Kindness or Meanness * Which Is the Better Management Tactic?

Recognize This: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

An American colleague of mine used this phrase recently. It came to mind when I happened to read these two article on kindness and meanness in the workplace. While I certainly don’t think of employees as flies, the truth of the aphorism still resonates.

Writing in the New York TimesBob Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss, said:

Widespread meanness not only damages people; it also increases costs and undermines performance by driving out good employees at alarming rates. Numerous studies have also shown that people respond to demeaning and disrespectful bosses and co-workers by calling in sick more often, making fewer suggestions, working less hard and doing lower-quality work.”

Quite true. Management by intimidation must end. The evidence is clear that mean management styles, even just by ignoring employees, does no good and great damage.

In counterpoint to meanness is Davia Temin, CEO of Temin and Co., writing in Forbes about kindness: 

“I am here to tell you that it need not be so! I firmly believe that kindness can still infuse winning, tough-minded, smart, highly competitive and driven organizations. In fact, it can fuel them, and make them even better-functioning, even more outstanding. And it can make those extreme hours we spend in the office that much more pleasant, even fulfilling.”

I know which environment I’d rather work in, and indeed, do work in today. What about you? Is your day more filled with meanness or kindness?

Also, don’t forget to tweet your tips for employee appreciation and recognition using hash-tag #appreciationtip to be entered to win a copy of the Winning with a Culture of Recognition eBook or Amazon Kindle pre-loaded with the eBook.

2 comment(s):

At March 11, 2011 12:30 PM, Sybil F. Stershic said...

Great post, Derek! Now for the $64,000 question: why do some organizations tolerate this kind of toxic behavior?

At March 11, 2011 8:45 PM, Derek Irvine said...

Sybil, the answer is likely threefold: laziness, "the way we've always done it," or a true belief that meanness is the best management method. It is the last that concerns me the most. At lunch last weekend, I overheard diners at a nearby table complainin about their employees and proclaiming direct micromanagement as the only way to keep them from "doing whatever they wanted." They would find far greater success by praising what they do want to see instead of micromanaging and belittling what they don't.