Usually, organizations hire adults and even manage them as such. But quite often than not managers, unfortunately, work with the employees using parental psychology that makes them act and function as children.
The main problem lies in managers acting as a parent in the workplace and as a result, making the employees act as infants instead of adults such as quarreling, forgetting, being resentful, etc. Managers who act like parents end up making decisions for their employees. For example, calculate the number of emails they receive. This style of management implies that the bosses can use their position and power to intimidate others and make them obey. Parent-like managers are always trying to fix employees when they should rather be getting training by experts or terminated.
Here is what happens
Employees who operate in the office as a little child seek and ask for permission for doing the tiniest thing and even anything that could get them in crosshairs. They lack the courage to take creative risks. They are adept at working in survivor mode and do little or nothing that makes them stand out among others. They fret about their job security and wonder if the boss is satisfied with them or not.
It is a parent’s natural job to take responsibility for their children as when they are young and incapable of being responsible. But eventually, parents demonstrate and allow their children to be responsible for their actions and choices. After 18 years of age, most become responsible enough, and when they get hired for a job, they are fully responsible.
Sometimes, it doesn’t pan out this way. At some point, all managers have had to parent a few members of the team. It is almost as if they are running an adult day care facility.
Parent, Child, and an Adult
According to the transactional analysis concept of Dr. Eric Berne, under different circumstances and times, all people play three roles – a parent, a child, or an adult. Though it is easy to switch between the different roles, we seem to be stuck in the same role forever.
When a person is in the role of a parent, he directs, sets boundaries, evaluates, understands, and is good at managing conflict. All in all, he is responsible for everything. Parents use phrases as you should, you must and stop it immediately, etc. And when a parent cares and shows it via encouragement, willingness to help, warmth, and empathy, etc.
When employees act from the child role, they send impulsive signals such as I’ll try, I am afraid, and why always me, etc. And managers do not expect to face such things from employees. The reason why this happens has a lot to do with the human resources department who was at fault of hiring an adult child with a low degree of responsibility.
When the manager acts as a parent, it leads to the following results:
- The parent teaches, and the child learns.
- If the parent does not delegate, the child is happy.
- The parent scolds the child, and he gets upset.
- The parent requires something, and the child finds excuses.
This is quite a pickle because the manager has to groom this child into a professional adult who should be able to produce and be responsible for their actions as well. And though most of the employees would want their managers/bosses to use their skills and capabilities to the best of the organization’s interests. But workplaces cannot achieve that if the parent-to-child manager-employee model exists.
What to do?
If you are a manager and have to deal with this issue, there is only one way to get about it. Create the right workplace conditions. As in the parent-child working relationship, it is the parent’s job to be more cautious, so this change needs to stem from them. Gradually, managers should encourage employees so that they can function to a higher level. Also, accept the fact that being a manager means acting from the position of a parent. It is only then you can begin implementing the actions which lead to the maturing of your child employee.
And here is how you can do it:
Establish an environment of effective work and communication
Repeat each of the tasks numerous times. Ask your employee to paraphrase or repeat whatever you just instructed them to do. Get the task in writing, which is even better. Know that when you give a task to your child, they can perform it much better if they understand what is expected of them. So, when your employees are working, ask them to give you the step-by-step process of how they are going to give it.
Again, take the example of children. They are not capable of thinking keeping the larger aspects in mind. If the tasks involve some issues or difficulties, ask your employee if they have any ideas to do this task. Try to bring their creative side to the surface. As a manager, avoid breaking any professional verbal communication. Do not be rude, insulting, or shout at them without designating boundaries. If this happens, the workplace relationship is going to suffer. It would revert to the parent-child level, but now it’s the manager who is at fault.
This can be stopped if the managers stop their non-professional behavior or if the employee acts maturely and shows his position as an adult. Ask them for feedback because it is common for one to feel deluded about how one comes across.
Give them Support to make Decisions:
If your employee missed a deadline or failed to finish the task, your instant reaction would be, please fix your mistake. But you could act supportive for a change and say, I believe you would manage it successfully the next time.
The key is to avoid being hyper-involved and don’t try to do anything for them because you are not a parent but a manager. You don’t want to return to them the position of a child. Adults are fully capable of taking care of themselves. At the same time, stop making decisions for them. Take their suggestions and opinions. But it is essential to wean them away or else they will forever be dependent on your decision making.
Have an internal dialogue
Managers need to set a few things straight. First, they need to determine whether they are psychologically operating as adults or parents with those who work under them.
Risk the Possibility of Fear
If you are one of those control-freak managers, you likely manage your employees like a parent. Adults are willing to take risks and even prepare in case they have to face failure. No kid has ever grown up to be a functioning grownup without failing in any tasks he attempts to do himself.
Manage for Outputs instead of Inputs
Inputs are the tasks which are normally defined in an employee’s job description, whereas, outputs are the products you want your employees to produce. So, when we say managing for outputs, it means that you are allowing your employees to think of ways and figure out how they can achieve the goals and products of the job.
Given the right push, you never know that someone might come with a better way to do the work than you would have ever thought of.
The best thing about these steps is that both the manager and the employee will be able to find more satisfaction at work. It will take some time, and you will also run into some obstacles, for some people it is quite hard to do.
But these could help you in gaining more job satisfaction and commitment from the employees.