Professor Sir Cary Cooper has hit out at the avalanche of e-mails most workers now suffer from at work.
In a speech at the British Psychology Conference in Liverpool he said UK productivity was the second lowest in the G7 group of nations (20% below the average and 40% below the USA) which he believed was due to our embracing technology “too enthusiastically”.
He thinks companies should shut down their servers to discourage employees from checking e-mails in the evening and at weekends and especially when on holiday – which he described as sick. (Some companies are already doing this in Germany).
He would like to ban in-house e-mails between members of staff in favour of face-2-face communication and thought c.c. e-mails a waste of time.
He thinks too may people are just showing up for work (“Presenteeism“) but not doing anything productive.
Research at the University of Sussex confirms that when when staff are given company smartphones they put in an extra day a week checking and responding to e-mails.
Experts say that there may be help round the corner from even newer technology such as Slack and Yammer which provide an open stream of communications not requiring you to open e-mails. (Is that really an improvement?)
But it’s not all down to the technology. British managers are notoriously poor at praising and encouraging staff. Cooper likens a good boss to a parent figure balancing criticism and praise.
However UK employees don’t have to wait long to be criticised in his view but they can wait a long time to get any praise for good work. And that could be a problem with younger workers who expect praise and good treatment at work.
Robert A Eckert was Chairman and CEO of Mattel, the world’s largest toy company, from 2000 to 2011 and stayed on as Chairman through 2012.
When he retired he was asked to write a piece for the HBR reflecting on his career and chose to use it as an opportunity to publicly thank everyone who made his work fun.
He’d spent 23 years at Kraft Foods before he joined Mattel, which at the time was losing almost a million dollars a day.
He’d started at the bottom in Kraft and worked his way round and up the organisation supported by 15 different bosses who taught and mentored him. Like most people he did work for a bad boss as well but he just learned from everything.
He believes that people went to work aiming to do a good job and that what they wanted most (after sex and money) was recognition and praise.
At Mattel they had a Rave Reviews programme which allows employees to thank each other with a gift certificate for coffee or a soft drink and for senior managers who excelled they gave out a Chairman’s award at public meetings.
Mattel was named one of the best companies to work for in Fortune magazine 6 years running.
Eckert is a great believer in recognising people’s efforts and saying thank you.He also says his colleagues can vouch for his toughness and doesn’t want to be thought of as soft touch. Given what he achieved at Mattel you can believe that.
In the HBR article he gives these tips:
- Set aside time every week to acknowledge people’s good work
- Handwrite thank-you notes whenever you can. The personal touch matters in the digital age.
- Punish in private; praise in public. Make the public praise timely and specific.
- Remember to cc people’s supervisors. “Don’t tell me; tell my boss”
- Foster a culture of gratitude. It’s a game changer for sustainably better performance
Source: “The two most important words” HBR April 2013