I’m often asked to help leaders motivate employees because productivity, quality, attitudes and morale are low. Leaders typically assume that unhappy employees are the problem, and making them happier – with team-building, money, perks or more involvement in decision-making - is the solution. That might seem like good sense but the answer doesn’t lie in accommodation, appeasement or consensus involving the most demanding employees.
To read the rest of this article from the East Bay Business Times, see: You can't make all employees happy -- and shouldn't try http://eastbay.bizjournals.com/eastbay/stories/2004/08/16/smallb6.html
The key isn’t being nicer; the key is leaders leading and followers following.
It’s true that many employees and managers will be more productive when they are treated the way they want. But it’s equally true that many will enjoy their jobs only if they don’t have to be productive or evaluated honestly. These people want to control every decision, put their feelings before work, be catered to and applauded for throwing temper tantrums.
Some examples of different leaders who got into trouble trying to be too nice. For details, see the original article.
- The staff in one division of a company was unable to form three-person customer service teams because only 15 of 17 people wanted them.
- At another company, workers were allowed to interrupt senior leader meetings, rudely challenge any decision and make personal attacks on leaders.
- In an under-performing unit of a third company, a new supervisor evaluating a resistant and mediocre employee saw a five-year history of excellent reviews.
Lack of appropriate leadership at these companies created power vacuums that attracted negative, critical, unhappy and abusive people who wanted control. Well-meaning leaders had perpetuated the lie that the best way to encourage employee productivity and professional growth was to placate them through sympathy, begging, bribery and allowing them to act out. These cultures were self-described as “employee centered, caring, consensus and win-win.”
A key initial step in solving the problems was seeing them as cultures of entitlement, appeasement and rule by petulant, demanding “children.”
The workplace is not a therapeutic environment. Companies do not exist to make us comfortable and happy, or give unconditional approval. If your feelings are hurt by honest, professional evaluations, prepare for disappointment. If they’re hurt by differences in responsibility and authority between leaders and followers, become a leader.
We don’t get to vote on everything. We can’t force everyone to treat us the way we want. We get rewarded for productivity and success. We often have to suck it up and be productive when we’d rather not.
Ultimately, companies are in business to make a profit. Well-meaning leaders who work too hard at being nice, caring people can find themselves carrying 100 percent of the burden to please the most hostile, demanding employees who aren’t contributing to the success of the organization.
Consensus leadership and flat hierarchies are fads that are finally beginning to pass. They are simply not efficient or effective enough to succeed.
Leaders lead by determining direction, establishing goals and expectations, and judging employees by performance. Leaders don’t have to be bullies or ogres. Of course, listening to employees can be a great asset. But, in the end, leaders are responsible for leading the way so employees can follow.
Often, individuals need coaching and organizations need consulting to help them design and implement a plan that fits the situation. To get the help you need, call Ben at 1-877-828-5543.