Do You Build or Destroy?


I had two heart wrenching conversations last week with people having challenges with their bosses.

The first person called me crying. She said she did not understand why her boss kept putting her down. She said she tries her best in getting her work done, even though sometimes she felt the work that she was being assigned was above her level. I told her to describe exactly what was being assigned to her. After this was done, it was clear to me that she was indeed working above her capacity. I explained to her that bosses do not give work to subordinates who cannot deliver. I told her, the assignments her boss gave her, was because he must have found her dependable to keep giving her work above her level.

What triggered her call to me was that her boss had sent a mail that embarrassed her. He had given her an assignment and after reviewing what she had done, instead of telling her alone, he sent the review points and his comments, which were not too polite, to the group chat that the whole team could see. She did not think this was the right approach. She felt his comments should have been sent to her alone.

She also complained generally about the way feedback was given to her, which she felt was subpar and sometimes rude.
The other person, who called me, complained that his evaluation was poorly done and was not what he expected. He was in a situation where he worked with a boss who was non-existent. The boss was not involved enough in the running of the department and did not give adequate directions, supervision, and did not review work done. His work invariably received poor reviews when sent to higher authority because of this lack of attention. In essence he and the other staff members were doing the work that required superior knowledge and felt they were doing a great job. But, the department within the larger context of the organisation was not getting the recognition it should because others felt their boss was not pulling her weight.

This lack of respect for the department and perceived poor work performance of their boss was now rubbing off on the rest of the unit members who felt they were doing a great job and should be given the recognition they deserved in view of their hard work and not be marked down because of poor leadership.

Many of us have been in situations like this before. Situations where we felt extreme demotivation because of actions perpetuated by people who are meant to be our leaders/superiors, whose job it is to make us succeed and ensure we are properly supervised to do our jobs well and achieve the organisation’s mandate.

In both instances, it was clear that these two people were on the verge of leaving the organisations they worked in because of poor management. They were both doing a great job at their levels and replacing them would be costly to their organisations. Yet, they were not being treated well.

We all know how disruptive it is to our business when good people leave our organisations. Many leaders tend to blame their attrition on other issues and always fail to put the search light on themselves. The truth is that people don’t always leave jobs; they leave their managers or leaders. I can attest to this, because when I left my last job, it was a great job, but I left because of mismanagement from the person who I directly reported to. This is a story for another day. In my view, the sad part is that the attrition of good people can easily be avoided. All that’s required is for the manager to practice and understand emotional intelligence most times.

According to a research conducted by the University of California, it was found that motivated employees were 31% more productive, had 37% higher sales and were three times more creative than demotivated employees. They were 81% less likely to quit, says results from another survey done by Corporate Leadership Council’s study on over 50,000 people.

Gallup research also shows that a mind-boggling 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by his or her manager. If this number is high, my question is why are policies and behavioural patterns not geared to ensuring that employees are better managed and supervised?

In order to help those of us, who are blind to the mistakes we make in supervising our people, let’s note the points below.

• There is a perception that people feel organisations do not really care about them. Bosses who fail to really care about how their actions impact their people will have demotivated staff. What do you do when your staff work late? Do you care about their family situation? Are you concerned about how they are when they are sick? A current situation I have is a personnel working in one of the banks who was sick. His boss did not call him for one whole week and when she called, it was to make enquiries about when he would be returning to work. Bosses who only care about the output will never have the commitment nor loyalty they require to succeed from their staff.

• Not recognizing nor sharing accomplishments is another big NO. I remember how I felt each time my boss sent out mails acknowledging my performance and telling me well done for a job done and sharing this pat on the back with the whole organization. This practice went a long way in motivating me and made me strive to always go the extra mile. Many managers underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers, who are intrinsically motivated. We all value recognition especially those who are already working hard. Leaders need to reward their people, not necessarily monetarily for doing their jobs well.

• Empowering your people and sharing the big picture. Talking from personal experience, I’ve always done better when I’m given the big picture and empowered to contribute to the success of a mandate. Not being aware of the big picture, hinders my ability to engage properly and this is the situation with many good performers. When they do not know what the purpose of their work is, they feel alienated and aimless. When not given a purpose, most will find one elsewhere.

• When the boss always feels he is right and is insecure. Many of us have come across such leaders at one time or the other. Where they feel that if they are wrong for any reason they will be less regarded. They therefore put all kinds of roadblocks down when they should not. While a secure boss will know that their personality is not defined by how right they are, but want to make the best choice for the organization and not for themselves. They are usually focused on the “whole”.

• Tolerating weak links. When you allow weak links to thrive or exist, they invariably drag everyone down, which was the case with my second protégée. No matter how good everyone is, if there is a person not doing his or her work, it drags the other people down.

• Not honouring commitments. “Making promises to people places you on that fine line that lies between making them very happy and watching them walk out the door’’ – Dr. Travis Bradberry. He goes on to say “that when you uphold a commitment, you grow in the eyes of your employees because you prove yourself to be trustworthy and honourable.

But when you disregard your commitment, you come across as slimy, uncaring and disrespectful.” I can relate to this in view of recent experience.

So, as managers, leaders and bosses, do we build up our people or destroy them. Do we overwork them? Fail to develop them? Do not challenge them creatively or intellectually? Not doing all of the points above will destroy them. If we want our people to stay, we need to think carefully about how we treat them.

– Marie-Therese Phido is Sales & Market Strategist and Business Coach
tweeter handle @osat2012; TeL: 08090158156 (text only)