These 4 Management Styles Seem Productive but End Up Damaging Relationships and Wasting Your Time

It's normal to think being productive means choosing the fastest way to do something, but when it comes to managing people, the opposite is often true.

boonchoke / Shutterstock
boonchoke / Shutterstock

Productive people work faster than their peers, constantly finding shortcuts to get work done in less time than their peers.

That’s what I thought when I started my career at a management consulting firm. However, when I began to manage people, I realized the opposite is often true. To become more productive, you often need to invest time now to save time later. Investments in people take time to produce returns.

Managers, trying to get work done quickly, can undercut their ability to attract high-performing direct reports and to help team members perform at their highest potential. In doing so, they cost themselves much more time than they ever could save by taking management shortcuts.

These four management styles seem productive in the short-term but end up thwarting team member development and damaging your relationship with team members. Do what you can to avoid them:

1. The “Inconsistent Parent” management style.

Inconsistent parents discipline their three-year-old for throwing food on the floor one night, but let it go the next. Inconsistency is driven by either expediency (you’re in a rush to get to an appointment) or fatigue.

Inconsistency sends mixed messages, causing undesirable behaviors to continue. For example, if you say nothing to a team member who misses a deadline by a few hours without letting you know just because everything turned out alright, you send the message that it is ok to miss deadlines without communicating — a behavior that will cost you significant time in the future. Consistent enforcement of team guidelines and best practices creates reliable team performance.

2. The “Justice Rules” management style.

Justice Rules managers believe team members should be treated the way they deserve. If team members are struggling, a “justice rules” manager ensures they know they are underperforming by sharing heavy doses of criticism and revoking opportunities.

The problem with this approach is that it is not always effective. For example, imagine a new team member keeps making mistakes in presentations because he gets so nervous. Lack of confidence is holding him back and a justice-based approach will likely sap his confidence further.

Prioritize effectiveness — what will work — over what the person deserves without closing your eyes to mistakes or shortcomings. The best way to manage someone is to tailor your management style to them. Understand what activates their best performance and then deploy those triggers regardless of whether they seem just.

3. The “Relational Punisher” management style.

The ‘relational punisher’ uses his or her relationship with team members as a tool for rewarding and punishing performance. The relational punisher draws close to high performers and creates distance from those struggling, becoming stern and critical with low performers.

While this is necessary at times, positive reinforcement is more powerful than negative reinforcement. As behavioral science reveals, rewarding and drawing attention to desirable behaviors does more to increase their frequency than criticizing undesirable ones.

People also perform better for leaders they trust, admire, and feel connected to. When things get tough, it’s easy to create distance between yourself and your team members, but distance limits influence and influence is what you need to get a low performer back on track.

4. The “Destination Only” management style.

Managers who focus only on where they want their people to get to are like parents who scorn or ignore the baby who is crawling and climbing until the baby walks on her own. Progress is what matters when developing people and progress requires time and opportunities to learn and fail. If you withhold presentation opportunities until team members demonstrate they can present perfectly, they may never get there.

The other problem with “destination only” managers is that they can only see the gap between team members’ performance and the destination. They miss people’s progress because they are so focused on the destination, making them overly critical. Instead, value the process and help team members get to the next step in their developmental journey.

To become a more productive manager, invest in actions that will save you more time in the future than they’ll cost you today. Reject a short-sighted view of your people’s development, recognizing that growth takes time and the best way to catalyze growth is rarely to demand it happen immediately. You’ll save time and earn the favor of individual contributors in your workplace.

This article was originally published on Inc.

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