An employee’s leverage over managerial staff is a situation that managers tend to try preventing. A skilled employee whose expertise a team can’t function without is a danger to a manager’s sense of power over the team. That employee gains leverage; they are able to work on what brings them fulfillment, master a particular skill, whilst retaining negotiating power.
These feelings often lead to managers developing a paranoid intent to equalize the playing-field in regards to skills, interests, and habits of their subordinates. Employees are dissuaded from expressing their particular interests, and are pressured to constantly rotate through the pool of tasks assigned to the team as a whole.
This article is for managers who feel threatened by the leverage that an employee’s individuality grants them.
Any Manager Can Bulldoze a Team Into Replaceable Conformity
Managers who fall victim to the fear of employee individuality miss the fact that their employees’ individuality makes them a unique and useful manager. A replaceable team has a replaceable manager; who doesn’t need to gain their team’s respect, doesn’t need to know which managerial methods work best with their team, and doesn’t seek to build on their team’s particular strengths.
When individuality is suppressed, the team becomes a homogeneous, uninspired collective, where innovation and creativity stagnate. The manager who instead encourages individuality fosters an environment where team members are motivated to excel in their areas of passion and expertise. Such a manager takes time to study each member of their team, and seeks to further propel each individual’s interests and skills into performance which only helps the team’s overall output. A manager who understands that a team’s true potential lies in the diverse skills, interests, and habits of its members is difficult to replace.
Successful leaders recognize that embracing individuality doesn’t undermine their authority; rather, it enhances their leadership. By encouraging employees to bring their authentic selves to work, managers can tap into a wealth of creativity and expertise that may otherwise remain untapped. In doing so, they create a work culture that values individuality while promoting collaboration, ultimately leading to higher productivity and output. More importantly, they serve to individualize themselves from a managerial perspective and stand out from any other manager potentially placed into the same role.
Employees Know What You’re Doing Despite What Reasons You Give
In seeking to stifle individuality for the sake of ensuring each subordinate is a replaceable piece of the overall puzzle, the managers become dishonest in their reasoning for doing so. They use excuses such as each member of the team needing to know how to complete each task the team’s responsible for. In doing so, they underestimate their employees’ ability to understand what’s really going on.
Managers often believe that by rotating employees through various tasks and responsibilities, they are fostering a sense of collaboration and ensuring that everyone is a versatile asset to the team. However, the truth is that employees can see through this façade. They know that the intent behind task rotation isn’t solely about skill development or team cohesion. It’s often driven by a desire to maintain control and diminish the influence that individual expertise can have.
Employees are perceptive. They can discern the difference between genuine efforts to enhance their skills and the thinly veiled attempt to strip away their uniqueness. When managers force employees to conform to a homogenized set of skills and tasks, it creates a sense of dissonance within the team. Instead of feeling empowered to contribute their best, employees may start to question their value and become disillusioned with their roles. This deception erodes trust and loyalty, ultimately hampering overall team productivity and resulting in unpredictable long-term effects to morale.
Feeling Replaceable Is Not Conducive to Being Productive
A more effective approach to managing a team is to embrace the diversity of skills, interests, and habits that each employee brings to the table. Rather than fearing the leverage that skilled individuals may have, wise managers recognize the potential benefits. When employees are allowed to focus on what they excel at and are passionate about, they become more invested in their work and, consequently, more productive.
Managers should acknowledge that not all team members need to be proficient in every aspect of the team’s responsibilities. Instead, they can encourage specialization and collaboration within the team. By letting employees express their individual interests and expertise, managers can create a dynamic and innovative environment where each team member’s strengths contribute to the collective success.
In this approach, the manager’s role shifts from that of a controller to a facilitator of growth and synergy. Managers can provide opportunities for employees to share their knowledge and skills, fostering a sense of ownership and pride in their work. This approach not only enhances productivity but also boosts team morale and job satisfaction, resulting in a more harmonious and effective workplace.