1 in 4 people say their jobs are the most stressful part of their lives. What is creating stress in the workplace and how can it be resolved?
Rajeev Behera, CEO of Reflektive, says that a fear-based work culture where nothing is ever good enough is a main cause of stress in the workplace. This occurs when managers use intimidation tactics, putting more value on the employees that put in the most hours, instead of those who are team players.
Rajeev saw this first-hand in his work life before founding Reflektive, a performance management and talent development software company, where he is CEO. In a fear-based environment, he said, “Managers task managed instead of people managed. A focus was always placed on the past judged by the metric of what tasks were completed or not completed.” As result of this mindset, Rajeev saw a culture of intimidation taking over the workplace.
This resulted in the wrong things being measured and rewarded, leading to nothing ever being good enough. For example, Rajeev points to time spent at work as one thing that was measured, instead of results. “Time”, he says, “is subjective. How much is enough? And you can never give enough of it.”
So how do you change it? Rajeev emphasizes several key points in helping managers move a fear based culture where nothing is ever good enough to one that is employee and future focused:
- Set goals: Instead of measuring things like time that are subjective, set goals with employees and monitor and measure performance based on the progress of these goals. Empower the employee to take the first pass to set their goals each quarter and collaborate to agree on realistic outcomes.
- Be collaborative and agile in your future focus: Rajeev encourages leaders to, “talk about it (goals and projects) while they are being worked on so employee and manager can partner together. Because things can change quickly, the goals can be adjusted when needed. This is contrasted with the manager just saying ‘go, do and don’t bother me till it’s done and perfect.’ This fear-based approach leads the manager to become judge and evaluator instead of collaborator and coach.”
Rajeev says that one of their most popular products is Agile Goal Management, because it makes sure that goal setting is a “Collaborative process- not just one-sided- so both manager and employee agree. And if expectations change, they can edit it together, document, and focus on what to do to move the business forward.”
“So how do you get managers to become coaches instead of evaluators?” I asked Rajeev.
He offered these practical steps:
- “Discuss the why, not just the “what” to do.” The why comes back to achieving business success by treating people as partners instead of task completers.
- Diagnose the current culture. Rajeev said you can do this by paying attention to “How the employees and managers talk. For example, in meetings, when there is a problem or process that is not up to par, how is the leader phrasing an action item? A fear-based approach will phrase it as something that isn’t done, placing it in the red, or when it should be done or already have been done, and saying things like ‘why didn’t we already have that done?’ This demonstrates a culture of negative reinforcement where nothing is ever good enough.”
In contrast, leaders with a future oriented approach ask questions about what can and should take place to accomplish a goal and help employees plan from there.
- Mandatory weekly one-on-ones and quarterly check-ins. Future oriented cultures, focus on employees and managers having regular, one-on-one checks, but as Rajeev says, “it up to you (the manager) to decide on what’s important to focus on and as a leader, manage your schedule and flow of these meetings accordingly.” People managers actually meet with people, so the one-on-ones provide a time for relationship building, giving clear instructions up front, setting goals and talking about career development as it relates to organizational and personal goals and priorities. Quarterly check-ins provide the opportunity to step back and discuss progress, readjust objectives, and plan for how the manager can help the employee achieve their goals over the next quarter.
This approach allows you to “talk about it while you’re working on it so we can partner together, instead of the go do and don’t bother me till it’s done and perfect,” says Rajeev.
- Focus on career development. “Coaches instead of fear-based managers,” Rajeev says, “figure out what employees want to do with their career and where they want to go, and then they give them projects to help reach those goals. Many people leave a company because they see a lack of opportunities.”
While we can learn from the past, a focus on the future is what drives performance management today. Equipping organizations with the tools to look forward, instead of backward, inadvertently leads us to think about the possibilities of how great we can be instead of thinking nothing is ever good enough.