Workplace Wisdom

Give the Minimum, Get the Minimum

So many organizations have cut back their staff levels, their benefits, perks, politesse during the last couple of years. As some aspects of business pick up, some employers are starting to give small wage increases, sometimes in relief, sometimes grudgingly.

When the tangible rewards are, by necessity, mingy to nil, it’s crucial that personal attention, coaching, and acknowledgment be more tangible, more targeted than ever to help take up the slack.

It’s hard to have new ideas or generate extra productivity or collaboration when you’re exhausted, or when even a formal reward doesn’t look like very much. Most people are already doing what strikes them as the best thing to do. The rare employee who is innovative enough to have an idea of how do better — and courageous enough to share it — may still need support and guidance to execute it. It’s the responsibility of leadership to be on the lookout for the innovation and the courage — and to recognize and satisfy the need for guidance and acknowledgment.

Why do so many managers seem to be waiting for workers to do better and turning away from the real work of development and change? When you don’t put any fresh ingredients into the pot, the soup tastes pretty thin.

Leadership is not grudging. It does not stand around with its arms folded, waiting to see whether (and in how many ways) the rank-and-file will disappoint it again. That’s benign neglect, not leadership, not our best selves.

Leadership is knowing which log to pull out of the jam, and doing it deftly. Or at least understanding that a log could be removed and trying to pick the right one. It is not sitting on the bank, cursing the river — or the logs.

Onward and upward,

LK

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