Compliments of Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha via Flickr

I recently watched a commercial featuring an abused animal; the tagline was “What if the person on whom you most dependent is the one you fear the most?”

Is this the way you feel about your manager? 

Gallup poll research (conducted in a sample of one million workers) found that the number one reason people leave jobs is their immediate supervisor. Employees cite bullying, managerial incompetence, inadequate compensation, and harassment as primary reasons for their departure.

Fear is a depleting emotion that saps workers’ strength, and incites cautious and overly careful behaviornot the stuff of which innovations are made. Organizations that realize mistakes are part of the creative process do not create worker paranoia, nervous anticipation, or fear of success. They instead act as confidence boosters, giving people the benefit of the doubt before leveling blame. Where the rubber meets the road is in interpersonal behavior: e.g., do you feel comfortable approaching your manager with a problem? If the majority of your interaction with him or her is negative (or if he or she rarely condescends to speak with you), then probably not. People do better when they’re buoyed instead of berated. A bureaucrat’s goal is containment – simply getting you out of sight and out of mind.

In bureaucratic firms a primary activity is avoiding rule infraction. This becomes problematic when not offending the powers that be is more important than doing your job. In abusive cultures, workers spend much of their time expecting a spanking. If you’re a supervisor, don’t be so controlling that you squeeze the life out of your subordinates. Like creatures in a maze that are continually punished, your employees will then become paralyzed.

What if their goal was instead obtaining praise? Some companies have gone the opposite direction in terms of how they treat their workers. A notable example is Southwest Airlines, which not only defends team members against unruly customers, but espouses the philosophy of “luv,” where workers act as a support system for one another. In cultures that celebrate employees, human conduit is not handsomely rewarded.

The late Mary Kay Ash argued that people need praise as a thirsty plant needs water. She explains that for the most part, we are compliment starved. In my posting Compliments are a rare commodity, I mention that kind words are a powerful motivator, and that “warm fuzzies in writing” stoke the fuel of our creative fires. Have you acknowledged a coworker today? If not, take the time and connect with your fellow comrades through an appreciation of their talents. In the spirit of “what goes around comes around” your kindness will be rewarded.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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