Motivating Gwen in the Workplace

28 Jan

I have traits that I understand may not seem amenable to some supervisors. I’m opinionated and determined, but I’m also a talented employee. Since I know who I am, I also know who my perfect boss needs to be: strong, intelligent, fair, ethical, team player, objective, humorous, role model, and confident. I have been fortunate over my 40-year career to have been supervised by three people in leadership roles who possessed those extraordinary qualities: Dr. Isabel Sawhill (former senior fellow, Urban Institute); Sol Pelavin (former President & CEO, American Institutes for Research); and Dr. Peggy Carr (Associate Commissioner, National Center for Education Statistics). For the supervisors who didn’t have those qualities, I perceived as lacking in leadership skills, albeit good people to know in a social environment; however, not the kind of leader who could motivate subordinates. These supervisors have other undesirable traits that employees have come to detest: no people management skills, micromanager, and play favoritism. And, I’m not just talking to hear myself. In 2006, research by Harvard Business School showed that individual managers’ behaviors and styles contribute to employees’ demotivation.

As I reflect on how I personally could have been motivated by leaders I worked for, the answer seems so simple. Employers have the gist of it — money alone does not motivate employees. However, they think personal recognition will motivate employees (and studies do point that way). But, it depends on what the personal recognition entails. Is it a pat on the back or a thank you for a job well done? Is it a day off or the offer to telework? Is it a free lunch or a holiday party for employees? These things are okay, but shouldn’t they be the norm? Don’t get me wrong, I like personal recognition as much as the next person, but then is it sincere? Are acknowledgments thoughtlessly mentioned while the supervisor and employee pass each other in the hallway or is it recognized and rewarded by the powers that be? Does the employer really take the time to listen to his employees?

There are all these discussions by experts in the field and tons of information out in the universe on how to motivate employees. Yet, employees are still not motivated. What’s the deal? (see How Management Demotivates). Well, I can’t speak for the universe so I’ll let you know what would motivate me — implementing 360° assessments. The traditional performance evaluation is bull! Oh boy, the opinionated and determined side is rearing its ugly head. Sidebar: traditional evaluations will only work if the evaluator is objective, but downright flawed when the evaluator is subjective.

The reason a 360° assessment would motivate me is two-fold:

 (1)  It levels the playing field. Just as my performance is being assessed by my supervisor, his/her performance is assessed by me. I believe this one action alone gives my supervisor and me the opportunity to present an objective assessment of each other.

(2)   It’s a true barometer by which I would be objectively measured based on feedback from subordinates, peers, team members, and supervisor(s), to include external sources (i.e., members, stakeholders, vendors, people I interact with on a regular basis).

I view the traditional performance evaluation as “who has the power and who doesn’t.” The problem with this assessment is, as you know, one-sided and provides a single viewpoint, which is usually bias or subjective. The 360° assessment is a powerful motivator because I know that having multiple raters would provide a more accurate assessment of my competencies, behaviors, and performance. And, the 360° assessment finally gives me power to assess my supervisor’s abilities. Leveling the playing field is definitely a strong motivator for me.

In a research paper by Diane M. Alexander, University of Rhode Island, she noted that 40 percent of American companies used 360° feedback in 1995. By 2000, the number increased to 65 percent. And, in 2002, 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies were using a 360° performance review process. I wish 360° assessments were mandatory in every American business or organization. It could possibly groom weak supervisors of today into strong leaders of tomorrow.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Employment


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One response to “Motivating Gwen in the Workplace

  1. jumbledwriter

    January 29, 2013 at 2:06 am

    Very interesting to note the 360 degree feedback. I’ve never had one, but I like how it sounds and what it indicates. You are very correct that the traditional feedback method definitely uses a system of informing who is in charge. I’ve never seen anything wrong with that, but I don’t have plans to one day become my boss. I am happy with being in a subordinate position for now.


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