Gone are the days when managers and bosses could tell you what to do. Especially in sectors where job growth is high, employees have a lot of leverage to up and leave if they aren’t happy — and both the employee and the manager know it. That’s why companies in the Silicon Valley spend so much money on cafeterias and Foosball tables for their employees: they know that happy employees are productive employees.
But what about the rest of us who don’t work in Silicon Valley, or who don’t work in high-growth sectors?
Actually, I’ve found that, even though I’m working in Seoul, South Korea where workplace culture is known to be hellish, people are quite ready to up and leave if something doesn’t suit them.
Quite simply, people are less patient these days. Blame it on selfishness, millennial-mentality, or low pain tolerance brought on by parental pampering and endless gaming. No matter what you call it, people are not willing to put up with the boss’s bull**** for very long these days.
That’s bad news for managers who are still trying to get by with the old methods. Threatening to fire kids just doesn’t have the same impact anymore. They’ll just quietly accept their fate and mosy on back to their parents’ apartment — or, if they’ve got talent and gumption, they’ll just find a new job.
Now, usually when people at the management schools talk about incentives for employees to perform better, they talk about monetary incentives and promotions first. It’s all about the money, right?
I may not be a business manager, but I recently met a really great teacher at the place I currently work. And watching him work with both the students and other teachers as head teacher got me thinking.
The thing about this teacher is that he’s really subtle about giving orders. He never gives an outright order, and when he does, he frames it as more of a suggestion. On the way, he’ll look at you and ask for your input as he’s giving you his ‘suggestion.’
“So, does that sound good?” is a phrase you’ll hear countless times from this teacher. And it works. Like magic, the other teachers smile and nod enthusiastically because, after all, he is the head teacher and humans are hardwired to want to go along with those in authority. But even those contrarians who aren’t quite so ready to go along will get a chance to speak and add suggestions, if they want. When this teacher asks for feedback, he is really asking, not just posing for the PR.
So the simple answer to how we can manage people better is to let them have a voice.
And the second suggestion from my personal experience would be to recognize people’s unique strengths and praise them for their micro-wins. I had a friend in San Francisco who used to celebrate every little victory her friends had with wine and a night of Netflix. She would specifically say that we were celebrating “the interview” or “the job offer,” which made us feel good. Maybe we would have still drank wine and watched Netflix if we’d not gotten that win — but what was important was that little bit of celebratory glass-clinking and support. Sometimes, a simple, heartfelt “good job” by those in authority can do wonders for motivation, especially if that authority figure is a couple of rungs above the employee.
- Aggressive management / micromanaging doesn’t work.
- Don’t give orders without asking for suggestions and getting buy-in first.
- Praise always sounds better when coming from someone the employee truly respects. Take some time to find out who this is, and have them praise the employee for doing good work.
Happy managing, everyone!