Is a little fear in the workplace a good thing?
Management Rewired, is a new book by the consultant Charles Jacobs. Instead of standardized procedures, dictated targets and harsh but true feedback, Jacobs suggests we’ll get better results “if, rather than trying to thwart their natural inclinations, we just accept how people behave and make the most of it.”
From an individual perspective – the insight is of course, correct.
The approach, however, assumes that everyone from the shop floor up to the board room are motivated by emotions. This I believe is basically incorrect as we learn in Psych 101 that people (all people) are motivated by a combination of needing 3 things – power, social connection and creativity. Managers are more motivated by the need for power and programmers are more motivated by the need for creativity. Sales people are motivated by the need for social connection and so son. We are all a mix of all 3 basic needs.
In order to attain company objectives including protecting digital assets and preventing data loss – a company needs to find the right mix of leadership, personal example and a demanding regime for results. The best example outside the industrial world is music – an excellent conductor delegates the really hard work to the musicians (who may practice 10 hours / day in order to be ready for a 2 hour rehearsal and 1 hour performance) but leads with uncompromising demands for quality. There is the famous story of Frank Sinatra that came to a recording session in the 60s – and when the conductor (I guess it would have been Nelson Riddle or Phil Ramone) asked the musicians to make a note in their chart, one of the trumpet players, who didn’t have a pencil, asked another player for a pencil. Sinatra noticed it – and said – “fire this joker!”.
And he was – fired on the spot. Like Andy Grove writes in his book (Only the Paranoid Succeed), “a little fear in the workplace is not a bad thing”.