Sunday, September 25, 2005

Good Managers Reward Good Employees

Last night I was out with a friend for her birthday. She was recently promoted to a Director position at a significant public company in Silicon Valley. From what I can gather from talking with her husband (who is less modest about her achievements than she is) she has been a superstar there in the Product management department for some time.

I asked her last night how she liked her new role, and the primary feeling she expressed was guilt. Guilt that she had gotten a promotion and guilt that she was only working ten hour days and then logging on again from home after the kids went to bed. Guilt that drove her to tell her boss that sure, she would be online this weekend, while up in the City with her husband (and without their three kids) for her birthday. She spoke as though her boss had done her a favor promoting her.

I tried to give her the following pep talk:

Her boss sounded simply like he was a good boss doing the right thing. The reason she felt so indebted to her boss for promoting her was that there are really so few good bosses out there. Many bosses look out for themselves, taking the credit for the good, blaming the team for the bad. Many bosses really don't want to surround themselves with the smartest possible people, because they want to be the smartest person in the room.

Her boss didn't promote her to do her a favor. He promoted her because he knew she was valuable. He knew she made him look good with every accomplishment or achievement. He knew that her skills would help her contribute even more in a higher responsibility position. Perhaps he knew that he could off-load some of his own burden with her in an elevated position. Send her to higher level meetings. Give her higher level tasks. Transfer some of his reports to her. Whatever.

Not only that, he knew that employees will continue to bust their asses when they feel appreciated and rewarded. Despite what some Silicon Valley execs may think, people simply do not feel "lucky just to have a job." It is not human nature to feel that way even during lean times. Not if you're contributing, anyway.

The one and only thing I really miss about corporate life is having a team to go to bat for. My experience is that even in the lean times you can get valuable employees bonuses, raises, promotions if you are willing to stick your neck out and ask, and of course, can make the case to justify what you're requesting. It's just that too few managers are willing to do either part of the equation.

But the reward is loyalty. Hard work. A satisfied team. And call m crazy. I think that gets you better results.

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