Archive for category Work

Values and Behaviours Framework – South Australian Public Sector

The first in an occasional series showcasing Values statements of various organisations. To kick matters off, the Values and Behaviours Framework of the South Australian Public Sector. They have a rather nice page here: http://publicsector.sa.gov.au/documents/20150708-public-sector-values-and-behaviours-framework/, which I have reproduced below (without permission, but I am sure they won’t mind). The PDF is attached … –> 20150710-SA-Public-Sector-Values-and-Behaviours-Framework

One of the concepts I like most about this framework is that they explicitly state what the practices should be, what “proper” behaviour looks like, and what shouldn’t be done (the “taboos”). I very much like the amount of thought that has gone into this worthwhile cultural document.

So, here it is:

Public Sector Values and Behaviours Framework

The public sector values have been developed to make it easier for us to work together by forming a culture and a vision that we all share.

This framework provides brief examples of the types of organisational practices and personal behaviours that will support the public sector values in your workplace. It also provides some examples of taboos (what you don’t want to see at work).

Organisational leaders need to structure and arrange processes in such a way that the behaviours are supported. Only when organisational practices and personal behaviours are aligned can the values be brought to life.

The examples provided here may provide you with a starting point for a discussion on what types of behaviours you would like to see in your workplace. This is not an exhaustive table. You should expand the conversation among your colleagues to make sure that the behaviours you identify are those most suited to your workplace and your customers, stakeholders, and partners.

 

Service
We proudly serve the community and Government of South Australia

Organisational practices:

  • Prioritise the diverse needs of the community in the design and delivery of services.
  • Uphold the rights of each individual to access services as easily as possible.
  • Establish service standards that apply to all customers.
  • Collaborate with business and community partners to improve service delivery and respond to complaints.

Successful personal behaviours:

  • Serve people courteously, fairly, and effectively.
  • Know who your customers are, understand their needs, and take their views into account.
  • Recognise and value internal and external customers equally.
  • Go the extra mile in order to deliver the best outcomes.

Taboos:

  • Don’t disrespect, ignore, or devalue others, particularly those you serve.
  • Don’t use a process or procedure as an excuse for stalling or handballing an issue.
  • Don’t provide lower standards of service to customers who are employed in the public sector.
  • Don’t refuse to listen to, or act upon, complaints about poor service.

 

Professionalism
We strive for excellence

Organisational practices:

  • Promote best practice in leadership and management, and prioritise employee performance management.
  • Build impartial relationships with the Government of the day.
  • Encourage pride in the profession of public service.
  • Foster a culture that drives innovation, improves productivity, and recognises and rewards excellent outcomes.

Successful personal behaviours:

  • Exhibit the highest standards of professional behaviour, including working conscientiously and competently in a polite and helpful manner.
  • Provide honest and objective advice and carefully implement direction without undue delay.
  • Pursue individual growth and professional learning to develop strengths and improve weaknesses.
  • Strive to create new and better ways of doing things.

Taboos:

  • Don’t accept underperformance, or tolerate, and thereby promote, bad attitudes.
  • Don’t act in a way that is contrary to the priorities and decisions of the Government of the day.
  • Don’t act in a way that brings the reputation of the sector into disrepute.
  • Don’t accept ineffective practices when outcomes could clearly be improved.

 

Trust
We have confidence in the ability of others

Organisational practices:

  • Establish strong partnerships between organisations.
  • Create organisational structures that give employees the greatest possible freedom and autonomy.
  • Establish collaborative work practices through strategically and culturally aligned work places.
  • Build a systematic approach to establishing and enhancing the community’s trust.

Successful personal behaviours:

  • Encourage people from other teams and organisations to work with you to achieve the best possible outcomes.
  • Embrace responsibility and deliver on commitments to colleagues and leaders.
  • Rely on colleagues to collaborate in pursuit of common goals and objectives.
  • Follow through on obligations to individuals and the community, and keep them informed of progress.

Taboos:

  • Don’t allow structural and cultural barriers to hinder success.
  • Don’t tolerate a difference between what is said and what is done among colleagues or leaders.
  • Don’t refuse to recognise that others may be able to do the job as well as you.
  • Don’t allow administrative priorities to interfere with your responsibilities and commitments to the community.

 

Respect
We value every individual

Organisational practices:

  • Applying empathetic people management skills to bring out the best in employees and prioritise their wellbeing.
  • Implement programs that reward and recognise excellent outcomes.
  • Educate employees about diversity’s role in strengthening our workplaces and communities.
  • Promote respect for the impact of decisions on the lives of employees and the community.

Successful personal behaviours:

  • Identify and understand the situation, feelings, and motives of your associates.
  • Acknowledge the contributions of your peers.
  • Appreciate openly that people have different backgrounds, circumstances, needs, and capabilities.
  • Listen considerately to colleagues, customers, clients, stakeholders, and partners.

Taboos:

  • Don’t take a “one size fits all” approach to working with people.
  • Don’t neglect to recognise the work of others.
  • Don’t discriminate.
  • Don’t give greater weighting to your own opinions over others’ without clear justification.

 

Collaboration & Engagement
We create solutions together

Organisational practices:

  • Build systems and processes that strengthen partnerships with all sectors of the community.
  • Facilitate closer relationships within and across public sector organisations, including other service providers.
  • Create systems that enable open feedback and transparent decision making.
  • Encourage open dialogue to understand the diverse needs of the community.

Successful personal behaviours:

  • Engage genuinely with stakeholders and the community and work with them to improve outcomes.
  • Build professional relationships with peers in other teams and organisations.
  • Involve people in decisions that affect them.
  • Ask questions to jointly define problems and identify solutions.

Taboos:

  • Don’t act on untested assumptions about colleagues, customers, clients, stakeholders, and partners.
  • Don’t make decisions or take actions without engaging those most affected.
  • Don’t ignore potential biases in decision making.
  • Don’t avoid diversity of views and opinions or treat them as an obstacle to decision making.

 

Honesty & Integrity
We act truthfully, consistently, and fairly

Organisational practices:

  • Implement and uphold the Code of Ethics for the South Australian Public Sector.
  • Create a culture that encourages openness and transparency.
  • Ensure all decisions and actions can withstand scrutiny.
  • Create a culture that promotes frank and honest discussion.

Successful personal behaviours:

  • Follow the values and standards contained in the Code and model that behaviour as an example for others.
  • Fully and accurately disclose information and share available resources without being prompted.
  • Take action based on the best available evidence and argument.
  • Conduct difficult conversations with empathy, sensitivity, and a determination to resolve issues.

Taboos:

  • Don’t tolerate or fail to report unethical behaviour or misconduct.
  • Don’t inappropriately share or withhold information or resources.
  • Don’t ignore the evidence, or manipulate it to justify a pre-determined decision.
  • Don’t neglect to raise issues with those directly involved.

 

Courage & Tenacity
We never give up

Organisational practices:

  • Develop people to think innovatively about policy, services, and people management.
  • Help employees to be resilient in challenging times.
  • Minimise unnecessary bureaucracy and be flexible in the approach to solving problems.
  • Build systems that encourage innovation and accept occasional failures as a necessary part of progress.

Successful personal behaviours:

  • Suggest and support new ideas and better ways of doing things.
  • Listen attentively, question thoughtfully, challenge openly, and encourage others to do the same.
  • Challenge ineffectiveness and remove obstacles to enable yourself and others to succeed.
  • Learn from failure without being discouraged and apply that knowledge to achieve better outcomes.

Taboos:

  • Don’t fail to contribute for fear of being judged.
  • Don’t avoid or undermine progress because it seems difficult or threatening.
  • Don’t allow rules and regulations to hinder progress or become an excuse for inaction.
  • Don’t hold back when there is evidence of better ways of working.

 

Sustainability
We work to get the best results for current and future generations of South Australians

Organisational practices:

  • Design structures, systems and services to consume resources more efficiently over time.
  • Take collective action to improve productivity and maximise the impact on limited resources.
  • Promote the use of business cases and cost-benefit analyses to ensure the most efficient use of tax-payer resources.
  • Work together to leave a lasting legacy for future generations of South Australians.

Successful personal behaviours:

  • Identify the long-term resource impacts of the programs and services you design.
  • Seek opportunities to collaborate to maximise the collective impact of resources and reduce duplication.
  • Manage information, finances, people, and assets prudently.
  • Focus on solutions which continue to produce outcomes for the community over the long term.

Taboos:

  • Don’t rely on established solutions where more economical options may apply
  • Don’t resist working with others in order to retain control of resources or outcomes.
  • Don’t invest time and money in work that is not producing value.
  • Don’t design convenient short term solutions to complex long-term problems.

 

 

 

 

 

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Employability Advice

Through a somewhat circuitous route (via an Evernote promotional email), I happenstanced to read this blog entry (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/from-goderich-googlex-advice-i-would-have-given-myself-chris-o-neill) by Chris O’Neill, who is currently the CEO of Evernote (hence the link from the email to the blog entry via LinkedIn). It was a speech he gave to students at Western University (in Canada I presume). Most of it is the standard fluff that “captains of industry” tell young people, but a few points stood out for me:

  • “What about “following your passion?” how many of you have heard that advice …pursue your passion and everything with take care of itself? I just don’t buy it because it simply isn’t that practical.” “When I was sitting where you are right now, I was passionate about my family, the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing sports, drinking beer and hanging out with friends, economics, China, and traveling.” “I tried to combine my passions. For my Senior thesis I built an econometric model to predict demand of China’s growing beer industry, and titled my paper The Great Gulp Forward.” – Yeah, you heard right – The Great Gulp Forward. I wish I had written that paper – the things you do when you are young.
  • “So the lesson I learned: Instead of “following my passion”, I figured out what kind of value I might offer the world and slowly, but surely, organized my career around developing that.” – Totally excellent advice. I have always been wary of the blithe three-word slogan. Goodness, if everyone was blindly following their passion, we would end up with an ill-defined blancmange of anarchy. The advice – value and organisation. Good advice indeed.
  • “Ironically the best career advice I have ever come across is from comedian Steve Martin. … His advice: “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.” “. Once again, leave it to the smart smart hard worker to come up with an excellent piece of wisdom. “Over time you should figure out what you want that to be, and thoughtfully build your skills and personal brand to “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You.” “.
  • Chris calls this Strategic Serendipity – a term coined by Scott Bonham, according to Chris. Not a bad term – a bit “consultant speak” but OK.

 

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Microsoft Word Shortcut Keys

 
In the Customize Keyboard dialog, find FileProperties under All Commands and assign a shortcut of Shift-Ctrl-Alt-P

 

Alt +f           Opens the Office Button

Alt +e           Opens the Prepare options

Alt +p           Opens the Properties
ALT+F, T         Open Word Options

W2010: Alt, F, I, Q, P    Show All Properties
W2010: Alt, F, I, Q, S    Properties

Keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Word (from Microsoft): https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/290938
KeyRocket: https://www.veodin.com/keyrocket/word-2010-shortcuts/ https://www.veodin.com/keyrocket/word-2007-shortcuts/
MVPS Word: http://word.mvps.org/faqs/general/shortcuts.htm
Shortcut World: http://www.shortcutworld.com/en/win/Word_2013.html

 

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Trick to Avoid Procrastination

I haven’t re-posted anything from PsyBlog for quite a while, but I came across this article and thought it would be more than useful …

http://www.spring.org.uk/2015/05/avoid-procrastination-funky-tip-makes-you-start-4-times-sooner.php

Avoid Procrastination: Funky Tip Makes You Start 4 Times Sooner

Post image for Avoid Procrastination: Funky Tip Makes You Start 4 Times Sooner

This trick makes you feel closer to your future self so that you start four times sooner.

Thinking about upcoming goals in terms of days rather than months or years motivates action, new research finds.

Even counting months rather than years has a beneficial effect, psychologists have revealed.

Professor Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California, who led the study, thinks the tip…

“…may be useful to anyone needing to save for retirement or their children’s college, to start working on a term paper or dissertation, pretty much anyone with long-term goals or wanting to support someone who has such goals.”

Over 1,000 participants took part in four different studies to examine the phenomenon.

People were encouraged to think about goals in terms of different time scales.

For example, they either thought about saving for a college fund in 18 years or in 6,570 days.

Or, they thought about saving for retirement either in 30 years or in 10,950 days.

Thinking in days made people feel more connected to their future selves, which in turn was a greater motivator to action.

People said they would start working towards their goal four times sooner when the time was expressed in days than when it was expressed in years.

The research was published in the journal Psychological Science (Lewis & Oyserman, 2015).

Procrastination image from Shutterstock

 

 

 

 

 

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Persuasive and Memorable Stories

“In 350 B.C., Aristotle was already wondering what could make content—in his case, a speech—persuasive and memorable, so that its ideas would pass from person to person. The answer, he argued, was three principles: ethos, pathos, and logos. Content should have an ethical appeal, an emotional appeal, or a logical appeal. A rhetorician strong on all three was likely to leave behind a persuaded audience. Replace rhetorician with online content creator, and Aristotle’s insights seem entirely modern. Ethics, emotion, logic—it’s credible and worthy, it appeals to me, it makes sense. If you look at the last few links you shared on your Facebook page or Twitter stream, or the last article you e-mailed or recommended to a friend, chances are good that they’ll fit into those categories.”

from: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/01/the-six-things-that-make-stories-go-viral-will-amaze-and-maybe-infuriate-you.html

 

 

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Making Conversation Work For You

I have been a fan of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) for many many years now.  Bandler and Grinder really did come up with something special, and had a reasonable theoretical framework associated with their concepts.

Much of what they wrote about is continually re-played in the popular and business press, under various headings.  If done well, it does not diminish the essential messages nor the utility of what is said.

The following article is one such example of this post-NLP diaspora.  It provides some good advice, in succinct chunks perfectly suited for the web-gen adversity to 200 page tomes:

http://theweek.com/article/index/253693/how-to-make-people-like-you-6-science-based-conversation-hacks

Here are the headlines:

1. Encourage people to talk about themselves

2. To give feedback, ask questions

3. Ask for advice

4. The two-question technique

5. Repeat the last three words

6. Gossip — but positively

 

 

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Office v. Open Plan

Offices.  Open Plan.  Always seem to be the bone of contention in the modern work environment.  I know which side of the fence (or should I say ‘door’) which I firmly sit on – even though I am perpetually on the other side (much to my chagrin).  Psyblog has rounded up a bunch of research in this area, presented here: http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/09/6-psych-tips-for-creating-the-ideal-workspace.php#utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PsychologyBlog+%28PsyBlog%29 and below …


 

The perfect office space: beautiful curves, natural views and greenery.

There you are, sitting in the office, as usual, working away.

Look away from the screen for a moment and what do you see? How tidy is your desk? Is it an open-plan office? Is there a view out of the window? Are there any plants in sight? Did you personally choose the decorations near your desk?

All these factors and more have interesting psychological effects on how people work and how good they feel about it. So here are six tips, based on psychological research, for creating the ideal workspace.

1. Avoid open-plan (if you can)

Open-plan offices are supposed to encourage communication and team-spirit. At least, that’s the theory.

According to a survey which analysed data from 303 US office buildings, there’s some truth to the boost in communication, but no evidence it increases community spirit (Kim & Dear, 2012).

On top of this, the small benefits in communication are massively outweighed by the disadvantages of working in open-plan offices. Most have worked in these and know exactly what they are: noise, distraction and lack of privacy.

Unsurprisingly, people working in private offices are significantly happier with their working environment.

Not that most people have much choice about this either way and I guess many do their best to create their own sense of privacy using headphones, cubicles or hiding under the desk—whatever works.

2. The great messy/tidy desk debate

Does a messy desk help or hinder? Is the untidy desk really a sign of an untidy mind?

Well, research has found that order and disorder in the environment have different psychological consequences.

An experiment (described here) found that messy desks tended to encourage more creativity, while tidy desks encouraged conformity and general good moral behaviour.

So, both messy and untidy desks have their place, depending on the type of outcome you are looking for.

3. Curvy is beautiful

While we can’t use psychology to solve the messy/tidy debate decisively, we can with curvy versus plain old straight.

In a study by Dazkir and Read (2011), participants were shown some stimulated interiors with loads of straight edges and some with loads of curves.

People rated the curvy environments as making them feel more peaceful, calm and relaxed. So, curvy wins.

Just the same effect was found in another experiment which found people more likely to judge curvy spaces in general as more beautiful (Vartanian et al., 2013).

4. Room with a view (or a picture of a view)

Most of us know that a nice walk through nature has a calming effect on the mind. Indeed, there is a study showing that a walk in nature can boost memory by 20%.

But what about bringing a little nature inside the office space?

This has also been tested in a study by Berto (2005), who found that just viewing pictures of natural scenes had a restorative effect on cognitive function.

In fact, the benefits of viewing landscapes likely extend to reducing short-term stress as well as benefiting overall health and well-being (Verlarde & Teit, 2007).

5. Plants

If walks in nature and natural scenes can calm the mind, then surely plants should work as well?

Indeed they do, research by Raaaas et al. (2011) found that after being exposed to an office setting with four indoor plants, people’s attentional capacities were restored in comparison to the control condition, which had no plant-life.

6. Decorate

The lean, clean, efficient office space has been seen as the model environment in which to really get some work done.

But, like the tidy desk enthusiasts, the office minimalists are also taking a kicking in the research.

An experiment by Knight & Haslam (2010) looked at the effects of bare offices as compared with those either decorated by the experimenter or decorated by the people occupying them.

What effects, they wondered, would office decoration have on people’s well-being, their attention to detail, their management of information and so on.

The answer is that decorated offices won out over their bare counterparts. When people were empowered by being allowed to do their own decoration, they produced higher productivity and experienced enhanced well-being.

As one of their participants remarked, echoing, I’m sure, the feelings of many:

“…it’s so nice to come into an office with plants and pictures, it makes a place feel more homely, even a glass box [of an office] like this.”

 

 

 

 

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Why Haters Have to Hate

More from PsyBlog – this guy just continues to come up with pearlers!

http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/08/why-haters-have-to-hate.php

 

 

Why Haters Have to Hate

Post image for Why Haters Have to Hate

Are you an instinctive ‘liker’ or an instinctive ‘hater’?

Some people have the talent to find the bad in anything.

Mountains, brie, Greece, electric toothbrushes; you name it, they don’t like it. And they want to tell you exactly why.

A new study published in theJournal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests this might be a newly identified aspect of personality: how much people are predisposed to like or hate stuff, even if they know almost nothing about it (Helper & Albarracin, 2013).

To investigate, the researchers asked people questions about loads of different things that weren’t connected.

They included everything from ‘abortion’, ‘America’, ‘antidepressants’ and ‘architecture’ down to ‘voluntary euthanasia’, ‘wearing clothes that draw attention’ and ‘wine’.

Imagine if you took five of your friends and asked them about subjects as varied as these; surely you’d get really varied responses. Some people like wine and wearing clothes that draw attention, other people dislike those things. Others couldn’t care less either way.

What the researchers found was that there was certainly lots of variation between what people liked and disliked. But, oddly, at a general level, people were split between likers and haters.

In other words, some people tended to like stuff even though they didn’t really know much about it, and some people had the tendency to hate stuff, whatever it was.

The authors of this article argue that this initial stance towards anything and everything is a facet of personality. In the same way that you can be either extroverted or introverted, you can also be a ‘liker’ or a ‘hater’.

So, the answer to why the haters have to hate is that it’s built into them at the level of their personality.

Now, how you might become a like or a hater in the first place, we don’t yet know. Likely, it’s got a lot to do with genetics. Some people are born haters, others born likers.

But there’s also likely a learning component: people probably learn to become haters—hating from an early age, and so forth.

It raises all kinds of fascinating questions: does being a hater run in the family? Can a liker and a hater be in a relationship together? Which professions have the most haters?

I’ll leave you to ponder these and more important questions!

Image credit: Minh Hoang

 

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How to Set Better Goals

More from PsyBlog – this time on setting goals (which is one of those totally critical elements of business, management and consulting): http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/08/how-to-set-better-goals-avoid-four-common-mistakes.php

 

Badly set goals can degrade performance, motivate unethical behaviour and damage organisations.

It’s no accident that goal-setting pervades so many areas of modern life.

There are hundreds of research studies going back decades showing that setting goals can increase people’s performance.

Most have heard the goal-setting mantra that goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted (S.M.A.R.T.); but few recognise the dangers of poor goal-setting and the unintended consequences that can follow.

Here’s how to avoid four common problems with goal-setting, which are highlighted by Ordonez et al. (2009) at the Harvard Business School.

1. Too specific

The problem with setting goals that are too specific is that they can bias people’s behaviour in unintended ways.  For example:

  • If you use goals to effectively tell a university professor that all that’s important is publishing articles, then what is going to happen to her teaching?
  • If you tell call-centre staff that the main thing is how quickly they answer the phone, what’s going to happen to how they deal with the call?

Very specific goals can degrade overall performance by warping the way people view their jobs.

Better goals: keep them somewhat vague. This gives people control and choice over how they do their jobs. When people are given vaguer goals they can take into account more factors: in short it makes them think for themselves. It’s no wonder that having control is strongly linked with job satisfaction.

2. Too many goals

Perhaps the answer, then, is to set loads of goals which cover all aspects of a person’s work? Not necessarily, as that introduces its own problems.

For one thing people tend to concentrate on the easiest goal to the exclusion of the others. For example, in one study participants were given both quality and quantity goals related to a task. When quantity goals were easier to achieve than quality, they focused mostly on quantity.

This study is showing how a well-meaning goal can warp people’s behaviour in unintended directions.

Better goals: limit the total number of goals. Apart from anything else, who can remember 10 or 20 goals they are supposed to be working towards?

3. Short-termism

Why is it so hard to get a cab on a rainy day?

The answer isn’t just that more people are hailing cabs; it’s also that the cab drivers go home earlier because they hit their targets earlier for the day. So Camerer et al., (1997) found in their study of New York cab drivers.

This is a prime example of short-termism: goals can make people believe that when they hit their target, they can take the rest of the day (or month!) off.

This works at an organisational level as well: if an organisation is continually working to meet short-term goals, it can neglect the long-term importance of innovation and evolution.

Better goals: Make sure short-term goals don’t interfere with the long-term vision, otherwise they can be corrosive for the organisation.

4. Too hard

When goals are too hard, they encourage people to do anything in order to meet them; that includes unethical behaviour.

One example of unethical behaviour prompted by poor goals was in the hard disk manufacturer, MiniScribe. Back in 1989, in order to meet financial targets, they began shipping bricks instead of hard drives. The bricks sat unopened for a few weeks in a Singapore warehouse, while Miniscribe successfully invoiced for them. The company soon went into bankruptcy.

Miniscribe’s story is also a brilliant example of short-term thinking. What did they think was going to happen when the bricks were discovered, as they surely would be?

Similarly, research has also shown that when people are set more difficult goals, they are more willing to take risks. In some circumstances this may be acceptable, but often it is not.

Not only that, but goals that are too hard are simply demotivating. How come almost reaching your target feels like failure, even when you’re 99% there?

Better goals: Set genuinely achievable goals rather than so-called ‘stretch’ goals. These will avoid encouraging people to behave unethically.

New rules of goal-setting

All of these problems are further exaggerated by larger the incentives. When there are huge amounts of money at stake, then badly set goals can distort human behaviour even more.

So, use these warnings as ways to set better goals, and be careful of unintended consequences.

Ordonez et al. (2009) conclude by saying:

“Rather than dispensing goal setting as a benign, over-the-counter treatment for students of management, experts need to conceptualize goal setting as a prescription-strength medication that requires careful dosing, consideration of harmful side effects, and close supervision.”

With that warning in mind, here are some new rules of goal-setting

  • Goals should be somewhat abstract.
  • Goals should be set with an eye on the long-term.
  • Goals should be relatively limited in number.
  • Goals should not be too hard to achieve.

(Oh, and unless they’ve ordered them, never ship bricks.)

 

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4 Qualities of Truly Horrible Managers

Another terribly topical article from Psyblog: http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/08/4-qualities-of-truly-horrible-managers.php

 

4 Qualities of Truly Horrible Managers

Fifty per cent of managers are incompetent, so how did that idiot get to be your boss?

Surveys keep telling us that between 65% and 75% of people rate their managers as the worst aspect of their jobs.

Is this just baseless moaning, or are they right?

 

Actually most are right since research into managers shows that around 50% of them are incompetent (DeVries, 1993).

The reasons they can’t do their jobs are pretty simple. When Leslie and Van Velsor (1996) looked at the research across different organisations and different employees, they found these four points summarised the problems with failed managers (research described in Hogan & Kaiser, 2005):

  1. Poor interpersonal skills. Horrible managers look down on you from on high like irascible emperors. They are insensitive, cold and as likely to be nice to you as give their pay-checks to charity.
  2. Can’t get the work done. They repeatedly set overly ambitious targets and then repeatedly fail to meet them. They don’t follow through on their promises and they’re likely to betray your trust.
  3. Can’t build a team. It’s perhaps the most essential skill of being a manager. Team-building requires building trust, assigning roles and goals, promoting good communication and providing leadership. Terrible managers are totally incapable of any of this.
  4. Can’t cope with promotion. Who knows how they got that promotion, but it’s clear the new job is beyond them. As soon as they’re settled in, everything starts to fall apart.

If 50% of managers are that bad, how do they become managers in the first place?

The answer is that horrible managers do have desirable qualities—that’s how they got hired in the first place—but they also have undesirable qualities, which often outweigh them.

Hogan and Hogan (1994) have looked at decades of research on this and they find that most horrible managers have a personality disorder. And the thing about personality disorders is:

Personality disorders are hard to detect

Many horrible managers are narcissists and, sadly, people like narcissists at first. They seem like fun people to be around.

In time, though, we come to notice that narcissists can’t learn from their mistakes and go around with a massive sense of entitlement.

What seemed charming on day one is revealed as arrogance over time. Unfortunately this usually doesn’t become obvious until too late.

 

Failure of the selection process

Managers are often recruited from outside the organisation using interviews.

Both narcissists and psychopaths are great at interviews: making a good impression in these sorts of situations is what they excel at.

Instead, more formal selection tools should be used with information collected about the person’s ability to be a manager from the people who know best: the manager’s subordinates.

In other words: you should vote for your boss.

Can you imagine?

 

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