Allow us to introduce to you The 16 Percent’s newest blogger—SGR’s own Muriel Call. Muriel joined SGR in December 2014 as a Research Assistant and is currently the Research Coordinator. Before joining SGR, Muriel was on the Library Staff for the City of Southlake, Texas. She has 15 years of experience working in the library and information science field in academic, public, and special libraries. She earned a BA in English and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, both from Louisiana State University.
We’ve all had bad jobs. And maybe jobs that could have been great if the management hadn’t been so terrible. I’ve found myself in the latter situation at several points in my career and there’s nothing more frustrating. Everyone wants to feel that the person who hired them is just as grateful to be working with them as they are to have the job—but, in many cases, you may be made to feel that you are lucky you were even hired in the first place and that you could easily be replaced. When I’ve worked for organizations with this kind of leadership, I didn’t stay with them for very long because a) I couldn’t see a future for myself in the organization and b) the low morale problem with the rest of the staff; these weren’t happy places to work.
Have you ever worked under “insecure leadership”? I have, and I can tell you, there was a great deal of frustration because I felt I had no voice, no agency—that I wasn’t really a part of the organization. I felt like little more than a cog in a huge, inanimate machine. My years of knowledge and experience weren’t valued and when I was able to express an idea for making a process more efficient or implementing a new way to increase productivity, management would use the idea and not give me credit or any sort of acknowledgement for it. Insecure managers aren’t good at recognizing the strengths in others or, worse, feel intimidated by them when they do recognize them.
In Mike’s blog on Leadership Rehab, he mentioned the following destructive leadership habits:
- Blaming others for failures that are beyond anyone’s control
- Verbally abusing employees
- Mind games that send mixed messages so that employees never feel secure
- Creating a moving target for success
- Expecting perfectionism from others, while denying their own flaws
I have worked under managers who did these very things—one manager even made her employees cry on several occasions! These types of managers never seem to realize that they won’t get the best from their employees by these methods.
I have to confess, I never thought much about leadership before I came to work for SGR. I could definitely tell the difference between a bad boss and a good boss but never considered what it takes to be an effective leader, and what constitutes the difference between a “leader” and a “manager.” Now I know the positive effects that great leadership can have on both one’s personal and professional outlook.
Most managers just want to maintain an even keel. They want to get things done but so many rarely strive to achieve more than the minimum required. The goal is to float along with the current and try not to sink; they’d rather no one rock the boat, even if there’s potential for great success. Or maybe they micromanage to the point that innovation is completely stifled. That’s why they are managers and not leaders; they manage and maintain mediocrity, they don’t make sincere efforts to go beyond functioning at a basic level. When this is the culture, it’s often a systemic problem and the entire organization may be in need of “rehab” to fix the problem.
As employees, we all have different needs, different strengths, and different expectations. These are the characteristics I now know I need for job satisfaction and engagement:
- An environment in which there is a high level of trust amongst staff. While a bad manager will often pit employees against one another or take sides, a good leader will find ways to build trust with employees so that there is a real sense that you are functioning as a team. You will achieve so much more if you work as a team.
- An environment in which to flourish and grow. A good leader will recognize your strengths and utilize them to achieve goals and set new goals. For me, this means being given opportunities to learn, be creative, and challenge myself intellectually. You may require different things, but the point is, a good leader will help you meet these needs. There are incentives for leaders to do this. As a recent Harvard Business Review article pointed out, “…identifying and capitalizing on each person’s uniqueness saves time. No employee, however talented, is perfectly well-rounded.” Time is much better spent focusing on natural abilities. The article also says that, “capitalizing on uniqueness makes each person more accountable.” By challenging an employee to make their natural abilities the cornerstone of their contribution to the organization, they take ownership of their skills and can practice and refine them.
- Acknowledgement. Raises, promotions, and other rewards are great when you get them but even just a kind word from management when you’ve put time and effort into a project makes a huge difference in staff morale. It makes you feel that the work you do is acknowledged and appreciated.
A great leader will give you these things. Organizations with strong leadership aren’t like inanimate machines, they are living, breathing entities that grow and change with time and that allow you to grow and change as an employee (Tweet This). It took a major career change for me to find a work environment that provided me with job satisfaction, engagement, and the opportunity to learn and hone new skills. Consider your own job satisfaction checklist and determine if your leadership is helping or hindering you in meeting your goals.