The problem with greed
Just take a look at the economic crash of 2009 and one will see the impact of greed on the economic system. Nowadays it seems enough is not enough. The organizational drive to increase margins, lower costs, improve productivity continues to be the main emphasis in business. After all this is what our schools teach. What gets lost is the balance between the drive for just making money and making work enjoyable. When people find joy in their work, they want to help to improve the business and are more creative and willing to offer suggestions. While the desire by management is for collaboration, often the management does the opposite placing people in competition vs. one another. This leads to the mistrust between employees and management.
Greed takes over
Soon, people start to compete against each other in the race for the increasing salaries and awards. In the end the winners feel more pressure to stay on top and the losers feel like well losers! To improve the teamwork the emphasis should be on the collaboration and not on competition.
I have seen so many performance systems which are set in January and frozen until the following December. As business environment changes, management needs to work together with their staff to change goals and objectives. In many organizations performance goals are established early by top management and as a result these goals and the possibility of reward becomes the only thing which people are focused on. When the performance system is tied directly to specific goals with no flexibility, greed takes over. Short-cuts are made, integrity is compromised and as we have seen with the financial crash of 2009, ethics disappear.
Why people dislike their work
People grow to dislike their work for 3 main reasons. The work no longer aligns their abilities and interests. The environment no longer enables them to grow and develop. The management is poor and not supportive.
Often management forgets that motivation at work is complex and driven by a number of factors. Often the silly contests, performance goals and motivational lunches produce the opposite of the desired effect.
Many HR programs for example aim to get employees motivated by external factors as the better review, the holiday party, and the annual bonus. Better would be to offer education helping people learn how to motivate themselves which in return would produce more productivity and joy at work. Just once I would like to see a performance review which measures the amount of joy at work. When people love their work the organization benefits in many ways. Creativity is high, communication is open and people take risks.
The best managers know that you can’t expect long term success when the only motivational strategy is external short term rewards.
Don’t reward, especially with money
What would an organization do if they couldn’t reward with money?
I often ask this question and always amazed with the blank looks I receive…
There are many ways.
First give people work worth doing. Put a process in place to help match people to the right work. There are many people in the organization that may have strong skills but no longer interested in work they are doing. Find new levels of work for them. There are also people in the organization who are very interested in aspects of the business but lack the skills. Give them new learning opportunities.
When people enjoy their work, it becomes the reward itself especially for the older worker. Provide opportunities for self-assessment, group collaboration and risk taking without penalty for failure. This would be more helpful than offering bonuses for achieving new goals. Behaviorism has not done anyone a favor with the carrot and stick approach.
The problem with ranking and rating and competition
Many high tech firms and others cherish their annual ranking and rating systems competing workers against each other. It drives away creativity, joy, and passion for workers. This approach may work short term for the younger worker but not for the more experienced worker over 40.
Why should this matter to the organization? Despite the economic crisis, there are still more work related choices than ever before. People can still choose to leave and go elsewhere. Only the most successful firms will thrive with people who stay for a long period of time.
Organizations which put their employees against one another will find this strategy inadequate for the long term.
We need better role models
The best managers know how to balance achieving work results and enabling people to find joy in their work. The best managers demonstrate that they care about their people despite their performance. The best managers know that people don’t wake up in the morning to do a bad job. The best managers step back and study the overall system always seeking to make improvements where needed.
Place emphasis on the team
Often at work, we have challenges and are not sure what to do. In other cases we feel unchallenged but with many skills. Placing the emphasis on teamwork ensures a culture of working together, helping, teaching, and leading. Teams solve problems better than individuals. This can occur only when the system promotes collaboration vs. competition. The best managers reward teams and encourage more collaboration.
The management system must change
Many management systems based on either behaviorism by B.F Skinner or Scientific management by Frederick Taylor are outdated and need to be changed. People today have more choices about what to do and where to do their work. Society itself has become more mature in the last 100 years. People are growing to expect more out of their work than just a paycheck and a bonus. The best managers provide outlets for creativity, innovation, and autonomy.
Make collaboration the goal
When people are encouraged to work with one another, fear tends to disappear in the environment and productivity can increase. With collaboration, people become more aware of the interdependency with others. Also, they are more interested in results of their combined work.
Make the work the reward!
As people feel joy at work, this becomes the reward. The best managers work hard to stay out of the way as much as possible.
Eliminate fear and threat
Adults don’t respond well to threats and when it repeats on a regular basis they start to sabotage the system undermining the aim for quality results.
Time for a change and new approach
The ever so popular Dilbert cartoon series was funny because it was true! The era of greed is over. We need a new era of best managers who try new approaches which enable people to have joy and meaning at work WHILE also getting great business results!
Craig Nathanson is the founder of The Best Manager , workshops and products aimed at bringing out the best in those who manage and lead others.
Craig is a 25 year management veteran, Executive coach, college professor, author, and workshop leader. Also, Craig Nathanson is The Vocational Coach helping people and organizations thrive in their work and life.