I went against the directive that had been given to me. The next day was the last day of the school year as well as the last day this custodian was to work. He never came to work!

When I realized he hadn’t reported the custodian was not on the job, I became nervous. I had to report his absence to my boss. When I called my boss to tell of the custodian’s absence, my boss said, “This was the biggest reason why I didn’t want those paychecks issued. I held back all the pay-checks because I didn’t want him to get his. I knew if he got his paycheck he wouldn’t show up for work today. I’m so glad I told you not to issue those paychecks.”

As I was listening to my boss talk the beads of sweat were starting to form on my forehead. When he was finished talking, I then told him the bad news. Speaking slowly, I said, “I did issue him his paycheck.” My boss responded by asking me to come to his office in about ten minutes.

Driving to his office I was thinking…why didn’t I listen to my boss and do as you were told. To summarize the conversation, or more like it, the reaming out I got from my boss, he basically undressed me for not comply-ing with his directive. I felt about one inch tall while he was talking to me because I knew that if I had listened to him, I wouldn’t be sitting there being reprimand.

To make matters worse, I then had to go through the embarrassment of calling the custodian up and telling him he had to pay the school back the $85.00 he had basically “stolen” for a day’s work he didn’t do.

There was one other effect my decision had on me. In my next performance evaluation, my boss cited me for not following administrative directives. I wasn’t happy that there was something negative going into my personnel record but I also knew my boss was right. After this incident, I had to work doubly hard to win back my boss’s respect and trust.

A huge problem in society today is that everyone think they are entitled to a full explanation when they are told to do something. People in authority don’t always have the time or luxury to explain every directive they give. When today’s generation of parents give an explanation when they tell their child to do something, they are making a huge mistake. The next thing that happens is these children go to school and expect their teachers to give them an explanation or a reason for everything they tell their students to do.

If they don’t get their explanation which they think they are entitled to or if they disagree with the explanation, then the student develops a poor attitude and then often become non-compliant. Children and adults who are under the authority of their parents or bosses should realize that it is in their best interest to comply when they are told to do something.

Remember-the person in charge is there for a reason. They have their own valid reasons for telling us what to do and they don’t always have to tell us what those reasons are.

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