Monday, January 11, 2010

Reward and Comfort

Management scholar Michael LeBoeuf once described the greatest management principle in the world as "That which is rewarded gets done." He then noted that we often inadvertently reward negative behavior. The office politician gets the promotion over the person who is more innovative and productive. The unit that cranks out the most product is ranked highly even if the quality of the work is poor. The department that is fiscally prudent gets hit with a budget cut ("Use it or lose it!"). The chronic complainer gets special privileges while the person who never complains gets zip.

A related element that needs to be examined is the question of comfort. How many poor management practices are adopted because people just don't want the hassle that comes with being a good manager? In my experience, many. Poor management, like water, seeks its own level and being a good manager can require some pretty unpleasant tasks. Wise firms will recognize that and do their best to reduce the discomfort while encouraging the use of good management. That which is comfortable may get done. Being a good manager may never be a comfortable job but we can make it less so.

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