Small Biz Tip: Get Your Workers to Obey

By Tali Arbel, AP Business Writer

If you want people to follow your wishes, don't tell them what to do.

That's what one longtime human resources consultant says in a recent book, "Management Rewired," that uses neuroscience findings and a 40-year-old General Electric study to critique some traditional management techniques.

Charles Jacobs, the author, recommends that managers:

— Don't tell employees what to do. It'll backfire. Jacobs says trying to control other human beings doesn't work well, according to neuroscience research, because people like to make their own choices and resent intrusion. "The highest cause of stress in workplace is lack of control," he says.

Instead tell a "story" of the corporation that inspires pride, outline broad corporate goals, then allow employees to self-manage.

— Feedback doesn't really work either, Jacobs says. People feel criticism is punitive, and may continue to secretly do the "wrong" thing in order to rebel and maintain their self-esteem, Jacobs says. And using a reward to motivate behavior eats away at the intrinsic desire to excel, he says.

Instead, managers need to set up a way for an employee to monitor and measure himself — using survey data from customers, for example. If goals aren't reached, then employees should be held accountable, Jacobs says. What does that mean?

"Companies are not welfare organizations, and yes I'm in favor of firing people unable to meet their goals," Jacobs said.

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