Managing People Causes Disengagement
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Regardless of whether your title is that of executive,
director, or manager, managing people instead of leading them, drives
down engagement. I’ve always loved the expression, “Things get managed,
but people get led.” It’s a great perspective and it’s true.
But how exactly do bosses “manage” people? After lots of
reflection, I’ve distilled what managing people means down to two
issues. The first way bosses manage people is by “treating people like
things”, and the second way is by “treating adults like children”. Let
me elaborate on those issues and illustrate how leading people differs
from managing them.
How does someone “treat people like things”? We do it in
several ways. We do it when we’re insensitive to them and interact with
people as if they have no feelings. We treat people like things when we
ignore the fact that everyone has hopes and dreams and fears and
stress. We treat people like things when we relate to people as if our
own goals and aspirations are more important to us than theirs are to
them. And we treat people like things when we don’t show respect for
people nor value their contributions, efforts, and potential.
When we treat people like things, it sends the message that
they are unimportant and that we just don’t care about them. And when
people sense we don’t care about them, they start not to care about us.
When the company tolerates leaders who don’t care about people, people
tend not to care about the company. And when people don’t care, there
is no engagement.
A leader understands that people’s hopes, dreams, fears, and
stresses are real and matter to them. A leader inspires people. A
leader interacts with people as people, helping them to be their best.
A leader relates to people the way they themselves want to be treated.
And a leader helps people achieve their own goals.
How does someone “treat adults like children”? Think for a
moment about how we relate to children and why we relate that way. We
generally tell children what they need to do and when they need to do
it by. We do that because we don’t trust their judgment, their sense of
responsibility, and/or their self-discipline. We regularly check up on
children because we don’t trust them to follow through on their
commitments. We check up on children because we don’t trust them to be
When we don’t trust people to do what needs to be done, and
don’t trust their judgment, we are treating them as if they are
children. When we micromanage people, we are treating them like
children. When we treat people like children, it shows a lack of
respect and trust. When people feel they aren’t respected and trusted,
they lose respect for us. When people feel they aren’t respected and
valued, there is no engagement.
If someone doesn’t know what to do, then our job as a leader
is to develop their knowledge and abilities. The shortcoming lies with
the leader, not the follower. If someone lacks the necessary judgment
for a task or decision, then our job as a leader is to develop their
judgment. If their judgment remains inadequate, then either we aren’t
as competent a leader as we need to be, or we just have the wrong
person on our team. Either way, resorting to treating someone as a
child is a poor course of action.
If you want to avoid disengagement and drive engagement to
higher levels, lead people instead of managing them. Care about people
and develop them. Expect people to be responsible and to do their best
work. There’s no need to accept mediocrity or to compromise in any way.
Instead, hone your leadership skills and learn to bring out the best in
About the Author
by Michael Beck, an Executive Coach and Strategist specializing in
employee engagement, executive development, and leadership
effectiveness. Connect on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mjbeck
and visit www.michaeljbeck.com
to learn more.
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