What Employees Secretly Want

Beyond momentary oscillations in motivational direction (which are largely unpredictable), team members in most cases will demonstrate a built-in bias towards certain categories of “big picture” personal goals. This is a great benefit to everyone when those goals are tightly aligned with your business needs. This can be a problem when the goals being pursued are not aligned with your needs. Economists call such situations “divergent interests”, which arise more often than you may think. Identifying intrinsic biases and mitigating any resulting divergence is a good strategy for management. Here are some archetypes that I have seen:

The Engineer: Wants to build things. This is a powerful motivation, and what you hire your engineering folks for. The rub comes when engineers follow this motivation and push to build interesting things your company does not need, or when they emphasize the engineering process in ways that don’t fully serve the company. I have had engineers that always want to  write perfect code, even for systems that are not critical. This means time drastically out of proportion to the value of the task at hand, and a poor use of resources.

The MBA: Wants to manage things. The rub comes when MBAs manage for the “sake of management” and the pursuit of the reward of leaving their mark on the business. Sometimes MBA personalities want to leave their scent on otherwise perfectly good operations in a company. This can often be demotivating to teams and damaging to operations.

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Kevin Ready

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