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Are Your Employees Adults or Dependents?

We hear – and see – a lot about the relationships of employers to their employees in the workplace these days, as in the past. One of the more interesting points of discussion recently has been the perceived desire of some employees to receive immediate and nearly constant feedback about their work. Blogs and articles tell us how employers should approach their employees and what must be done for them, primarily so that the employees will be happy and stay with their employer. Absent from most of these writings is any thought about what an employer may want from an employee and why that employee was hired.

One take on this issue was shared by a professional project manager with many years’ experience with government contracts. This manager worked on a variety of technology projects, staffed by engineers who, as the manager explained, had specialized knowledge about the work far beyond that of the manager. The manager when on to say that the engineers doing the work were “adults” and that the manager’s job was not to motivate the engineers to do their work but simply to tell them what they needed to get done and on what timeline. If an engineer failed to accomplish a task, the manager would simply tell the executives which specific person(s) failed to complete the work properly and leave it to the executives to impose the appropriate consequences on the engineer(s) who failed to complete their work. This manager took no personal responsibility for a missed deadline or to motivate the engineers. Instead, the manager expected the engineers to take care of business in their own way and, if they did, the manager in turn would act as a buffer for the engineers against the executives and other sources of interference.

Contrast the project manager’s approach with that taken by a different firm where the managers and administrators not only meet more or less daily with employees to provide encouragement and various forms of motivation but also report taking regular calls from parents of employees. In such an environment, much time and energy is devoted to talking about the work rather than actually doing it. This may make for a better adjusted employee than the hands off approach discussed above. What is your firm like in regards to getting the job done?


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