We look, but what are we really seeing?

by. Anthony Demangone

If you manage people, you’ll need to check in on things from time to time. But a recent study raises an interesting question.

Whatever you see, is it real? And, even more importantly, is it even helping?

In short, a study in a Chinese factory found that workers tend to innovate and share ideas less when they are watched by management.  When managers were near, workers reverted to the “company line,” and work overall became less efficient. An additional study found that employees behind curtains, who felt a sense of privacy, saw their productivity soar.

“We assume that when we can see something, we understand it better,” Bernstein says. “In this particular environment, and perhaps many others, what managers were seeing wasn’t real. It was a show being put on for an audience. When the audience was gone, the real show went on, and that show was more productive.”

Like nearly everything else, you need to take the study with a grain of salt. A world without supervision or oversight? Heavens no.

But it does remind us of a basic human need.  Privacy and ownership.  At some level, all of us want to be left to do our work.  To tinker and improve.

As always, it seems, the trick is in finding the right balance.

continue reading »