We talk a lot these days about the loss of institutional knowledge the retirement of Baby Boomers represents for our organizations. But at the same time, a good thing is happening as the older generation of managers retires and younger workers move up to replace them: the old “my way or the highway” style of leadership is rapidly becoming uncool. When I facilitate a class in performance management or employee motivation I always ask participants, “How many of you think my approach sounds like a bunch of fluff? Employees just need to do what we tell them to do, right?” Every year, fewer of them raise their hands.
Of course, there are always still a couple of people who need persuasion. I have many arguments in my arsenal, but my favorite is about medical malpractice lawsuits. The research tells us people don’t sue the doctor who made the mistake; they sue the doctor who has a bad bedside manner and appears not to care about her patients. Attorneys have to argue with irrational claimants who want to sue the wrong person. And insurance companies, who have long known this fact, offer training to their clients in improving bedside manner. In fact, sometimes they mandate it.
The lesson for managers is that employees who feel mistreated by uncaring, dictatorial managers will not only work below their capacity but are more likely to file grievances, complain to state and federal agencies, and even sue their organizations for unfair or discriminatory employment practices. Improving your “bedside manner” as a manager is about far more than singing Kumbaya around the campfire; it’s about improving productivity, creating engagement, saving money and keeping your organization out of hot water. It’s about being effective as a manager.