Introduction – Management techniques and toxic workplaces.

Predicting Human Performance

Driving a workforce against performance targets can be a risky but rewarding affair but how can we gage success with reasonable confidenceand equip people to succeed? 

According to one model attributed to H. Sanford known as the challenge and support model, the factors that determine human performance over time are the scale of the challenge, and the amount (and type) of support available to achieve the task.

Growth

Performance outcomes are predictable.  Of the four likely outcomes to any task predicted by the challenge support model, only one scenario leads to complete success and truly great performance.  This is called Growth.

Death

Another scenario, euphemistically called Death, predicts breakdown and failure.  Death is the consequence of too much challenge coupled with too little support.  In the workplace, death is literally the end of the line for individual workers and can lead to poor health for many others. 

In Death, stress, and burnout have regularly exceeded tolerable levels and have impacted on the person or persons assigned the task with predictable outcomes such as a high staff turnover, the potential actual death of a worker, and subsequent losses for the employer.

Team Work

According to Belbin, good management practice is to support people by building well developed teams.  A well developed team comprises people with various personality traits in enough abundance to sustain the activity and provide support for individual workers.

Positive Team Skills

Belbin names the six positive characteristics of team workers.  Both the challenge and support model and Belbin’s approach have developed into defacto standards in leadership and management and in combination they form the mainstay of modern leadership training.

Management Practice

Any workforce or team usually has an appointed manager, in a hierarchy of managers,  He or she is someone who not only drives the task but who’s role it is to maintain a productivity and performance.

Job Satisfaction

Truly great managers learn to build teams and balance the level of challenge and support in such a way as to sustain a steady rise in growth.  Happiness and pride in the product provide a degree of satisfaction.

Incentives

Work (used to be) incentivised in order to recruit and retain skills,  From the workforce, managers were selected and trained to understand not only their job, but the additional skill and workplace psychology needed to manage people.  The entire workforce benefited in the long term by development opportunities which included training, promotions and social improvement which secured the future of families.  

Fairness

Truly great management is a mindset.  It should be a satisfying experience for managers and workers alike. 

It takes qualities such as empathy to bond people into teams, and to a job, and loyalty to retain them.  Management is about supporting people and therefore depends on a particular mindset which in turn comes out in the selection process.

Alternative Management Styles

Managers nurtured in structured management systems described above and people who come to work expecting to be treated fairly and have satisfying and rewarding jobs will both struggle mentally in alternative management systems because of their different characteristics,  breifly one such alternative paradigm sustains growth by replacing burnt out workers from a steady supply of fresh, cheap labour who are disposable.  In this unacceptable approach, the mindset required to manage people will disregard the human factors evidenced by the Challenge \ support model and Belbin Team skills and is more likely to mis-use them to get what they want.  for the toxic mindset, satisfaction is something they crave – for themselves.  This mindset brings different team skills into play. 

Toxic management is the result of employing and idolising people who’s character traits align with the dark triad of behaviours and who don’t care for people – just results. 

In the resulting tyranny, according to the late Dr Tim Field, anything goes as long as management gets what it wants.  For example when a toxic boss doesn’t get what he or she wants – he or she will circumvent any agreed management process or contract and exploit fear backed up by increasing the level of challenge and removing support.  According to Field, alternative management styles have a number of repeatable and highly offensive processes aimed at getting what the toxic boss wants.  

This alternative management practice is prevalent, both in the workforce and the community.   

What Works Wellbeing says its goal is to improve, and save, lives through better policy and practice for wellbeing.

A good starting point would be the policy that allows alternative management approaches to flourish.  What currently  prevents wellbeing from being realised is that power, in the form of budget and control is often in the hands of toxic managers and the results are hidden.  No problem for a toxic mindset. 

In the next article we will be outlining the criteria for fair management policy that supports wellbeing at work.


Stuart Dixon



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