Management basics aren’t so simple

“What do employees want?” a manager asked recently. “Is it more money, advancement, what?”  

The answer is simple, as well as more complicated than that. Simple, because what people want is fairly universal. And more complicated, because within each of those basic components is what motivates each individual.  

For example, when it comes to the foundation of human wants at work, the basics are relatively constant. Employees want to know:   

§         What is expected of me?

§         How am I doing?

§         Where do I stand?

§         How can I improve?

§         How can I grow and stay challenged? 

The manager who can answer those wants for each employee is going to create a healthy workplace where people can operate with full information about what is expected and how they are performing. The problem is that most managers don’t execute these basics very well and don’t do them consistently. Like with most things, the simple basics aren’t that simple. 

Most organizations have created tools or events to help managers communicate these basics. For instance: 

§         At the beginning of each year, most managers should establish goals and performance standards with their employees.

§         Throughout the year, managers need to provide ongoing feedback.

§         Performance reviews are intended to let employees know where they stand.

§         Most performance review forms include a section on how the employee can improve.

§         After the performance review, many organizations expect their managers to have career development discussions with employees. 

But even with these tools, the process often misses the mark. Managers aren’t honest during the performance review and rate a below average employee “exceeds expectations.” Why? Because they don’t want to hurt their employees’ feelings or because they haven’t mentioned any problems all year and they know they shouldn’t surprise them at performance review time. Meanwhile, good performers are resentful because a poor performer is not being dealt with. 

Beyond the basics, what motivates individuals? Exit interviews reveal some consistent responses across generations, professions and industries. The most common reasons people leave are: 

§         Disrespect for the individual; feeling that their contributions are not valued.

§         Stagnation; lack of growth and challenge in the job.

§         Poor communication.

§         Unclear expectations and little or no feedback.

§         Little or no involvement or participation in decision-making. 

“But my employee who left told me he was leaving for a better opportunity,” you say. My response would be, “And what was missing from his current job that caused him to look in the first place? If he was looking for more growth and challenge, what were you doing to help him expand his job or grow into a new position?”  

Or, you may say, “My employee left for more money.” That may be true but I have seen many cases of people leaving because they didn’t feel appreciated and recognized. They don’t want to say, “You don’t appreciate or recognize me,” so instead they say, “You don’t pay me enough.”  

Of course, people do leave for bigger and better things but often they are running from a job rather than running to a new job. In other words, if they were getting their basic needs met, they wouldn’t be looking for a new opportunity in the first place. 

Managing people is not for the timid. But leaders who stick to the basics will have motivated employees and less turn over. Indeed, it is simple and complex when it’s done well. I guess that’s why common sense isn’t very common.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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