Why the Squeaky Wheel gets the grease

A few years ago I remember my mentor sharing this nugget with me:

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

I thought it was a bit trite and childish for the issues we were discussing. We talking about politics of the organization.

We were talking about fairness.

We were talking about the future.

We were talking about BIG things, important things in my career and life.

Funny, I remember hearing this phrase growing up, but never really understood what it means.

While I was at Yammer I remember hearing the “squeaky wheels” loudly in our communities and on social media. These were the customers who had ideas, feedback, thoughts that must be addressed. One way we addressed these squeaky wheels, was with data. Was it something everyone experienced? Or was your org/company an anomaly? Or was it truly something we needed to address and get some proverbial grease on.

Another thing about squeaky wheels is they are brave, and bold enough to speak up when something is out of place or bothering you. This probably drives my mom and husband crazy, because I am usually that person. Here’s a simple example, the other day the cart at the grocery store was broken. I took the cart to the manager who was working in the line and let her know it was broken. She probably didn’t fix it right away, but she would have never known the cart was broken otherwise. Store managers aren’t usually using all their carts daily. Most people assume someone else will take care of it or assume its already been brought to the attention.  I don’t usually assume that, because that’s rarely the case.

So back to the saying…

But what about the other three wheels? Are they doing the same job/experience/service/product without complaining aka squeaking?

Most people like to go with the flow and they try and create harmony in the way that they work or play. Maybe the other wheels have complained before and been burned by that decision. Or maybe they hoping the squeak fixes itself. Maybe they are thankful they aren’t broken just yet. Maybe they’ve already solved the issue because of preventive maintenance that was done on the wheel before the last road trip. Regardless, this is a great question, and perspective shift when thinking about this phrase.

Most people don’t want to bother anyone and they want to avoid confrontation. I can relate to this. I don’t want to sound like I am complaining about everything. I also don’t want to pick apart something just for kicks. But I do have a level of standard that products and services should be. And if its less than desired, I say something. The intentions of me bringing it up, is not to complain. Its actually to better the establishment or organization. There is too much competition in the world today for businesses to not be listening to their customers.

Another way to shift the thinking about this is…

What could we do to prevent the wheel from squeaking in the first place?  As this applies to change management and social networking, think about the measures, materials, boundaries, guidelines, templates or key influencers we can have on our side to make sure that the wheel doesn’t squeak. Or when it does start to squeak we are prepared and ready with our grease.

A few months ago my trunk squeaked SO loud every time it opened. Thankfully my husband was prepared, after the second time it creaked open loudly, he applied WD40 to get rid of the squeak. Sometimes, its as simple as having the right tools at the right moment to apply the grease to get it to stop squeaking. 

What do you think about squeaky wheels? Or are you a squeaky wheel? Curious to hear your thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *