Interpersonal Edge: Help! I'm a Mommy Not a Manager!
Sunday, January 16, 2011

By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services

Q. I am a manager and I feel like more of a mommy. I am constantly nagging employees to do their job, and I'm exhausted. Is there a better way to motivate employees to do what I ask?

A. Yes, most managers think there are only two approaches to get employees to do what they want: Either ask "pretty please," or scare employees into performing.

Both of these approaches have a big downside. If you only tell an employee what to do, you are asking "pretty please." The employee has no incentive to do what you ask and it's predictable you will end up ignored. Intimidating employees with fear tactics does work in the short run but in the long run your employees will become sneaky. People who are scared only act well when they are being observed.

Instead of these common but ineffective approaches, consider a new tactic. Anytime you want an employee to perform a task, ask yourself what the employee could get out of doing what you ask. Make sure you consider the employee's unique goals, personality, and interests or you'll be putting cheap unleaded in a car that takes diesel.

Also make sure you do not react as if your employees are out to get you or are purposely being insubordinate. The truth is that people will do (and only do) what they perceive to be in their best interests ... period. Wise managers accept this truth and work with the agenda of their employees to keep employees performing at a high level.

Now, I know some readers will write me and tell me that it just isn't right that people in the workplace are so self-centered that they will ignore direct orders if they see no personal reason to comply. I agree that there are many features of reality in and out of the workplace that "just aren't right."

However, if you don't make it clear what your employees have to gain by doing what you want (or lose by not), you will always feel more like a mommy than a manager.

There are many upsides of using the personal agendas of employees to create internal motivation for employees. You can stop spending hours a day reminding employees about tasks and maybe take a long lunch break. You can stop micromanaging employees because employees will be more creative in not just doing what you say but in obtaining the ultimate outcome you seek. Your employees will clearly understand that if you win, the employees win and morale will cease to be a topic on your weekly meeting.

No manager enters leadership looking forward to running a daycare for employees. If you want your employees to act like grown-ups, provide the right incentive and sit back and enjoy the results!

The Last Word(s)

Q. In an upcoming exit interview, my company my company will ask how effective my boss is at managing his employees. I'd like to respond that he is "great at motivating people to quit and find new employment." Is this a good idea?

A. Not unless you plan on never needing a reference from your current boss.

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)





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