Interacting with Employees

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A systematic employee selection process can do much to help us hire effective employees who are capable of doing an outstanding job. Likewise, regular performance appraisal meetings, open communications, well designed pay systems and good supervision all contribute to promoting good work. But at times, workers simply do not seem to meet expectations.

As a first step, a supervisor will want to honestly consider if his own behavior is causing problems. When an employee has a supportive supervisor, he has the potential to stretch far, to feel greatly valued, and to continually grow on the job, making this a positive reinforcing cycle.

Unfortunately, the opposite can be just as true. The first instinct of most supervisors is to "tighten the reins" and increase control over those who are perceived as having failed to meet their expectations. These apparent under-performers are quick to sense a lack of confidence in their work and in their decisions and often (1) become more defensive, refusing to make decisions they feel their bosses may overturn anyway, and (2) withdraw mentally or physically.

Gregorio Billikopf
University of California