Wow have we screwed up the practice of management within our organizations. I’m not sure when it happened or how it happened, but along the way we decided that our job as managers was to increase the comfort of our employees and to take away any discomfort they may feel in their jobs.
On the surface, you think it sounds like a good idea or even that employees want us to do this, but neither is correct. What we’ve effectively done in many of our organizations by following this path is the equivalent to wrapping our employees in bubble wrap. Sure, bubble wrap prevents the employee from getting hurt, but it also prevents them from growing, achieving, and (dare I say) truly engaging with you and their work.
Employees, despite what you think or what they say, don’t want to be coddled. They want to be successful, proud, to feel accomplishment and growth. All of the same things you want. They want to be mentored and coached. They want to be rewarded when they do great things. And, they even want feedback so they can get better.
The problem in this equation isn’t the employee. The employee never demanded being wrapped in bubble wrap. Management and HR decided this path because it’s easier than delivering on what employees really want. True development, coaching, and feedback requires conflict and it makes people uncomfortable in the moment. There might even be some pain involved from time to time. We will do almost anything to avoid conflict and we are really squeamish about making other people uncomfortable. Here’s the thing, discomfort and pain are powerful motivators for growth. As humans, our survival instincts drive us to move out of situations of discomfort and pain–we take action. Without that trigger, we often won’t take the first step towards growth.
Being a great manager, coach, or HR pro requires that you understand how important it is to walk into the conflict with people and then to let them be uncomfortable. Stop trying to fix everything and take away the discomfort. If you just stay out of their way, they will make it happen on their own. Your job is to provide the right questions for them to ponder and the resources they need once they decide to take action.
Go now. Burn the bubble wrap.