Shiny Trinkets

A manager sat in her office very proud of herself.  She reflected over the ‘awards’ she had given out to her staff.  The staff member would receive a certificate of some value, which could be turned in for a prize of some equivalent size.  This proved to her that she was adequately rewarding her staff, and would pull out her spreadsheet showing the person and the award any time she was questioned about her dedication to her staff.  She could not understand why her staff was not happy at times, or didn’t appreciate all the work she had put into this effort.  After all, there was the spreadsheet.

What she didn’t want to, or refused to, understand that was rewarding employee behavior was much more than the shiny trinkets she was handing out with such great fanfare.  While promoting the idea that rewards did not have to be monetary, these were the only type that she seemed to give out.

She didn’t realize that for every award she gave out, there were dozens of time she was critical of a staff member for doing something or not doing something, instead of sitting down with the staff member to find out what kind of difficulties lay in the path of getting something done.  For every award that she gave out, there were dozens of missed opportunities to walk over to a staff member and say, “You did great work on this project, staff member, and I wanted you to know I appreciate it”.  No,she was too busy for praise.

She didn’t realize that the awards meant less to her staff than her simply understanding that the workload she placed upon them was unreachable, and that the greater reward would have been her clearing out any preconceived notions of what was an acceptable workload and what was not.

The award quickly faded away every time she said, “It’s not that there is too much work, it’s just that you are inefficient”.  The award quickly faded away every time there was silence when a staff member completed a task or project, because she was too busy on her ‘manager stuff’ to take time out.  The award quickly faded away when she would assign five more assignments on someone the day after the award and walk away thinking nothing of it.  The award faded away when the very next day she would be critical of some little detail and not want to hear any explanation or excuse.

Read any parenting book and it will tell you that bad parenting is just buying gifts for your kids, using that as a substitute for spending time with your children, playing with them, reading to them, talking with them.  The same can be said for the manager-employee relationship.  Good management is more than just shiny trinkets.  It is having your employees trust you implicitly, for they know you have their best interests in heart.  It is knowing how to bring up issues and truly see what the problem is, not just blithely blame someone.  It is knowing when the employee is at the end of their rope and needs your assistance.  It is taking time with them to say, simply, ‘good work’.

Shiny trinkets, when not accompanied by all the above, are the lazy manager’s way of interacting with their staff.  It is ‘buying them off’, and then patting yourself on the back for your good management practices.  A good manager doesn’t have to buy their way into an employee’s heart.  A good manager never has to buy anything ever, and will still have the most engaged workforce the manager can hope for.

Forgo the shiny trinkets.  Be a good manager, instead.

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