A few recent articles raise the prospect that how you treat employees may be more important than you think. One study says that focusing on how you are perceived by your people (360 degree stuff) causes you to be considered more fair than if you focus on things you can control like sales, budget, headcount and overt operational outcomes. Might this really mean that if you ease up and stop demanding results, people will like you better? All the way up until the layoff occurs, eh?
Definitions of fairness aside, the lesson some commentators take from this study is that supervisors who manage people with a light hand in a country-club style, leaving smiles behind them at all times, will raise the engagement levels of their staff. It is indisputable that supervisors (those who direct people in addition to managing ideas or functions) must be sensitive to the attitudes and perceptions of their subordinates. Supervisors organize their teams to strive to achieve goals and objectives that can encompass a wide variety of flavors and types.
Whether being “liked” means that you will be effective is a different story. Effectiveness is always judged relative to specific goals and objectives. Process-driven agendas might emphasize personal social acceptance, while those focused on behavioral outcomes might emphasize goal achievement. Of course, popularity might be one of the outcome goal achievement elements pursued by a supervisor without diminishing the insistence on other success elements like economic targets. Modern leaders are supposed to be able to multi-task, after all. There is no reason that amicable felt-fair process goals must displace more traditional performance metrics like earnings, sales, profit and other measures of quality, quantity, time and costs. Perhaps we can combine both types of goals.
What is most rewarding to people is not always designed into the total remuneration system of the employer. Wish it were otherwise, but comp pros must take care to remember Mark Twain’s definition of the primary distinction between a man and a dog1: the dog won’t bite the hand that feeds him. Let’s hope you can make everyone happy as well as rich without being bitten.
1Mark Twain -
- If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man
E. James (Jim) Brennan is Senior Associate of ERI Economic Research Institute, the premier publisher of interactive pay and living-cost surveys. Semi-retired after over 40 years in HR corporate and consulting roles throughout the U.S. and Canada, he’s pretty much been there done that (articles, books, speeches, seminars, radio/TV, advisory posts, in-trial expert witness stuff, etc.), and will express his opinion on almost anything.
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