One challenge that managers face is keeping employees fully engaged and committed to perform at a high level in their jobs. At the start, each person brings a certain energy level that they devote to a job, but if management does not tap into that energy, the person will direct it elsewhere.
When a worker diverts his energy to causes other than being productive on the job, it’s illustrated in a concept described as the Spiral of Despair. When a person initially enters a new situation, such as a new job, he brings with him a certain level of excitement and desire to be successful. The person is generally energized and engaged in the job process. Employees are committed to making it work; they quickly exhibit a sense of wanting to belong and wanting to contribute. This initial commitment level is when management needs to fully capitalize on the person’s abilities.
If management fails to capture that primary energy surge, the worker can enter into a feeling of despair. The person becomes frustrated and confused with what is expected of him and wonders why management has not recognized the skills and interests he brings to the job. The person can quickly feel forgotten, unappreciated and powerless.
When that occurs, the feeling of despair is replaced by a state of apathy. Employees become indifferent to what is expected of them or the business’ goals. They can become alienated and tuned out. Workers start to play counterproductive games, and often there will be an increase in workplace accidents.
Apathy many times turns into anger, and the worker’s productivity can really suffer. The person may feel rejected and worthless, while at the same time believe that his supervisor or fellow workers are taking him for granted. The effects eventually spill over to others and people start to face a high level of stress, and the workplace in general becomes a stressful place. High turnover rates result as well as high absenteeism levels.
A manager’s goal is to keep employees in that initial stage of excitement and feeling a valuable part of the team, in order to keep workers out of the Spiral of Despair. But typically the manager’s actions to accomplish this also go against the traditional management tactics. In the traditional approach, management defines the problem; management chooses a solution; management tells the workers what to do or what to change; and then the workers are expected to implement management’s program to solve the problem.
In contrast, an inclusive approach would be more effective in keeping the employees motivated. In an inclusive approach, management and the workers define the problem, after which management and workers choose the solution. Workers then implement the change that they’ve helped define and develop. The point behind this management style is that it includes employees who will implement the program early in the process of determining the solution. Many times the workers will come up with a better solution than management. While management ultimately remains responsible and in control, this process allows them to take advantage of the workers as an intellectual asset.
An inclusive approach to management requires a change in communication strategies from the traditional top down to the bottom up. There must be a shift from authority to empowerment. The manager moves from functioning as a controller or decider to a facilitator. Of course, this is not an easy change for many managers to make. While a manager’s job is to get the most out of the resources at hand, “most” refers to both effectiveness and efficiency. The resources, whether material or personnel, are both often limited in quantity. But this alternative management style offers an opportunity to maximize your results.
By opening communication channels, one is able to maintain the workforce morale and keep employees contributing as a partnership. The quality of the solution is dependent on the experience, expertise and perspective of both management and the employees.
Successful implementation is a function of the employees understanding how important their roles are in the process. In the end, this leads to a sense of ownership instead of traveling down the Spiral of Despair.