Compliments of mariofocaccio via Flickr

In their textbook, Kinicki and Williams explain that “out of balance” needs create a managerial “monster.” The combination of low Need for Affiliation (nAff), moderate Need for Achievement (nAch), and an overwhelming need for power begets control freaks – people who possess the need to dominate and forcibly persuade others to their respective opinions.

These individuals make for an uncomfortable work culture, to say the least. In her article, Help, I can’t motivate my employees, Ryan explains that a stick is an inappropriate, albeit insulting way to push workers to better performance. Motivation in her opinion is “. . .the natural energy boost that people get when they’re connected to their own power source.” People will remain unplugged if they feel cornered, managed too closely, coerced, or spit upon.

When your need to dominate supersedes your ability to hear others’ viewpoints, you have lost your perspective (and possibly your audience). Instead of command and control, what about encouragement and support? I love one of Ryan’s pieces of advice; she urges managers to ask their employees “what am I doing that’s useful,” and “what am I doing that you find unhelpful?” Issuing edicts leaves little time for self-reflection, or what’s most needed from referent power bereft bosses – self-development.

Pointing fingers diverts attention from polishing one’s persona. It puts the recipient in a strait jacket of (1) don’t touch anything; (2) don’t talk to anyone; and (3) don’t say anything. This behavior is helpful to those who “manage” employees, but does little to help one feel like a peer. People on a profound level want an understanding of “I don’t work for you, you don’t work for me, but together we accomplish mutual goals.” Synergy is forged through equality – not forced from directives. Individuals enjoy being asked what to do, not told what to do. Kindergarten superimposed upon adults evokes rebellion. More than that, the grownups don’t appreciate it. It’s difficult to perform at your best when someone is standing behind you with a stick.

In an experiment this term I tried the “flipped classroom” concept, in which instructors transform from a “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side.” When I provided general guidelines and let students run with the project, the results were astounding. Hopefully they will be treated in a similar fashion at their employer post-graduation – instead of in the master and commander style to which many are accustomed. People don’t perform at their best when there’s a downside for non-compliance, but no upside for top performance

Motivational theory suggest higher order needs are motivational – these being recognition, achievement, and autonomy. Discretionary effort is thus elicited by offering instruction per request. Instead of using others to make yourself feel important, why not instead instill in them a sense of pride? Help others to be their best selves, and they will rise to the challenge. Put obstacles in their way, and you will shut them down. The end product reflects your quality of choosing.

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

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