You might have a great team already.
But inevitably, you will have a few model citizens or “rock star” employees that stand out. You wish all your team members would be like them because that would make your life as a manager so much easier.
You know you can depend on your best employees. They consistently deliver great results and at times are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.
But the results of comparing employees to each other can be disastrous.
Here’s why you shouldn’t play the comparison game.
Comparisons Don’t Motivate
“Why can’t you be more like Jessica? She’s an excellent employee!”
That sounds a lot like a parent reprimanding a child.
And yet, this is exactly what some managers say to their employees, hoping they will learn from and follow the example of their star employee.
This assumes your team even knows what Jessica is doing right to have won your praise, and that isn’t always obvious.
Many employees become disengaged for lack of proper training. It’s surprising the number of companies that don’t offer a more comprehensive training program for new hires.
Many employees are in the dark, unsure of what targets they’re trying to hit because they’ve never been told. No wonder they appear to be underperforming.
But setting that aside for a moment, the very fact that you’re playing the comparison game is a problem.
Yes, you want all your employees to learn from the example of Jessica and be more like her. But people feel devalued when their contributions aren’t being acknowledged.
Rest assured there were employees listening to you talk about Jessica who were bottling up their frustration because they know they do good work too. Unfortunately, it has gone unrewarded and unrecognized for too long. Maybe the reason Jessica shines is the work she’s doing behind the scenes. If that’s the case, they’re going to lose the motivation to offer such assistance.
Sure, there might be a few team members who aren’t living up to your standards. But you can’t motivate them by comparing one to another and pitting them against each other.
Each of your team members has been blessed with unique talents and gifts that can be leveraged to grow your business. It’s up to you as a manager to uncover what those skills are.
Comparison is just lazy management.
It Makes Team Members Feel Inadequate
How does someone feel when they’re being compared to someone else?
If you aren’t sure, then ask yourself how you would feel if you were being compared to another manager who’s “nicer and more talented.”
Even if this comment had no basis, the natural response would be predictable. You’d feel sad, angry, frustrated, inadequate, undervalued, or maybe even jealous.
Maybe you’ll feel motivated to change, and you’ll begin applying yourself for a while.
A couple of months pass, and you don’t hear any more criticisms. You think you’re making some headway, becoming more like the manager who was described as “better.”
Then, you hear the same feedback all over again. You’re demoralized. You stop trying. After all, what’s the point? You’re just going to be criticized again. People don’t see you striving towards the person you’re capable of becoming.
This is how your employees feel when they’re being compared to each other. They may be doing a lot of things right, but at some point, they’re going to stop trying to impress you.
They know you’re just going to compare them to your star employee all over again. Why try when there’s no way to win the game?
If you want to encourage and engage your team members, you should catch them doing something right. Maybe they don’t live up to the golden standard of your ideal employee, but they’re contributing in their own way, putting forth a serious effort.
Don’t cut people down by comparing their effort to someone else’s.
Don’t Treat All Your Employees the Same
You’ve already learned about the perils of comparison.
But it’s wrong to think you should treat all your employees the same.
At first blush, this may appear to be the fairest way of managing your team.
But your team members don’t all require the same amount of attention from you. Some have greater needs than others.
Showering your star employees with more attention doesn’t always make sense, because in many cases they already know what they’re doing. Some of your underperforming employees could benefit from more personalized attention. Empowering them with the tools they need to succeed is what a good manager does.
There’s a lot of talk about personalization in business today. When you customize your approach to each of your customers, you can drive greater results from your marketing.
Management is the same way. When you personalize how you handle each of your team members, it will boost your overall effectiveness.
This extends into how you deliver feedback. Giving feedback plays an important role in engaging your employees. But you should get to know your employees and get a sense of how they want to receive feedback. People are all motivated by different things.
This isn’t to suggest you can customize every aspect of managing your employees. That would be unrealistic. The key point is to give your team members the assistance they feel they need to succeed in the workplace.
Per Forbes, millennials will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025.
One of the greatest challenges managers face today is managing and retaining millennial talent. They’re not looking for the same things in a career past generations were looking for. They’re growth-oriented, easily bored, and have the desire to accomplish big things.
Per Access Perks, millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually.
Managers need to carefully consider their approach and whether they’re doing the right things to engage their workforce.
When you consider the costs, motivating your team through comparison (or fear, for that matter) is inadvisable. Your team is comprised of unique individuals, each with different skills and experiences. By understanding what these are and helping individual employees achieve their goals, you can create a win-win in the workplace.
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