How to bring the best out of your subordinates?

MyGov Team
21 Nov 2016


Administrators have to deal with problems that cannot be resolved by drawing a straight line between the cause and effects. Moreover, decision-making has to be done with incomplete information, inadequate analytical tools and in a milieu in which the administrator has very little control on important variables. How do we then help our subordinate officers to make progress in their work?
Supporting everyday progress by making timely decisions and providing clear goals are great for engagement of subordinate employees and enables them to achieve long-term proficient performance, which is the progress principle (Amabile and Kramer).This is in consonance with the idea that helping employees to make their decisions increases their commitment to implementation, in addition to, of course, improving quality of decisions made (Ashkenas). Real time monitoring enablesadministrators to continuously engage with their employees in reaching a conclusion. Furthermore, the orchestrated process leads to progress on work employees perceive to be valuable.
Such work progress is most prominently associated with creative productivity (creativity and innovation are different stages in the same process: creativity is the initial production and development of novel, useful ideas and innovation is their successful implementation). Additionally, minor victories are as important as significant breakthroughs, implying that administrators have to frequently “sweat the small stuff”.
Supporting progress in work depends on the nature of employees and one-size-fits all principle is unlikely to work. There is growing consensus that there are two types of employees, promotion and prevention-oriented, requiring different types of motivation and incentives in order to bring out the best in them (Halvorson and Higgins). For example, performance of promotion focused employees is enhanced if they are assured they are on target, as opposed to prevention oriented employees who try harder if they are told they are falling behind. The reason is that promotion focused employees see goals as a pathway to advancement and concentrate on the rewards that are likely to accrue when goals are achieved. They are willing to take chances, like to work quickly, dream big and think creatively. In contrast, prevention-focused people look at their goals as responsibilities and they concentrate on staying safe. Being vigilant they play not to lose and dislike disturbing the status-quo.
Naggingand presenteeism (compelling subordinates to be present at all times) are two tactics used while implementing the progress principle. Nagging works in some conditions and for some activities. Repetitions helps to complete projects quickly and smoothly, what counts is redundancy more than clarity – it is not the message, but the frequency of the message that counts in getting the job done. Productivity does not increase directly and managers who repeat themselves face less number of blow-ups and work less during crisis (Neeley, Leonardi and Gerber). Therefore, sending the same message over and over again in multiple ways helps.
On the other hand, presenteeism leads to a false sense of work going on. Presenteeism is the problem of employees being on work, but not fully functioning because they are being forced to be present. In fact, today presenteeism is a much bigger problem as compared to its counterpart, absenteeism. Interestingly, unlike absenteeism, presenteeism is not apparent. You know when an employee does not show up for work (absenteeism), but in presenteeism you cannot you cannot tell when and how much is the fall in an employee’s performance. There is a caveat, however. The assumption is that employees do not take their work lightly, most of them are willing to work and do not pretend to be ill or surf on the internet when they should be working.

– Sameer Sharma, PhD
(Views are personal)

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