Sunday, November 17, 2013

It Gets Better

Sarcasm, like profanity, is sometimes effective in small doses.  I try to avoid either, except, of course, when I can't.

You must admire his attention to detail!
The last time we spent an entire post with this formula was quite some time ago, with Mike Rogers and How To Destroy Trust, yet perusing Bob Sutton's Work Matters blog recently, I noticed he had The Progress Principle by Amabile & Kramer as a recommended read ~ and anything this Stanford professor of organizational behavioral studies recommends deserves a closer look, as far as I'm concerned. 

I certainly wish that I was talented enough to improve on the brief points drawn from the book and printed below in this Washington Post article, yet I cannot, so I'll just gratefully acknowledge the source, and copy and paste them below. The wonderful aspect to studying group and organizational behavior is its universal appeal, as applicable to a household staff as to General Motors; human workplace behavior - and the effects of good or bad managers - is remarkably consistent across industries and even worksite cultures; we can learn a lot by considering HR outside of our not-really-so-unique-after-all domestic staff employment every now and then and studying how all of us do ~ or don't ~ manage to bring out the performance in others.

So, here's four great steps from Amabile & Kramer we can start with that'll work with just about any domestic staff, to truly create a healthy dose of workplace havoc and destruction...

Step 1:  Never allow pride of accomplishment. When we analyzed the events occurring on people’s very worst days at the office, one thing stood out: setbacks. Setbacks are any instances where employees feel stalled in their most important work or unable to make any meaningful contribution. So, at every turn, stymie employees’ desire to make a difference. One of the most effective examples we saw was a head of product development, who routinely moved people on and off projects like chess pieces in a game for which only he had the rules. The next step follows organically from the first.

Step 2:  Miss no opportunity to block progress on employees’ projects. Every day, you’ll see dozens of ways to inhibit substantial forward movement on your subordinates’ most important efforts. Goal-setting is a great place to start. Give conflicting goals, change them as frequently as possible, and allow people no autonomy in meeting them. If you get this formula just right, the destructive effects on motivation and performance can be truly dramatic.

Step 3:  Give yourself some credit. You’re probably already doing many of these things, and don’t even realize it. That’s okay. In fact, unawareness is one of the trademarks of managers who are most effective at destroying employees’ work lives. As far as we could tell from talking with them or reading their own diaries, they generally thought their employees were doing just fine – or that “bad morale” was due to the employees’ unfortunate personalities or poor work ethics. Rarely did they give themselves credit for how much their own words and actions made it impossible for people to get a sense of accomplishment. You may be better at this than you think!

Step 4:  Kill the messengers. Finally, if you do get wind of problems in the trenches, deny, deny, deny. And if possible, strike back. Here’s a great example from our research. In an open Q&A with one company’s chief operating officer, an employee asked about the morale problem and got this answer: “There is no morale problem in this company. And, for anybody who thinks there is, we have a nice big bus waiting outside to take you wherever you want to look for work.” A good quote to keep in your back pocket.

Teresa Amabile is a professor and director of research at Harvard Business School. Steven Kramer is a developmental psychologist and researcher. They are coauthors of The Progress Principle.