GENIUS MANAGER OF EMPLOYEES
At the time I never realized what a significant impact my doctoral dissertation would have on my life down the years. Again and again, it provides insight into why organizations are so dysfunctional, even painful, as places to work. I begrudgingly admit my advisor was right. What do I mean?
You did a dissertation because you had to. You had to do “original research” in order to earn a PhD at Florida State University. I had a great topic on Democratic Education – Can It Work? investigating schools like Neill’s Summerhill and Rudolf Steiner’s schools. My committee chair killed my proposal. I was crushed, especially because he could not come up with a good reason other than, ‘I don’t like it.’ which I think meant personally, not professionally. It was not until after I had looked around for a topic and HE suggested one – STRONGLY – meaning if I selected it he would approve it. It had merit, so I went with it.
In 1968, Florida experienced the first statewide walkout by teachers. It was a massive uproar and I was in the middle of it in several ways.
But let’s get to the point. My dissertation was “Work Environment, Risk-Taking, and Teacher Walkout Behavior – A Study of the 1968 Florida Teacher Walkout” In that study, I relied heavily on a burgeoning piece of work by a clinical psychologist, Frederick Herzberg. He has many publications, and I will list a few below but, succinctly, his “Two-Factor Theory” basically stated that what you think motivates people in the workplace doesn’t. Money, promotions, status, better offices, etc., just keep people from being dissatisfied, but they do not promote job satisfaction for long. What does? Let me quote the man directly:
Brilliant Frederick Herzberg
Frederick Herzberg, a clinical psychologist, proposed a brilliant theory on work motivation…called the Two-Factor Theory. Here are three quotes from Dr. Herzberg that tell you most all you need to know about a healthy work environment:
- “If you want someone to do a good job, give them a good job to do.”
- “It’s the job of a manager not to light the fire of motivation, but to create an environment to let each person’s personal spark of motivation blaze.”
- “Idleness, indifference and irresponsibility are healthy responses to absurd work.”
- “You cannot love an employee into creativity, although you can … avoid his dissatisfactions with the way you treat him.”
- “True motivation comes from achievement, personal development, job satisfaction, and recognition.”
The Key to Being a Genius Manager of Employees in the Workplace
There, in #5, is the key! What really gets people eager to arrive at work is from a sense of achievement, feelings of personal growth, the work itself being meaningful, and being respected and noticed for what they are doing.
It is the creation of an environment where those things can naturally occur that creates a genius manager of employees!
My point is, for significant and lasting change we need to see what is going on with the people, not the data, or spreadsheets, or big 5-year plans. I am not saying those are unimportant. I am saying they are of LESSER importance than the people involved. We must get to know them, find out what is going on inside them and their lives, what they value, and discover how we can help them solve their problems, and get their needs met by working in our organization.
THIS is the challenge
If you are a manager or an employee, it is difficult to get outside yourself. It seems even more difficult to get inside someone else.
What I mean is, we live in HERE, thinking all the time about OUR problems, OUR desires, OUR dreams, OUR current decisions that need to be made….and what to wear, and eat, and when to do things, etc. Although difficult to direct your attention to things other than what is important to you, when you are a manager you are paid, partly, to put those things aside and take time to get to know your employees.
What makes employees tick? What makes them satisfied in the workplace? They may not even know for sure, so Herzberg could help you come up with the right questions to bring those answers to the top of their consciousness – and into YOUR field of awareness.
Sample questions so ask employees:
What does a great day at work look like to you?
What brings you real satisfaction at work?
What would make you eager to get here and sad to leave?
What would YOU like to achieve here?
Then, simply have a conversation, make eye contact, listen. And when you return to your office write down some notes about that employee. Slowly the information will help you, almost unconsciously, begin to reshape the work environment so everyone, including you, is happier and more productive. Thus begins your transformation from being “just another manager” to being a genius manager of employees.
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