A key driver of employee motivation is a manager’s relationship with employees. In terms of being both likable and respected, being a manager is difficult. There’s a fine line that must be drawn so that employees know who their boss is, yet also feel at ease while working in the office.
One issue that managers often struggle with is being too nice with or too harsh on employees. Being too nice with employees an easy way to lose credibility and authority, but managers that are too harsh on employee lose the ability to be a motivational force.
A recent Harvard Business Review article discusses this dilemma and offers a practical solution. According to the article there is a difference between being nice and being kind with employees, and the latter is superior. The article also explains how being too nice can have a negative effect:
“Vince Lombardi wasn’t a nice guy. But he drove his players to be the best they could be, and in hindsight, they loved him for it. I’d much rather play for a coach committed to my true potential and willing to sacrifice my perception of him or her in the short term than a coach who’s more concerned about being liked. I’d rather work for someone who loves me than someone who’s nice to me.”
Being too nice and not demanding greatness doesn’t motivate employees to improve. A manager that is always nice and agreeable signals that he is satisfied with employee performance. While this can be used later for employee recognition, it doesn’t bode well for employee motivation.
Instead, managers should be kind yet firm with employees. The Harvard Business Review mentions Vince Lombardi, who was known for his motivational style of coaching. Lombardi wasn’t the nicest coach at the time, but his players later understood that he was driving them to greatness.
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