When Employees Are Told What To Do – And What Not

When Employees Are Told What To Do – And What Not

If you’ve ever held a job, you know how it feels to work for someone versus working with someone.

In traditional employment methods, an employee would typically ask to work for an organisation via an application of some sort. Then, they’d be put on trial and receive a verdict of hired or not hired. If hired, they would then serve their time under the reign of management to whom they would consistently need to report, comply and justify their value for an unknown period of time to receive benefits such as salary and insurance.

Finally, should that employee fail to deliver on any of these conditions, they would likely face a harsh reprimand and possibly lose their employment privileges.

In a nutshell, employee/employer relationships are often carrot and stick motivated. Which is why a mere 32% of US employees are actively engaged at work. While 50% are disengaged and 17% are actively disengaged.

The problem: Many employers treat employees like children. They tell them what to do and if they don’t do it they will be punished (i.e. the “obey me or else” rule).

By using external motivations such as money, employees will eventually fail to give you the best of them and often employers see a cluster of problems as a result.

Lack Of Ownership

Assigning a goal/task to someone limits the outcome of the work. Your goal is not automatically their goal just because you said so. There still needs to be an offer and acceptance when setting goals. By using an asking versus telling method, you’ve given them the opportunity to invest their own thoughts into the work without pressure and therefore they will have created their own goal to get it done.

Limited Results

When employees are too busy focussing on the carrot (the time frame, deadlines, competition) and not the actual quality of the work, they deliver a higher rate of mediocre (although on-time) results. In his book “Drive,” Daniel Pink describes this method as controlled motivation –

When a person focusses merely on getting it done rather than prioritising the quality of the final product.

High Turnover

If your leadership style is like a parent, it is important to note that children grow up. That’s what they do. And at some point, they will realise they are no longer required to listen to you and do what you say. And by chance, if they stay, you’d be wise to know there are only two logical reasons this happens: (a) They are doing what is necessary to survive and you can expect no more than a warm body doing the bare minimum throughout their tenure. (b) They want to be there. They are choosing to stay because they like working with you and they like that you treat them like a partner versus a pawn.

Low Employee Morale

When people are restricted by boundaries such as time clocks, micro management and dinosaur policies they lose their innate desire to perform. How can they want to perform at their best if they are fearful of what may happen if it isn’t good enough? How can they become confident in their work if they are too busy tracking time and things that don’t contribute to the actual work? And just a note: “Empowerment” doesn’t count here.

Empowerment assumes you have the power to allow employees to behave a certain way, which is still a form of dictatorship versus partnership.

Unethical Practices

When I tell my kids to clean up their room, I can surely expect they will shove something under the bed, under the nightstand or in the closet to make it seem like their room is “clean” when really they are doing limited work to create an appearance to get the benefit (dessert, TV time, play time…etc). So, instead of them doing it because it’s the right thing to do, they are only doing it to get a reward.

The sales industry is a perfect example of how money-motivation can lead to bad behaviour and unethical practices. Many organisations follow the “More sales equals more money” rule. So people begin to come up with creative ways to increase sales, for example the Wells Fargo scandal.

The problem with making an extrinsic reward the only destination that matters is that some people will choose the quickest route there, even if it means taking the low road. -Daniel H. Pink, in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

You need to decide whether you want it right, or you just want it right now. When employees are treated as partners, they are more likely to help grow the business because they can see the personal benefit. It is important they see there’s actual meaning in the work they do beyond a paycheck.

A paycheck is a life necessity. Good work isn’t.

Delivering good work is an option and at any given point an employee can very well choose not to deliver it. If you want someone to obey your every command, be a parent. If you want to have good employees who care about the work they do, be a partner.

[This post by Mary V. Davids first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.

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