A primary challenge for supervisors is to encourage others within their organization to go the extra mile and get the job done in a timely manner. In order to do so, they oftentimes bulldoze their agenda through, or, at the most, appeal to the employee’s reason and / or emotion.
The conversation may sound something like this:
- Antagonistic: “There’s really no choice in the matter. This must get done by 5 pm.”
- Sympathetic: “I feel bad, but I have no choice on this one.”
- Apologetic: “I'm really sorry that I have to drop this on you last second.”
- Validating: “I know it’s not easy, but it really needs to be finished today.”
Needless to say, the antagonistic approach is to be avoided whenever possible. Expressions of sympathy or apology may give the worker a feeling of being understood, but they do not engender positive feelings in terms of the actual work. The same holds true for validation. You may have validated the employee’s feelings, but the lingering tone is still one of feeling stretched and put upon.
Instead of looking at the glass as being half-empty (“I really wish it wasn’t this way”), supervisors should consider using an enthusiastic, affirming approach. Something like: “You are just the person who can save us from our predicament! We’re up against a deadline and this job must get done today. I think that you'd be the best person to get it out accurately and on schedule”
Imagine the difference. The first set of approaches operate from assumptions that the boss can demand whatever he wants (antagonistic), doesn’t have the right to make the ask (apologetic), or at least regrets having to do so and appreciates the employee’s feelings (sympathetic/validating).
In contrast, by taking the glass-half-full approach (enthusiastic) a boss can greatly impact internal attitudes and morale. Employees begin to feel valued and approached for their unique talents. They start to see how they can make a particular difference in the organization. Not only will they accept the present work more readily, but they will develop more positive attitudes towards their own self-efficacy and their role within the organization. Hey, they may even volunteer their time in the future.
Of course, this approach must be used with moderation. Overuse can easily and quickly lead to skepticism and feelings of being taken advantage of. But if employers and managers use this tactic judiciously, and make a compelling case as to why this particular employee is most suitable for the job at hand, then they can develop many of the positive qualities outlined above.