Following is an excerpt from my new book The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World, which is being published today by Prentice Hall Press. This section, from the chapter “People Leave Managers, Not Companies,” examines the fundamental importance and challenges of a manager’s role.
People say many things about managers:
He’s too demanding. She’s too intense.
He’s a great motivator. Her team really likes working for her.
You can count on him. She gets things done.
He’s a terrific leader. She’s a real strategic thinker.
He doesn’t know what he’s doing. She doesn’t have a clue.
But there’s one thing I’m willing to bet you never hear. You never hear people say management is an easy job.
After I retired from management in 2012, I wanted to step back and gain some perspective on what I’d been doing for the last quarter century. As I began to spend time with different organizations’ management and employee studies, trying to get a broader sense of the common issues managers were grappling with and how they compared with my own experiences, one inescapable truth struck me: Vast numbers of employees are disengaged. By “disengaged,” I mean not emotionally committed to the organizations they work for, and therefore in all likelihood not highly motivated and fully productive.
There are subtle differences in how different studies define “employee engagement,” but the commonalities among the various studies are far more important than the differences. No matter how you slice the data, in the big picture somewhere around 60% or 70% of employees are simply not working— say it straight— as hard as they could be. Let’s take some examples. Gallup data shows 30% of employees “engaged.” Towers Watson data shows 35% “highly engaged.” Dale Carnegie data shows 29% “fully engaged.” And these aren’t small studies; the Gallup survey includes more than 350,000 respondents and the Towers Watson survey includes more than 32,000. Gallup goes on to estimate an annual cost in lost U.S. productivity of more than $450 billion. This is a staggering figure. Even if it’s imprecise, it gives a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
What high-level factors contribute to this epidemic of disengagement? To return to the title of this chapter: “People leave managers, not companies.” In short, the central relationship between manager and employee plays a critical role. Beyond that, other factors also contribute. These include belief in senior leadership, pride in one’s company and the chronic uncertainty resulting from a steady stream of reorganizations, layoffs and pressure “to do more with less.” But no matter the precise constellation of factors, which vary according to the character and circumstances of an organization, there’s no question that a chronically high level of employee disengagement represents both a failure of management and a fundamental challenge to it: a challenge to do what is needed to keep vast numbers of individuals interested in their work, feeling good about their organizations, and working as productively as they can.
What does this high-level data mean to you as a manager? It means, first and hopefully encouragingly, that if you find the practice of management challenging, you’re not alone. It is challenging and you have a great deal of company. If 60% to 70% of employees are working at less than full capacity, an awful lot of you in management are dealing with motivation problems. It also means there’s a huge opportunity: an opportunity to better engage employees and improve productivity for your department and organization. To use simple numbers, if you manage 10 employees and six of them are to some extent disengaged, and you can reach on average two of them to better engage and motivate them, those are immediately very significant productivity gains you’ll achieve.
Of course the challenge lies in reaching those two employees, understanding why they feel the way they do and improving their mindsets. We’ll dissect these challenges and provide new tools to approach the old task of management in the pages ahead.
“Here’s something they’ll probably never teach you in business school,” wrote Gallup CEO Jim Clifton in the summary accompanying his organization’s 2013 “State of the American Workplace” employee engagement study. “The single biggest decision you make in your job—bigger than all the rest—is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits—nothing.”
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The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World is available on many book-selling sites.
This article was written by Victor Lipman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.