”Good morning, Boss, it’s Chris, I cannot come to work today, because I am demotivated…”
This is how the Danish radio-satire sketch called ”Chris and the Chocolate Factory" would sound. The radio-satire is from the beginning of the 0s, and was about Chris, who called his boss every morning trying to get off work with different excuses, however never succeeded. Chris would come up with lots of excuses for not being able to come to work that day and the sketch would end with the boss telling Chris to come to work in 5 minutes otherwise he was fired, and Chris would promptly answer with a “yes-boss-I-will-come-now”. The boss had motivated Chris the hard way.
The convention on today's job market is that the manager motivates the employee. It is the manager’s job to ensure a good working environment; share sun and wind equally, distribute tasks and set the direction for the team. It is the manager, who is blamed if the employee has lost spark and is not motivated. They say that employees come to companies, but leave the boss. In other words, the boss is the most important parameter for the employee's motivation.
However, as the modern job market becomes a reality, this premise is changing.
In recent years, the job market has changed radically. The employees have more options than ever before, and at the same time, the different types of jobs have become more differentiated to manage. Employees work in virtual teams across the organization, and employees work from home where they do not meet the boss every day. Perhaps they see their boss once a week or once a month! Employees are always online and with laptops and smart phones, you can work any time of day and on tasks in completely new contexts.
This way of working gives the employee more freedom to structure the working day to fit with the family and other chores, and while employee productivity increases, it becomes easier to maintain a healthy "work-life" balance. It is also an advantage for the company, because it attains a more flexible and productive workforce and can move tasks around the country or in the world as the company see fits.
However, this development means that the relationship with the manager has weakened, and that the manager's role in motivating has reduced. Many employees have become their own boss, and the ability to self-manage and self-motivate has become a key competence of the modern employee. The consequence is that the manager's role as “core motivator" has disappeared because the employees can and want to motivate themselves. We have come to a stage where the employee to a greater extend is responsible for being motivated and achieve goals.
It does not mean that the manager has become unnecessary. On the contrary. However, the manager’s role has changed definitely. The manager must be a playing trainer, who also acts as team player and coach, because all employees need continuous coaching and feedback in order to achieve the best results. It always makes sense to discuss objectives, thoughts, actions and plans with others in order to see things from different angles. And this is where the manager comes into the picture.
A manager must provide immediate value to the employee and quickly familiarize himself/herself with the employee's situation, challenges and problems in order to be able to assist to a better result. At the same time, the manager must ensure coherence and continuity in the team, so the individual employees pull in the same direction and follow the same overall objective. This is far from an easy task, since employees are more focused on solving individual tasks and challenges. The manager is thus the oil in the team that makes the gears spin better and faster.
In the real world, we never get rid of "Chris and the demotivation" and there will always be a need for using different forms of leadership within the organization, depending on the situation. Nevertheless, the direction is clear. The manager today plays a very different role, and the balance between manager and employee has changed, which makes great demands on a willingness to change and readiness both for the manager and for the employee.
Thomas Honoré is Chief Executive officer and President of Columbus.