Published April 8, 2002

Employee Performance Management: No Yelling at Employees!

"Men pay no heed to a dog that is always barking." - Margaret Clement

Have you barked at your employees lately? Like most small-business owners, you may be a bit frazzled from too much to do and too little time to do it in. And if your employees don't instantly jump at your every word - what do you do? You start yelling.

But as much as you might like to, you cannot yell your way to success. If you believe you can motivate your troops to action with fear and intimidation, your leadership skills are in the Stone Age. Yet, many inexperienced entrepreneurs, who are impatient and frustrated from the pressure of keeping their business alive, are quick to threaten to fire anyone who is not up to snuff.

Sure, fear works, but not well. Any fool can yell and threaten to fire everyone. But what appears as success really is a begrudged minimal effort performed with suppressed hostility. Fear is a tool of desperate and incompetent managers.

If you disagree, and believe fear demonstrates power and authority, you are right. However, it does not develop any team spirit. Successful business owners know that you cannot build an efficient organization with continual threats of firing. Employees who tolerate such treatment are usually insecure, unimaginative, docile creatures who follow orders just enough to get by. If your daily style is hollering harsh commands, imposing rigid rules, and insisting your way is the only way; you are not managing well and you may have hired the wrong employees.

There is a better way. You can stimulate your work force - assuming you have hired staff that are reasonably intelligent and have some form of the work ethic - with an appeal to their self-interest. You may do it with money, with privileges, and recognition. Your employees must believe that if they follow your directions and work for your self-interest, you will reward their self-interest.

To start with, understand that a paycheck does not encourage the extra mile, whereas bonuses and other rewards may. Recognize that we are all selfish creatures; if you wish to prod your employees to work a little harder, or a little longer; you must contact that selfishness with a promise and reward of benefits.

Be aware that the promise of money alone will not always motivate. Fredrick Taylor, the early 20th century father of Scientific Management - a rigid numbers approach to management - believed that worker wages based on a piece rate system would promote an increase in production. To the contrary, studies by industrial psychologists found that not all workers respond to the dollar bill.

Today, it is accepted that recognition, more so than money, motivates most people. When you tout an employee's personal accomplishment for all to see, you are offering a powerful incentive. Plaques, titles, size of office, special parking spots are just some of the offerings wise management uses to boost performance and build employee loyalty.

Here are a few suggestions to help you save your vocal chords, help you build a team of go-getters, and increase your profits.

Be consistent. Employees are quick to learn if you are bluffing or lack the drive to carry through on any rules you do lay down, and, as well, if you carry through on promises made.

Browbeating employees is a fool's game. Respect and recognize your employees as individuals earning a living and seeking appreciation and security.

Have a positive attitude toward your employees. Do not expect your workers to have the same interest in your business that you have. If you do, you will be disappointed; after all, you are an entrepreneur - a special kind of person.

When you offer to reward your employees, be sure you do. Failure to keep your word will drive out your best people, and cancel out future carrot, and stick promises.

When you offer the carrot, keep the time short, don't promise a year- end bonus in January, and expect yearlong gung-ho performance. The closer the reward to the task the better. The purpose of reward is to stimulate action; don't sabotage your efforts with rewards so far in the future they become meaningless.

Don't overlook simple gestures such as employee of the month special parking, or dinner for your star employee and spouse at the local posh restaurant.

Accept the premise that we all want to be treated with respect and dignity- and we all loved to be appreciated; immediate recognition for short-term accomplishments is a winner.

Now that you are a warm and fuzzy leader bordering on creating a touchy-feely workplace, don't overlook the basics of successful management. You must manage and lead your employees with honesty, fairness, consistency, firmness, and compassion. Remember, few successful businesses are the sole result of one person. Teamwork pays profits!

Dr. Paul E. Adams, Professor Emeritus, Business Administration, Ramapo College of New Jersey, is the author of "Fail-Proof Your Business: Beat the Odds and be Successful," available at Adams-Hall Publishing (800-888-4452). If you have questions or comments or ideas for topics, you may reach Dr. Adams at xpaul@pikeonline.net

Article © Copyright 2002 Dr. Paul E. Adams Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.