Do You Harbor Punitive Managers? - Des Moines Leadership & HR Management

March 5, 2020by Damian Lonsdale

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Iowa sits at 2.7%, lower than the U.S. average of 3.6%.  Viewed from another perspective, 97.3% of Iowans are gainfully employed.  What that means for employers is that this continues to be an economy that is favorable for workers who are looking for greener pastures, and challenging for employers that want to hang onto them.

When unemployment is high, typically during recessions, businesses can get away with treating their employees poorly because there aren’t many options available to disgruntled employees.

During the era of high unemployment that existed during the Great Recession, managers could get away with a very lazy style of motivating employees.  Generally speaking, this took the implicit or explicit form of “Do it or you’re fired.”  Not surprisingly, in an environment where workers perceived few options and were just grateful to have a job, this was a very effective tactic.  Under the threat of being out of a job, employees straightened up and worked harder.  And so a lot of managers became conditioned to default to this simple, expedient tactic.

Fast forward to the extremely low unemployment that we are seeing today, and the psychology of workers is vastly different.  Now, the threat of “Do it or you’ll be looking for another job” is met with an employee thinking to himself or herself, “Ok, I think I’ll do exactly that.”  At the same time, the practice of giving insensitive and punitive feedback to employees is a hard habit for many managers to break.  After all, it used to work so well, and it was so easy to do!  Moreover, there are quite a few managers out there that don’t even realize their punitive style is problematic.  They may shrug at the high rate of turnover and say that it’s just “the new normal” instead of recognizing how much they actually contribute to the problem.

For the organizations that still employ these sorts of managers, a process of natural selection has been playing out for several years with deleterious results.  Specifically, when employees perceive that they have choices, bad bosses are slowly replacing all of their best people with workers who couldn’t get a job anywhere else.  And as the average job performance of these poorer-performing workforces goes down, punitive managers ramp up their harsh feedback and the downward spiral intensifies.  If it sounds scary and horrible, that’s because it is.

The flipside, then, are the organizations with managers that lead with a more positive, supportive approach.  They have built a context that fosters high performance and gladly welcome the star performers who have fled punitive bosses in their previous roles.  They aren’t sacrificing productivity, either, because punitive management almost never brings out the best that people can deliver.  Thus, these are the organizations that are positioned to flourish now and into the future.

So you have a choice; you can either benefit from this employment trend and continue to replace sub-par performers with great performers, or you can be with the organizations who are saddled with the lowly performers who couldn’t get a job anywhere else.  Sure, it takes dedication and hard work, but with the right steps, any organization can become the employer of choice in its sector and start recouping the dividends.  You have the power to change your destiny.  If you want to join those ranks and become more like the employers of choice that are benefiting from an influx of high-potential workers, then don’t wait another minute and contact me today.

Damian Lonsdale

GET IN TOUCHDes Moines Leadership &
HR Management Consulting
FULL-SERVICE CONSULTING FIRMWest Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines Leadership is your locally owned, full-service consulting firm providing affordable leadership development training and human resource management solutions. I have over two decades of experience helping professionals from all fields and together we can boost employee engagement, motivation, retention, communication, teamwork, creative problem solving, and innovation. We will also create a stronger, more positive culture that is rooted in great relationships and creates better “bench-strength” when it comes to succession planning.
GET IN TOUCHDes Moines Leadership &
HR Management Consulting
FULL-SERVICE CONSULTING FIRMWest Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines Leadership is your locally owned, full-service consulting firm providing affordable leadership development training and human resource management solutions. I have over two decades of experience helping professionals from all fields and together we can boost employee engagement, motivation, retention, communication, teamwork, creative problem solving, and innovation. We will also create a stronger, more positive culture that is rooted in great relationships and creates better “bench-strength” when it comes to succession planning.