The majority of my posts have been about white-collar professionals.  The retail business sector may not appear to be ‘white-collar’ yet there are similar principles.  Today I reflect on micro-managing and motivation.

I don’t know the statistics on the turnover rate among hourly-wage employees, I assume it’s high but probably uneven across industries and businesses.  For the ones with low(er) turnover rate, management must have done something right, such as exhibiting higher trust in their employees, perhaps offering a little more benefits and meaningful incentives, or just building a better work environment.  For instance, Men’s Warehouse offers commission based on sales associates’ collaboration so that the incentive is on helping each other to increase sales volume.

Having one of these on your shoulder would be very unpleasant.

Having one of these on your shoulder would be very unpleasant.

Recently, an hourly employee made a comment to me, “The owner of this place likes to micro-manage.  Whenever he shows up, our productivity seems lower because what’s the point of finishing up work quickly when he then orders you to do some stupid pointless tasks?”  When left alone, this employee is more than willing to pick up those “stupid pointless” tasks after he finishes his main work.  However, knowing that the owner is going to be in town, and in the store, he may as well take his time to finish his work, to minimize his interactions with the owner.

When managers micro-manage (if they themselves are aware of what they are doing), it’s probably because they assume that the employees are not to be trusted.  Have these managers ever considered the possibility that employees have not had reasons to trust the managers?  Unidirectional “relationship” – if you can even call that – is like one-hand clapping.

Perhaps the rate of “shirkers” is higher among the hourly employees, and perhaps hourly employees do not possess a lot of self-motivation.  However, most people do get excited when they have done a good job; it’s even nicer when their above-average performance is recognized.  So, why do some managers, or dare I say, most of them, assume that people aren’t interested in performing well on the job?  If people don’t take pride in their job, hourly work or otherwise, is it automatically the fault of these people?  Or, is it possible that the work environment, the organizational structure, is so stifling that performing well on the job is meaningless? or maybe even impossible?  Further, if someone works efficiently, that person gets “saddled” with more work without any recognition and compensation.

When my son was put in the “GATE” program (Gifted And Talented Education), it took little time for him to notice, “I thought being smart and talented gets you some freedom to do fun stuff.  Instead, I am doing more problems and homework.  What’s the fun in that?”  What a way to snuff out motivation!

"My name is Micro, and I am managing my sister."

“My name is Micro, and I am managing my sister.”

As I have mentioned in the past, there are always “free riders” who would take advantage of the system or their co-workers.  And as before, I argue that it is better to devote resources to provide incentives for workers to stay productive than to set up obstacles for everyone.  When most people at work feel frustrated and under suspicion, the overall productivity suffers.  And this is true for both retail and professional organizations.

Till next time,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.

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