Boost Productivity by Keeping Employees Happy
We recently ran across an interview with researcher Teresa Amabile which reminded us that—even with all the “productivity software” and other productivity boons available in the marketplace—making sure your employees are happy is still the best way to ensure productivity.
Amabile has shown people have “incredibly rich, intense, daily inner work lives” that powerfully affect their performance and are very much influenced by daily events. In other words: happier employees are measurably more productive and what makes an employee happy or unhappy on any given day will likely not be big, long-term issues like compensation or promotion, but more likely events that happen on that day. That means positive daily interactions with leaders are very important. She cites both common positive and negative behaviors on the part of leaders that can make a real difference.
Leadership Behaviors that Make a Positive Impact
- Supporting people emotionally. If an employee is frustrated or worried, it’s important not to ignore or belittle it. Issues at work are ones you can help people work through.
- Monitoring people's work in a particularly positive way. Giving positive feedback is always welcome, so long as it’s not condescending. Just as good: give people information they need to do their work better.
- Recognizing people for good performance, particularly in public settings. You don’t have to name an “Employee of the Month,” which often creates as much resentment as good feelings. A simple “good job,” or “that’s great” within earshot of other employees can stick with an employee for a couple days.
- Consulting with people on the team. Everyone likes to be listened to. Make a habit of asking people’s views, respect their opinions and be sure to act on recommendations sometimes.
- Collaborating. It makes people feel good to have the boss roll up his or her sleeves and work next to them occasionally. It doesn’t diminish you; it uplifts them.
Leadership Behaviors that Make a Negative Impact
- The under- or over-specification of assignments. Giving people too little or too much guidance makes them feel powerless.
- Monitoring in a negative form. If you check on assigned work too often, or too long, or give unconstructive feedback, you can cause a lot of stress for employees, leading to the opposite effect of the one intended.
- Negative problem solving. Problems cause stress. You shouldn’t ignore them or—worse yet—cause new ones.
The big take-away is that as managers we have more influence over our employees’ daily lives than we are probably aware of. Whether we use that influence for good or ill depends on how conscious and conscientious we can be.