Monday, April 11, 2016

How are your Actions Driving Outcomes?

Managerial actions drive employee beliefs; employee beliefs drive their actions and employee actions drive results.  However, I contend that your management not only changes behavior by their actions, but by their inactions as well. Maximizing employee engagement requires that you analyze your actions or lack thereof - and how those actions influence others in the workplace.

Quality problems, productivity problems and cost problems are the consequences of your employee behaviors and is often based on what is being reinforced by your senior leadership team.  Behaviors associated with undesirable outcomes are being reinforced by either negative reinforcement or positive reinforcement.   For example, if your employees are taking shortcuts in safety and quality, the naturally occurring positive consequences with doing the job with less effort will cause the undesirable behaviors to continue.

Negative reinforcement will decrease desired behavior.  Threats and fear lead to resistance and generates just enough behavior from your employees to escape or avoid punishment.  For example, if you stay late to revise a presentation so the first draft is perfect so your boss won’t chew you out – often you will do the minimum required not to get chewed out.  This does not encourage your employees to work hard, innovate or produce quality products as the main focus is on the boss and his actions and not the task at hand.  In addition, your ingrained beliefs about your boss will hinder efforts to produce your best efforts in the future.

Some other perceived negative consequences are unintended by your senior leadership team - such as requiring extra effort to learn a process.   Your employees will resist that which is not simple.  Another example of a negative consequence is when your manager assigns you extra projects because they ‘know you’ll get the job done’ and you get behind in your primary work – creating additional stress surrounding performance.

I cannot stress enough that most consequences are unintentional on senior leadership’s part.  However, intent does not determine effect.  Consequence is determined by person who receives it.  Inadvertent punishment can be just as harmful as direct punishment.

For example, your employee does something positive and nothing happens.  The employee then tells anyone who will listen, “Nobody appreciates anything I do around here!”  This is counter intuitive to many managers – as most managers feel that doing nothing has no effect on performance.  It is easier to do nothing when you don’t know what to do – but if employees take the initiative to go above and beyond and there is no favorable consequence – then at some point they will stop.

Let’s say you have 30 employees and 27 perform well and 3 are problem performers.  If the majority of your time is spent on putting policies and procedures in place to align the problem performers then you are ignoring the good performance that makes an organizational successful.  Instead, you should focus on identifying behaviors that will produce desired outcomes and arrange desired meaningful consequences to positively reinforce them.  This is the only way to maximize performance and to generate more behavior than is minimally required.  For example, in regard to the quality example given earlier.  If I buy an employee a cup of coffee while discussing the improved quality of his or her work – then the quality will go up even higher the following week. 

Idea Share Tip of the Month!

Help your employees find meaning at work by connecting with your employees and being empathetic to their needs and issues.  Create the freedom for your employees to be creative and come up with great ideas.

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1 comment:

  1. Lots to think about here. Good point about management misspending energy correcting poor performance while ignoring the good performances.