I have to admit that although I don’t watch much TV, and while I certainly don’t consider The Apprentice reality TV, I do find it mildly entertaining if I’m forced to watch it. What I have a hard time believing is that out of a million applicants these are the best people they could find. Out of this last group there was only one person I would consider hiring, and luckily that’s the same person Trump picked.
The final two contestants were Kelly and Jennifer. In case you don’t watch the show, Kelly is a man. Trump asked them a question at one point in the show. If I recall correctly it was:
“As a manager would you rather be feared or liked?”
The obvious answer, if you’re going to pick one of those two, is that you would rather be feared. I don’t think Trump would like it if you said you would rather be liked.
However, upon discussing this with my wife we both agreed we wouldn’t have chosen either of those. The manager who manages by fear may get some things done, but fear is a poor motivator. While I believe some fear is good for all employees to have, I don’t believe it needs to be created by a manager. There is enough fear present just by the nature of life. Nobody’s job is completely safe or stable, as many people found out during the last four years of economic woe.
A manager can motivate by fear either by explaining reality, or by creating punishments. The fear that comes from explaining reality (i.e. – “If you don’t work hard the company is going to go out of business and you won’t have a job”) isn’t fear of the manager, it’s fear of the consequences of certain action. A manager is feared when he says things like “If you don’t do such and such I’m going to fire you.”
The drawback with motivation by fear is that it is often used too much, or in the wrong way. A manager who is constantly motivating by fear will create a culture in his employees wherein they only work because they need to work, not because they want to. The employees will do what the manager wants only when he is looking, and they won’t put in any extra effort. When the clock strikes 5pm they’ll be out of the office in a hurry.
Motivating by being liked is hard because it’s not very good motivation. Fear is motivating because there is a consequence to not acting. A manager who is liked may be able to create a work environment everyone likes being in, but if they can slack off and play foosball all day and never be informed of the consequences then the company will go out of business and while everyone might say “Man, we had a lot of fun working there” they would probably also admit they’d rather have had a job they didn’t enjoy quite so much if they could still have a job rather than no job.
I suppose if I had to choose, I would rather be feared than liked. However, I wouldn’t have answered Trump’s question directly. What I would have said was “I want to be both feared and liked, but mostly I want to be respected.”
We can both fear someone and like someone without respecting them. Saddam Hussein was feared, but doubt many people outside the Baath party respected him. I liked the guy’s at my high-school who smoked weed because they were happy and fun to talk to, but it was hard to respect them.
We can also respect someone we don’t fear, and we can respect someone we don’t like. This doesn’t mean that if we respect someone we don’t fear them and we don’t like them or vice versa, what it means is that we can have someone’s respect independent of whether they like us or not or whether they fear us or not.
I believe having your employees’ respect is more important than whether they fear you or like you. When someone respects you, they’ll do what you say even if they disagree with you. They’ll do what you want them to even if you’re not around to enforce a punishment or remind them of the consequences of their actions. They’ll do something even if they don’t like you.
If you believe the purpose of a business is to make money, and the best way to make money is to have employees who are committed to making the business succeed, then I believe the best way for managers to motivate their employees is to have their respect and not worry too much about whether they are feared or liked.Liked it? Share it!
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