What kinds of things get in the way of productivity? There are no simple answers. The answers differ from department to department, division to division, company to company, country to country . . . (you get the point!).
What I do know, though, from reading hundreds or even thousands of articles over the years, is that one constant is almost always present: barriers to productivity are a product of the destructive attitudes and behaviors of leaders. Supportive bosses make all the difference in the world for workplace happiness. Happy employees are productive. They’re free to think, operate, and innovate in collaborative and friendly cultures.
Bad leaders are bad
At the other end of the spectrum, leaders who are negative, nit-picking, demeaning, hesitant, idea squelching fear mongers are bad for productivity. When leaders are busy trying to look like bosses instead of being leaders, over time, they squelch all desire in followers to perform. Although infrequent, new big bosses will (sometimes) fire or at least remove existing next-to big bosses. But, that action rarely happens. Instead, I see the same bosses, in all their glory, saying supportive words/actions in front of audiences and not so supportive words/actions in small groups. Sad. No wonder we have such issues with employees not performing at their best!
Therefore, these roadblocks to productivity not only stop progress, they degrade working conditions so that employees become complacent, content with mediocre, or worse, work. (Which can’t really be called work anymore.) Something happens to employees (unskilled and professional) turning them from bright eyed, eager producers to shadow-hanging-middle-of-the-road players. We can’t blame our employees for not taking chances, for not trying new things, or for not thinking of the unimaginable. Blame lies mostly in the form of leader behavior.
Who are these leaders?
This particularly negative better-than-thou restrictive leadership style is evident in all levels of leadership. It's like they're trying to justify legitimacy for their positions by acting like bosses instead of being leaders. It's almost like they're afraid, themselves, to be human and vulnerable. I rarely hear any leader say, “I don’t know…” It’s very sad that these are the people promoted, not because of workmanship but because of cautious behavior.
Bosses who are afraid to make mistakes are, sadly, always right, no matter the argument or logic for contrary opinions. And these overly-controlling humans don’t forgive mistakes. This type supervisor is just not capable of allowing error. However, without error, we’d never have the light bulb. If Edison had been chastised for making mistake upon mistake by near sighted leaders, we’d still be reading by candlelight.
The force toward negativity: bosses!
Essentially, knowing what leaders don’t like forces entire operations toward ineffectiveness. We spend our days trying to stay out of trouble and avoiding those negative vibes. In contrast, clear, positive direction with freedom to execute does wonders for morale and productivity. Positively-fused leader behavior will knock down the barriers that keep us from getting things done. We won’t care about the things bosses don’t like. Instead, we will aim for things that are just plain right.
Leaders make mistakes; they’re human. Employees can forgive occasional variances from normally supportive behavior. But there is no forgiveness for consistently small thinking and obsessive control.
“You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.” [James Allen]