Do the mice play when the cat’s away from the workplace? Do employees today need constant supervision? I’ll admit this: in most workplaces I have been in, tension subsided when the boss was not present and tension increased when the boss was present. But did that tension create more productivity?
Let’s talk about supervision levels, tension levels, and the “ownership” of tasks by employees.
Supervision levels. New people need lots of supervision. Long time employees need much less. This was in the Blanchard SLII model and has been demonstrated worldwide for decades. This means that it is almost impossible to “micromanage” the new employees. They NEED to be micromanaged. This model also states that micromanaging experienced people is extremely destructive. They become less productive when given too much supervision. So the level of supervision that people need varies by their developmental level. This is a critical skill of managers. You will create disrespect among your people if you over or under supervise them. So when you’re not present the disrespecting mice will…you know.
Tension levels. Proper tension is like Goldilocks. Not too much, not too little. Just right. What does too little tension look like? It looks like a party! No agenda, no goals, no activity. Think about your classes at school when the teacher didn’t show up. On the other hand, too much tension can really be felt like a heavy hand in the air. People almost shut down because their fear is so great of somebody who is present or their judgement. So the wise manager must not only know the developmental level of their employees but also manage the tension correctly. Create reasonable expectation of results but also allow a smaller amount of levity and fun. That will also create respect for the boss. Then when the cat’s away, no tension release is really necessary.
Finally, we all want employees to “own” their jobs. This seems to be the best possible wish of managers. If employees acted like business owners, they would automatically make better decisions. They also won’t act much different if they’re closely supervised, as when they are barely supervised. Probably the best way to instill this ownership mentality is to preach the mission. If people buy the mission they aren’t working for money only. And they may not be working for you – they’re working for something bigger. So sell them on the mission. This is a critical function of leaders. This means you better buy the mission yourself first. Only a very few will buy the mission when the leader only gives it lip service.
So, do employees need to be closely supervised. Maybe early on. Make it your goal, however, to create a culture where people work and act just as maturely whether the boss is there or not.