Friday, 16 August 2013

Getting inside our heads

Employers have always been interested in what their workers are up to.  Naturally. They are the ones paying to get things done.  As customers we like to be treated nicely and fairly, too, before we part with our money.  So we should be able to understand where the boss is coming from when he/she wants to see inside your head.

There are dozens of companies who concern themselves with understanding and motivating the work force.  It's a thriving business.  Companies do surveys to get a handle on reactions to company policy.  A company called Neumitra has come up with a device which measures stress levels by means of a special wrist watch.  The reasoning here is that stressed employees are unhappy and/or could make bad decisions and not work at their most efficient, so it is essential to know just how freaked out they are.  So if your company is using this method, beware of engaging in a shouting match at your partner before you dash off to the office.  And don't let the turgid flow of traffic get to you, 'cos it could show up on that wrist watch and the HR manager will most likely haul you off to try and get inside your head.

Then there's TinyPulse, which is such a fun name.  It is an app which sends out short weekly surveys to workers to see how happy they are and converts the results into graphs so the bosses can see how workers feel.  Sounds great.  The very thought of it makes me happy, or does it?  Suppose it's Monday and I'm in a lousy mood and hate the whole world because the cat died/the car didn't start:  how am I going to react to a survey like this?  My answers might reflect the fact that I see the world with a jaundiced eye today and could give the wrong statistics for the week and have management scrabbling for new ways to motivate staff.

So what motivates a worker?  It's not the money.  It's the sense of doing a worthwhile job and getting credit for it.  Of being taken seriously as a person.  Of having the feeling that the boss is on the level and is going to tell you like it is even if the going gets rough.  In my workaday past I have had bosses who wouldn't thank you if you pulled them out of a fast flowing river - they'd complain to you that they got wet while you were doing it.  And I've had bosses that I would go through fire and water for, and these were very often bosses who didn't mince words if I messed up on something but were equally ready to praise for especially good performance.  Of course no one wants a boss who tells you every five minutes that you're the best.   Not even Cinderella at her lowest level of self-esteem would believe that.

It would save companies a lot of money if they used a bit of horse sense when appointing managers or team leaders.  Workers like talking to flesh and blood people not reading missives via email. Trouble is nowadays that a lot of communication is made via cell phone or email or other media instead of good old-fashioned face-to-face talking.  I once had a boss who sat in the office next door and communicated entirely with me by email instead of sticking his head round the door and asking me for what he wanted. I doubt he would have recognized me if I fell over his desk.

Instead of trying to get inside our heads, it's time for companies to recognize that good managerial skills make for contented employees.  You don't need a bunch of consultants to tell you that.  All you need is a basic interest in your staff, even the ones you don't gel with, and the ability to make them feel they are doing an important job.  If you can get that right you'll have earned your wings and saved on wrist watches and apps.

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