When times are tough, managers are expected to reach into their bag of tricks and pull out the ones that will motivate employees.
Unfortunately, the ones that managers resort to all too often turn out to be illusions that backfire, inadvertently rewarding bad behaviour and punishing good.
Aubrey Daniels identifies 13 management practices that waste time and money, and prescriptions for how to change them:
1. Employee of the month
What's wrong with it: It acknowledges just one employee and leaves out the rest.
How to right it: Acknowledge achievement when and where it happens.
2. Stretch goals
What's wrong with it: Employees end up exhausted and frustrated if they fail to reach lofty targets.
How to right it: Set achievable short-term goals; chart employee progress month by month.
3. Annual reviews
What's wrong with it: Universally despised by managers and employees; ignored the rest of the year.
How to right it: Give immediate management feedback whenever employee excels or falls short.
4. Ranking employees
What's wrong with it: Even if there is little difference between employees, some end up at the top of the list and others at the bottom start to think of themselves as also-rans.
How to right it: Set performance benchmarks all employees are expected to reach.
5. Rewarding negatives
What's wrong with it: Awards for having zero defects or no accidents actually encourage people to do as little as possible to avoid potential incidents.
How to right it: Recognize actual accomplishments and contributions.
6. Merit raises,automatic bonuses
What's wrong with it: Once given, a raise is permanent, but it is unlikely to motivate continued future improvement. Bonuses are seen as entitlements even when performance is poor.
How to right it: Pay for performance or revenue sharing that must be earned each year.
7. Good news, bad news
What's wrong with it: In a mixed message, people forget the praise and obsess over the negative instead.
How to right it: Praise and criticism should come in separate discussions.
8. Sandwiching good and bad
What's wrong with it: Wrapping criticism between layers of praise means two positive messages are lost as employee focuses on the negative.
How to right it: If there is an issue, be straightforward with it.
9. Overvaluing smart people
What's wrong with it: Treating smart, talented employees as privileged undervalues the potential of others.
How to right it: Encourage training and provide promotion opportunities for all employees.
10. The budget game
What's wrong with it: Tedious, time-consuming divvying of resources makes everyone ask for more than they expect.
How to right it: Budget according to what departments can prove they need to get results. Reward those who do more with less.
11. Promoting unlikable people
What's wrong with it: Managers may have to deliver tough messages in grim times, but distrusted and threatening managers will have employees performing out of fear rather than enthusiasm.
How to right it: Promote people who are well liked and can get results through co-operation.
What's wrong with it: Staff cuts mean people get stretched and organizational performance may decline to the point that you have to rehire staff.
How to right it: Layoffs should be the last thing done after exploring employee suggestions for cost savings to spare their jobs.
What's wrong with it: Most often decisions are made based on economics rather than looking at the potential clashes of corporate culture.
How to right it: Get affected employees working together to develop a common mission and procedures everyone can support.