The Human Employee
“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person - not just an employee - are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.’
-Anne M. Mulcahy
What does it take to make a good leader? One that commands respect and elicits hundreds to follow them to the end? I’ve seen the worst and the best of humankind, and there is no more accurate statement than that of, “No two humans are alike.” We are unique in every way, shape, and form. Our needs are different. Our desires are different. The way we sleep, wake up, comb our hair, and eat our breakfast are all different. Thus, so is the way we manage. So, why is it that some leaders aspire to greatness while others fail miserably, never knowing why?
What makes a person so charismatic that millions will follow him or her to the end of the earth? That was the question I asked myself while sitting in my college history class. While all the other students sat pondering the great atrocities or heroism of humankind, I wondered the not so obvious ones.
How can one person command so much respect while others can’t lead their way out of a paper bag? Let’s examine history. Though I cringe at even mentioning the name, Hitler managed to convince an entire country that mass-murdering another community was the way to a better future. That was no small feat despite the malicious intent. What about how Alexander the Great created the largest empire known to man in the 300 B.C.s and led a massive army campaign against his enemies. His troops gave their lives willingly and were loyal to the end.
Another example is the British government (although, not an individual), who managed to convince hundreds of thousands that conquering an entire race of people on their soil was for the betterment of all. Colonialism was all about making the subject population believe foreign rule was in their interest. On the other hand, Martin Luther King Jr. inspired thousands of people to follow his dream and led peaceful marches through hostile streets. His name is forever etched in our hearts as a great leader. What was the magic pill that these leaders had to elicit such strong emotions, regardless of whether their acts were noble or great atrocities? I frequently wonder about this, even in this crazy tech-filled world. Nonetheless, the question remained the same. How can a leader command such respect and loyalty from those they lead?
To that end, the power of persuasion and absolute confidence is vital. The ability to inspire a person to follow their lead, commit to their cause, or even freely give their time without question is crucial but so elusive. It was that question that made me want to dig deeper into human behavior in the first place. The need to understand what makes us tick was nagging at my soul. And what made a leader versus a follower was my biggest question. It stirred a fire so deep in me that it became a passion that led to this book.
Was the key to their leadership their ability to empathize with and understand the people they led? Was it having a firm grasp on what troubled them and knowing how to solve those problems? Or was it the power of their tongue? Perhaps they could give amazing speeches that stir the soul of the listener? I believe it is probably a little of everything, but I also think it is so much more. Because we are such complex creatures in nature, we all have our various reasons for following a person.
Though, we will often choose to follow the person who we believe to be the wisest, fairest, most confident, and authentic one. Someone with lesser qualities or who is cruel will rule as well, but only for a brief time. You see, the mark of a true leader is one who is beloved beyond their rule. Throughout this book, you will learn about the people you manage or will manage. You will undertake a journey of self-discovery that will help mold you into the leader that is remembered and admired beyond time.
But first, before your journey begins, let us get to know the humans you will be leading. And because humans are so complex, I thought a little science might be in order. So, the human mind is divided into three parts – the consciousness, sub-consciousness, and pre-consciousness – all of which influence their actions. Our habits, traits, and behaviors make us similar to each other despite our apparent differences.
To become “an effective manager,” it would be crucial for you to have a better understanding of the “Human Employee.” So, throughout this book, we will be referring to the human employee as simply, “the HE” or just “HE.” The HE is a multifaceted being requiring way more study than what we will be doing in these few chapters. Despite that, at least you will gain a better understanding, even if we don’t dive too deeply into the psychological part.
To make it easier, I have created a few HE types based on my time as a manager and employee. These types help best describe specific common characteristics of the HE. While these aren’t the only types you may come across as a leader; it is still an adequate starting guide.
The most common types of HEs fall under these categories;
● The Fearful Clinger
● The Entrepreneur Dreamer
● The Just Enough
● The Dedicated / Passionate
● The Climber
● The Settled
● The Teachable turned Un-teachable
The Fearful Clinger
This person is always in an internal frenzy. They hate their job, so they are continually chanting mottoes to boost their motivation and uplift their morale. Their fear of losing the job they hate is always lingering on their minds. Which is why they are always on the lookout for confirmation and affirmation from others.
One example of a fearful clinger is Alex. He wakes up every morning sharp at 6 am, only to constantly hit the snooze button. The temptation to throw the alarm at the wall is held back by the realization that if he’s late, a write-up or warning may follow. He finally manages to push himself off the bed and drags his feet to the bathroom. There, he stares longingly at his blurry reflection, waiting for his vision to clear up before he proceeds to trim his beard.
Lovingly kissing his wife goodbye, Alex proceeds to sit (for what seems like forever) in morning traffic before he arrives at his destination – work. With diminished enthusiasm, he slouches within his dimly lit cubicle and stares at the walls, wondering endlessly, “Why am I here? Can I do this job for the rest of my life?”
Good question. But the real miracle is Alex’s ability to relive the same repetitive and mundane routine without losing his sanity. The worst bit is if he ever decides to take a glance over the endless pool of other gray cubicles surrounding his, he will see many of his fellow colleagues with similar expressions. So why does he hunker down for the long haul instead of finding a new job?
The main reason is fear; it undermines him to the point of being at a standstill. For Alex, his fear of losing his job (which he despises) holds him prisoner. So he sticks it out, completing meaningless tasks, lacking contentment yet grateful for still having a job. Fear is the reason he stays clinging to the four walls of his gray cubicle. It is his self-inflicted limitations that actually keep him in a state of languor. That is why I place Alex under the category of “The Fearful Clinger.”
He could leave his job and take a chance at finding new employment but fears the unknown. Instead, he performs countless acts of semi-miracles for an unimpressive wage at a thankless job. As a manager, it is essential to identify the Alexs’ of the company. They are disengaged but can be reengaged to appreciate their jobs. We will go more in-depth on how to handle this type in chapter 8 under the section titled, “The Air of Opportunity.”
The Entrepreneur Dreamer
The dreamer is one of the most contradicting types a HE could be. They are always dreaming of being their own boss, but remain employed by others. While a dreamer is often thought of as a future entrepreneur, most of them opt for the security of a 9-5 job. Mundane routines are not ideal for a dreamer as they find such tasks annoying. A dreamer loves to take ownership of their project and works well independently.
A dreamer needs less to be nurtured and more to be free to strive in their career. Quite the attention seekers, they are. They are usually good employees, given their determination and result-oriented traits. However, some shrivel in the workplace. The free-willed nature of the entrepreneur dreamer tends to make them work less-efficiently in a company employed environment. However, they often surpass their perceived expectations when working alone. If they are ever under a micromanagement system, they can become resentful, and their productivity may decline. Let us look at Eliza, who is an entrepreneur dreamer. Her morning routine is similar to Alex – bleak and lacking the much-needed enthusiasm towards work. Her attitude is, “If only my boss was not always on my back and would let me handle this project my way. I could manage this job way better than he could.”
Eliza is forced to work as part of a team with a supervisor who is constantly nagging. So, her real abilities are constrained by the resentment felt towards her boss. This makes her unwilling to give more than a 50% effort towards the task. Not feeling completely invested, the job is not really worth her time, but due to her uncertainty of taking a risk and establishing her own business, she continues to stay on as an employee. The situation is then worsened when she passes her negative attitude onto her peers.
Since dreamers are result-oriented and natural leaders, they typically flourish when placed in a position where they could lead. So, instead of being agitated with her boss, she would be more focused – dedicating her time to ensure each detail is carefully crafted to perfection, which is why we describe Eliza as an “Entrepreneur Dreamer.” You will learn more about understanding this HE type and effective delegation in later chapters. For now, let’s continue.
The Just Enough
The mellowest of all HEs is the “just enough” type. This type only wants to do just enough work to keep from losing the job, unwilling to put in full effort. One might find them in the back of a meeting, trying their best to go unnoticed or to hide from being selected for a task. It is their job to ride others’ coattails, hoping someone else will do the work for them while they collect the paycheck.
Half effort work is their norm. They would not be caught dead volunteering for anything. While an individual from this category can have skills of great value, their lethargic nature results in low-motivation, which holds them back. Let’s look at John, for example. John has been working in the same firm for a few years now. When he first joined, he was full of energy and displayed a positive attitude toward work. But as time went on, his motivation died. He started dreading work and was no longer interested in his job.
John completed his work within the time frame but was not willing to spend a moment longer. While some of his colleagues would contribute to extra assignments for incentives, John would refrain from such activities. This HE-type caps out their potential with the deliberate intent to not exceed. He will only go so far, with no real desire to excel at any level. He is merely holding on for the check.
The just enough HE can be hard to navigate around. They are a particular type that requires a different approach. Often, simple re-engagement can help pull them back into being active or offering incentives that hit home with the “just enough” HE can also make the switch. Throughout the book, you will gain the tools needed to help in this area, so don’t worry.
The Passionate is eager to learn and grow in their workplace. The logic is that they are happy and content with their jobs. While sometimes, the motive to excel is to earn a better salary. Their usual loyalty lies with the betterment of the company as well. They are the first ones to volunteer for new projects, and their passion for work is the driving force. This type of HE is often chosen for new projects and is considered a favorite of management. However, they are often hated among co-workers, especially by those who aren’t willing to work even half as hard as the passionate workers.
Now, we are all familiar with the dislike some may have for favored HEs. Their eagerness to take on as many projects as possible is what leads to conflicts among peers. Pamela is an excellent example of this; Pamela wakes up three hours before her scheduled work shift and never presses the snooze button – not even once. She leaves her bed with a smile on her face, taking the first hour to exercise or do morning meditations.
Then in the next hour, she dedicates her time to getting dressed and ready for work, leaving her a full hour to travel to work to make sure she is never late. Her time management skills help her arrive at her desk by 8:35 am sharp, 25 minutes prior to starting time. Her face lights up every morning and greets everyone with endless enthusiasm, which lasts throughout her shift. Upon being assigned her task for the day, Pamela gets straight to work. The fact that she enjoys her work makes her assignment a joy. She takes on extra work whenever her assigned tasks are finished and always offers help. Her actions trigger bitterness with other co-workers and create jealousy in the workplace. This type of situation is sometimes unavoidable.
There will always be those who are passionate about their jobs and those who aren’t. Your challenge is to learn how to balance the two to reduce interoffice conflicts. What would you do? It is excellent that she pursues her passion at work. It probably feels like she has never worked a day in her life. We love the passionate and applaud their dedicated and engaged spirit. We also believe that being passionate about what one does is and should be the ultimate goal.
With that said, be wary of jealous co-workers. They can create unnecessary tensions that can spark riffs. Sometimes, the passionate(s’) desire to overcompensate causes others to under compensate in their role. Stay vigilant when you see such behavior. Although there may not be one specific solution to resolve this, you can still thwart bad situations from ever happening in the first place — Proper delegation, along with various incentives and team-building exercises that we teach in the following chapters. However, Pamela’s passion is why we place her under “The Passionate” HE type.
Overambitious employees who aim for the summit are what we refer to as climbers. This HE usually wants to climb the corporate ladder for recognition, personal motivations, money, or success. Despite their reasons, their rapid movement can occasionally cause collateral damage to other HEs.
They are eager to work like a passionate person who benefits the organization by coming up with innovative solutions. They are smart and cool-tempered, contrary to their outward demeanor, which is often very confident and determined. That confidence, at times, can come off as being highly competitive or just plain cocky. To work with a climber is not relatively easy in comparison to the other HE types due to their passive-aggressive nature.
Take Ben, for example – a marketing firm executive who wakes up every morning, eager to start each day a lot like the passionate. His spontaneity is contagious, helping him to get along well with most of his associates. Since he aims to advance, he is always brainstorming for newer and better ways to grow his company. Management often sees him as the go-to guy, relying on him for new processes and fresh ideas. The goal of not failing pushes Ben to think harder, and he manages to devise a solution that saves a lot of time and money for the company. While he climbs higher in his position, he also becomes better at finding methods that improve efficiencies within the company. Ben is slated to reach his goal within the next few years. His drive and ambition will carry him to the very top. As long as he is moving in a steadily upward direction, he’ll be happy.
Yet, if his direction ever changes for the worst, Ben may become aggressive and challenging to work around. There are both positives and negatives in this HE type. The positives are having an ambitious HE who is innovative and a go-getter – adding value to the company overall. The downside is that he is a risk-taker who doesn’t deal well with loss or failure. Just remind him that there is no need to seek constant glory and praise. He ought to pursue the path of growth in a reasonable manner. We find it better to allow this type of HE the space to grow while also encouraging them to be team players. Ben’s constant need to move up the corporate ladder is what makes him what we call a climber. You can find more resources to assist you with this type in our later chapter titled “P.U.R.E. S.E.L.F.”
The settled HE falls between the categories of the just enough and the passionate HE. While the just enough HE lacks the overall desire to work and grow, the settled puts forth more effort than the just enough. However, it is not as much as a passionate or a climber would. The HE under this category feels nestled safely in their surroundings, making them neither fearful of being demoted nor worried about being promoted.
Their settled mindset makes it difficult for management to be able to motivate them towards advancements with incentives. Their job is incentive enough for them. As much as they feel a sense of belonging to their job, their mindset can be a roadblock. The person, while not being of tremendous value to the organization, is not a burden either. As comforting as it may be to feel secure in one’s workplace, it is still important to want to grow and develop.
However, the settled is quite content to remain where they are and are often caught off guard by change. What’s worse, change can be a tremendous disturbing factor for them. They often struggle to adapt. The settled may instantly give push back whenever a new change is introduced — the thought of having to learn something new or change their routine causes great distress to them.
In turn, it leads to them feeling like the change is a personal attack on them. You may hear things said like, “Why is the company doing this to me?” “I am sick of all these changes,” “Why won’t they just leave us alone and let us work? Who’s coming up with all these great ideas anyway?” My personal favorite, “Corporate makes me sick, always changing things around to confuse me.” Frustration sets in, and work suffers.
During this time, “the settled” can be hard to console, which is usually when lower management runs around like crazy trying to explain and justify the changes. Trust us; “the settled” is not hearing anything you have to say. Our best advice is to begin communicating the change as soon as possible. The settled needs time to adjust their minds to the new changes.
They are more than likely to feel denial at first, then anger, followed by attempts to convince upper management to forget the changes altogether. That reaction what is known as the Kubler-Ross Model. The model was first introduced by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. It is very similar to what a person’s dealing with when there are changes in the workplace. Their aversion towards change and the rejection of anything new is why we called this type, “the settled.” We found that with communication and understanding, you can help guide the settled HE into a state of acceptance.
The Teachable / Un-teachable
The Teachable/Un-teachable type is a unique one, possessing a bit of all the other HE types. When the teachable first joins a new company, they are bursting with energy and fresh ideas. They are passionate about their jobs, and their desire to climb the ladder of success is boundless. To them, each day is filled with new opportunities to learn and grow. However, this type has set limits. They are not created consciously, but instead unconsciously. Once their limit is reached, the teachable part comes to a screeching halt. Work no longer excites them, and they begin to feel as if they already know everything there is to know about their job. They develop routines that soon become predictable patterns. If management tries to explain new concepts relevant to their job, they refuse to accept them. Either they feel the training is too difficult or think it is just unnecessary. Take Matt, for example. Matt has recently graduated from college. He’s obtained a job at one of the most prestigious law firms in his area. When Matt first joined the firm, he would arrive early to get a head start on work. His open-mindset and tenacity helped him perform beyond the expectations of his managers. With every accolade, he moved a little closer to his goal of a partner.
So after Matt received his first promotion, the hunger for more crept in, causing him to push even harder. Alas, Matt is only human. One day, after being turned down twice for promotion, he decided that his job had ceilings. So he began to feel trapped, and his work suffered for it. Later that year, his manager approached him with words of wisdom, “Son, we feel that you are no longer open and willing to learn from others.” He refused to listen to his managers. Instead, he became defensive and agitated. So much so that he accused his boss of holding him back without just cause. The manager explained that this was not the case and attempted to reach Matt. Unfortunately, Matt refused to budge and stated that he already knew he would never receive another promotion no matter what he did. Thus, he became hardened and un-teachable. What Matt failed to see was that learning is never-ending, and with the changing patterns of the firm, the need to stay up-to-date and opened minded was paramount. A lot like how he was in the very beginning, Matt also allowed two rejections to become his reality.
There was no real ceiling – only the limitations he perceived in his minds. When a HE develops perceived barriers, working with them can become challenging. Matt decided to block his learning opportunities, which, in turn, blocked his promotions. He blamed others around him instead of listening to the real problem presented by management.
I once worked with a young lady that held the same type of HE characteristics as Matt. One day, we were talking casually about the world and all the crazy things that were happening in the news. She turned to me and said that the reality of life is “we’re all screwed.” Her response took me by surprise because before that moment, I had viewed her as being logical and not one prone to rash generalizations. I quickly responded with “one’s reality is perception.” She glanced at me in anger. “No,” she replied, “the reality is the reality.” Seeing her frustration, I calmly bowed out of the conversation. But in my heart, I wanted to yell, “Reality is not reality!” Every person sees his or her reality differently. What is real to a person living in a 4 x 4 hut in a third world country is not the same as what is real to another person living in an industrialized country in a 10,000 square foot home. Reality is how we perceive it to be in our current state of existence. So, if Matt believed that there was a glass ceiling keeping him from moving up the corporate ladder, then there was a ceiling – even though no limits existed. Dealing with different types of personalities at the workplace – having to manage them – can become a struggle for most managers.
They often find it hard to relate or even communicate with some HEs. However, this only happens when you do not know how to recognize the traits of your employees. Matt made limitations for himself. His imaginary ceiling kept him from seeing the truth of the situation. For Matt’s issue to be resolved, he would have to be coached one on one by you, the manager. Only through you spending quality time with him will he be able to see that the only thing stopping his growth was his mindset. It is at that point where he will begin to be reachable again. Throughout this journey, you will learn how to coach and mentor your HE. You will also find that personality diversity in the workplace can become an excellent driver for success. However, first, you must learn to identify your own personality traits. It will help improve communication with others, as well as with the understanding of your HE. Similarly, understanding others’ unique personality traits (which are connected to their work ability) will help paint a colorful office culture in which everyone thrives. Note: This book was designed to be read one chapter at a time in numeric order.
As such, I do not advise jumping chapters because doing so may cause you to miss pertinent information that relates to the next section. So, now that we have a better understanding of HE character types, let’s take a look at poor management styles.