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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Employee Motivation: Direct Result Of The Sum Of Interactions With His Or Her Manager

Let us look at a conversation between a manager and his employees. Inspired by true events:
Tom and Jack approached their manager and demanded that their job titles should be changed from 'Business operations analyst' and 'Tech support engineer' to 'Software Engineer'.

Sean, their manager was baffled, he asked 'Why? do you want your job titles to be changed?'

Tom replied: 'Because of multiple reasons: (A) Software engineer sounds more dignified than the other two titles (B) We have a degree in computer science and IT so the current job titles is not suitable (C) In the social circle we are looked down upon by our friends as doing some low grade work, mostly treated as doing some BPO work/ non-technical work (D) We are not getting the right marriage proposals because our title is not apt.' These are some of the key reasons.

Sean was taken aback by this response. Stunned he looked at them and said 'You were hired to do a certain kind of job, the title that you hold currently he is absolutely suitable for the role that you are playing currently. There is nothing that I can do about it. Please go back to your seat and concentrate on your job.'

Jack was offended and he protested: 'But we are not able to move ahead in our careers with these titles. We are not getting a better job in the market because the recruiters feel that we are not skilled to do IT work and our profile and job title doesn't help us at all.'

This got into Sean's nerves. He raised his tone and said 'I don't want to listen to all this, these are your personal problems don't mix them with work. There isn't anything that I can do for you.'

The above conversation is very common in IT industry where people have the luxury to move from one role to another. However, as stated above the luxury sometime brings certain challenges which are difficult to address. Let us re-look at this situation from two different perspectives of employee as well as manager.

The employee perspective

If you were in place of Tom or Jack what would you do? How would you respond? What would be your next step? Here are some suggestions:

Identify blockers in your life. For example, in the above situation the manager Sean is a blocker. Because he is continuously saying 'No'. You need to dodge a blocker like him and take an alternate route. For example, you may opt to meet the HR or go to Sean's supervisor and explain your situation. In short, you need to find a person who will say 'Yes'.

Sometimes our thoughts are the main blockers. In the above example both Tom and Jack are worried about their titles, they have stated few reasons why their job title is not good/ working for them. However, what they have failed to realize is the reality. They need to ask tough questions to themselves. Are they really doing any software development or IT engineer job? If not, on what basis should the company provide them the title? Sean is absolutely right when he says that the role that they are performing and the job title that they have are perfectly matching so from his perspective there is no change required.

So here is what Tom and Jack should do: Instead of asking for a title change Tom and Jack should focus on learning software development or IT engineering skills. They should look at getting some refresher or fast track course and then search for right opportunities where they will be recognized as Software engineers and get a platform to prove themselves. Because in their current role even if they get a title change the type of work they do will not change so without real-time experience the change in the title will in effect not add any value to their profile.

The Manager's perspective

Now, let us look at Sean. What could have he done differently when his employees approached him? Saying 'No' was probably the simplest thing but it was not the right thing to do. Instead of playing a hardcore manager, Sean could have played the role of a guide/ coach or a mentor. He could have put aside his manager hat for a while and looked at possibilities of re-skilling his employees, he could have also looked at potential opportunities within or outside his department where these employees can be placed in future(once they are re-skilled). And most importantly he could have made a genuine attempt to understand where his employees are coming from, he could have made an attempt to feel their pain and then guide them accordingly.

Conclusion: Whether you play the role of an employee or that of a manager you will always come across such scenarios. Here the question was that of a job title change, other common example may be where an employee feels that he deserves more salary and asks for a pay raise but the manager feels otherwise. In all such scenarios it is extremely important for both parties to be 'rational' and ask these right questions to themselves: 

  • Do I really deserve what I am asking for ? 
  • What steps do I need to take to really get it? 
  • Am I talking to the right person? 
  • Whose advice should I accept and whose advice should I reject? 
  • Am I just considering one perpective or have I looked at all the options?
  • Is this going to be a short term gain or a long term gain?
  • etc.
  • Does the employee really deserve it?
  • Is the employee an asset to the company?
  • Is there anything I can do beyond the scope of my project/ department?
  • Is it going to be beneficial for the employee/ team member?
  • Is it aligned to the organizational goal?
  • etc.

If both managers and employees are able to take this logical and rational approach they may be able to identify a win win scenario almost all the time. So next time you get into a similar discussion: Think before you ask(advice) and think before you give(advice).

Quote: An employee's motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.

Other good reads:

Are You A Reluctant, Overprotective OR An Effective Manager
Phase Your Career Before It Phases You Out
15 Powerful Techniques To Pay Attention In Meetings
20 Effective Work Life Balance Tips For Professionals
39 Key Critical Competencies Of Successful Business Leaders
Is The Digital Revolution Going To Take Away Your Job?