In The Workplace

Some managers are friendly and empower and engage their people, while others are deeply attached to their dictatorial ways and are hated for their toxic behavior. What kind of intervention must human resources (HR) perform to keep workers from making comparisons of the two types? — Red Rose.

A motivational speaker was asked to speak by a charity institution. After the speech, the program director handed him his professional fee. “I’m sorry, I can’t accept this,” the speaker said. “I appreciate the honor of being asked to speak before your group. I suggest you use the money to support your programs.”

The director replied if he would mind if the money went to the institution’s special fund.

The speaker replied. “Of course not. But what’s the special fund for?”

The director replied: “It adds to our funding so we can get a better speaker next time.”

At times, we can’t help but compare people and what they can and cannot do. This happens all the time. Recall your first experience with a new boss early in your employment. Was it a good learning experience? Why or why not? If it was nightmare, then what made it a nightmare?

Whatever the answer, you may have endured the remaining months or years of your tenure feeling the pain until an opportunity knocked, allowing you to transfer elsewhere within the organization or move to another job, where your boss seemed a lot more friendly.

After a few months of working for the new boss, did you start getting a sense of déjà vu? Did your new boss transform into something like your former boss?

Consult your HR department and compare its ideas with what other companies are doing. Assuming that your HR department is led by professionals, they should be performing the following interventions, in a calibrated and objective manner:

One, conduct an annual employee morale survey. Also called as a climate survey, such an approach is advisable for any organization wishing to understand how the workers perceive the management style of all line supervisors and managers. It can also pinpoint a particular unit, section, or department where changes must be prioritized.

Two, explore using an established set of survey questions. Some organizations use the Gallup’s Employee Engagement Survey. This includes questions about how employees are being treated at work, how they’re recognized and rewarded, how they’re being coached on career development and how their opinions are solicited.

Three, identify the low-scoring units, sections or departments. There’s no need to identify the problem managers by name. It is enough that they must know how their style is perceived by workers, regardless of whether the perception is true or not. What is important is how they change their ways to correct the perception.

Four, consider whether the findings line up with the attrition rate. There’s no better way to validate the workers’ perceptions with the rate of voluntary resignation. If the rate has become alarming in a particular unit, one possible solution is to allow the line executive to reform, with a transfer in extreme cases.

Last, offer a leadership program for all line executives. This could take the form of a deep-dive workshop, as an indirect signal to the supervisor and manager roster to improve their poor management skills. The module may include reviewing their motivational levels and identifying their styles, for correction if necessary. 

If these recommendations are not feasible for whatever reason, as your problem supervisors and managers might claim, there could be another solution to consider: Turn the negative approach into positive. Learn from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” which illustrates that even a bothersome task like painting a fence can be gainfully passed on to other people.

Likewise, challenge the toxic managers to make supervising their workers an enjoyable experience, day in and day out. It may involve rewarding model line executives for their management styles.

It could be a radical idea to some people and not easy to imagine, even for model executives who may be reluctant to offer their styles as a solution for management colleagues. Unless you try it, the result could be to bear the consequences of having a good number of demotivated and unproductive workers.


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