Have you been labeling your people because of your first impression with them, or because the manager told you who is the “high performer” and who isn’t? Labeling your employees has some far-reaching consequences that many employers usually ignore. You may never know how this could be influencing your company, but once you will look over and change your perspective about your employees, your business will take an upturn; your employees will be more productive, your company will grow.
In a world where 87 percent of employees have zero engagement at work, it’s interesting to know how easily we still label each one of them without even appraising their abilities. Employee engagement is the basic structure of employee management and if this thing doesn’t seem right, there isn’t anything that could drive your growth to your business.
If you have been trying a lot to improve the productivity of your employees, reinvent how you categorize your employees.
There are numerous examples that could actually help you understand that labelling is no less than a deathblow to your employees’ performance. If you could not relate to this situation because you are an entrepreneur now, you could go back in time and reminiscence the school days. A school is the place where it all starts. Teachers label their students as “smart”, “intelligent”, “topper”, “losers”, “cheaters”, etc., and it’s normal for them to make opinions about their students (students to do the same for teachers too) just on the basis of someone’s else comments, beliefs or perceptions; and sometimes, even through a class test.
These categorization of people has been the sole reason why people haven’t been able to derive their true potential. Once your employees will take these categories as truth, their performance will start to reflect on their labels, inevitably; much like a self fulfilling prophecy.
Outside the boundaries of a school, these labels have made their way into our office too where managers withhold resources from the employees just because they are “low yielders”. The actions and comments of a manager can undermine employees’ confidence and can make them permanently unsuitable for the company.
So often, I have witnessed businesses and corporations labeling their employees, here are a few examples.
- Once I was assigned the task to assemble a cross-functional taskforce that could fasten up the whole product development process. Too often, I had to hear from the managers of each function that they cannot afford to give their “best” employees for some arbitrary product development and testing. So what I was left with were “poor” and “mediocre” performers. Guess what? They all did exceptionally great.
- Perhaps, the most disturbing story that I came cross was that of a white plant manager who was asked to downsize because the factory was closing down. For months, he did everything he could to find jobs for his employees. Naturally, he started off with finding jobs for the high-performing ones first and got them the jobs too. Then after months, he finally went to the factory floor to find who was still working there, and to his surprise, the only ones left were black men and women. He had unconsciously labeled all of the white people as better performers. But this isn’t it. He also figured out that these remaining few individuals were able to run the factory in a much better way even with less than half the workforce.
Reinventing categories is important as we are humans and we can’t live without labels. What’s ought to be done is to take measures that could ensure unbiasedness and better employee engagement; a place where managers have no “favorites”; a place where someone’s one-time performance (good or bad) wouldn’t leave them with permanent attributes. These are few questions that you have to ask yourself.
- What labels do I typically use whenever I talk or think about a direct report? Are there any groups that I have labeled as “low performers”?
- Are their any exceptional situations where these “low performers” have actually performed well? If you don’t know the answer to this question, look hard and ask other managers and employees.
- Are their any rare circumstances where my employees who have been labelled unsuitable for a certain task actually performed great there?
- What were the reasons that encouraged them to perform better during those circumstances? How would I be able to provide them with the same environment?
- How would these aforementioned answers help me with revising my categories. How should I be treating my employees differently who have been labeled previously as low performers?
If you were willing to admit that your categories didn’t truly reflect on your employee’s abilities, and even after being truly honest to yourself, if you weren’t able to find some better label for your employee, maybe it’s time for you to have a hard talk with that employee about whether they should be working for your company or not. However, if there is even a slight possibility that your employee is performing better than how you have been categorizing them, it’s worthwhile to try to appraise your categories once more before appraising the employees. Perhaps, you might be the one who is keeping your employees from achieving their full potential. You will be surprised with the potential that will unleash once you would stop labeling your employees as “low performers”.
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