Combine efficiency and benevolence
It is possible for managers to reconcile efficiency and benevolence. But between performance imperatives and employee fulfillment at work, the dosage is subtle. How can you find and maintain the right balance?
The entire complexity of management appears to be summed up by two seemingly contradictory demands. On the one hand, managers must obtain results from their teams. They must therefore make sure people achieve their objectives. This obviously leads them to be demanding—and sometimes even overbearing—when deadlines become urgent or an employee fails to meet expectations. On the other hand, sustainable and high performance is based on the motivation and engagement of employees. Management by stress is no solution. It leads to unacceptable damage, both human and economic: demoralization, passive obedience, work-related disorders and absenteeism, attrition, etc.
The challenge is by no means theoretical. It manifests itself very concretely for all managers every day. For example, how can you tell an employee that he has done a bad job without sapping his motivation? How can you exert suitable pressure to meet a tight deadline, without seeming like a dictator indifferent to peoples’ stress and fatigue? The balance is delicate. And it’s just as bad to err on one side as the other. Some companies have paid a heavy price for an overly authoritarian management style, causing real suffering for employees, with repercussions on the operations and image of the organization. Conversely, other managers fall prey to what the author of Radical Candor calls “ruinous empathy.” They would rather overlook the shortcomings of their subordinates than risk of offending them. This approach rapidly generates unmanageable situations: underperformance, of course, but also a sense of injustice and lost faith by those who have to make up for these gaps.
The art of management thus means reconciling two seeming opposites: high standards and benevolence. It consists in pushing all employees to give their best, while offering them a pleasant and gratifying experience. So where is the happy medium? How can managers avoid appearing to be “bipolar,” but to the contrary, be seen as humane and effective? Here, we propose advice from leaders who have striven to find this balance.
In this synopsis:
- Preserve quality relationships under pressure
- Principles of benevolent and effective management
- A sensitive task: Dismissing an employee
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