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Anton, a technical specialist at a Pharmaceutical Company, left his manager’s office and walked back to his desk. He sat there quietly for a moment staring at the window wall that faced the area he shared with several other technicians.

Suddenly, Anton picked up the heavy urn that held the dozens of colored pens he used in his work. As his colleagues looked up from their desks, Anton dumped the pens on the floor and smiled at them. He stood up, wheeled around and threw the urn with all his strength at the door to the manager’s office. The urn hit the door with loud crash and smashed into bits spraying the area with its shards. Five minutes earlier, Anton had been told by his manager that he would receive a substantial raise for an especially impressive report he had completed.

Why would a person who had just been awarded a pay increase do anything like that? And that was exactly the question Anton’s boss asked himself as he appeared in the doorway to find out what had happened. The manager’s eyes took in the scene. Anton standing at his desk-agitated, defiant, fearful. The other technicians looking either at Anton in disbelief  or at the manager with amusement.

Anton’s boss looked Anton in the eye. He put his hand on Anton’s shoulder and said quietly, “Let us go into the cafeteria for a cup of tea”. As the two left, the manager turned back to the group of employee and said firmly, “I think it’s time you returned to your work”.

In the cafeteria, Anton’s boss prepared a cup of tea for each of them. He brought the tea back to a corner table and sat down facing his angry, unhappy employee. He said, “For the moment, Anton, suppose we talk about something we can agree about-like — the weather”. Ran gestured angrily with his arm, as if to say that the suggestion was ridiculous under the circumstances. The two sat for several minutes not saying anything at all.

Finally, Anton said, “Did you think you could buy my fidelity for a few paltry dollars! I’m not in such desperate need for money. That report I prepared was my original work. My name should go on it when it is sent to the home office. And my accomplishment should have been acknowledged by a change in my position and title as well as by a salary increase. The salary increase will make me the most highly paid person in the technical specialist’s group. How do you expect me to continue to work with them under these circumstances?”

“I had thought that the increase in pay was recognition enough for your work,” said the manager. But I had no intention of concealing from the home office that you had prepared the report”.

That’s not what the other technicians say,” said Anton. “They say you squeeze as much as you can from your talented subordinates and take all the credit for their work”.

“Is that what they say about me?” asked the manager.

“Yes,” said Anton, and a lot more. They say that the only way for an employee to get a raise from you is to flatter you. To be your ‘yes’ man and orderly”.

“They say that, too?” said the manager.

“Yes. And while I was working on that report with you, they were laughing at me, saying that I was just trying to flatter you into giving me a raise. Now you’ve shown they were right!”

“Well,” said the manager, “perhaps that is the way it looks to you. And to your associates, too. I can understand that. And I can understand how angry this has made you.

“It has upset me very much,” said Anton.

“I can see that. You have a great deal of energy and talent. You have put much of it into this project. You feel that you should receive complete recognition for this accomplishment, and you’re not sure that you will,” replied the boss.

“My work has always meant more to me than money,” said Anton. “Even my wife says that. And she expected that I’d receive not only a pay raise but also a new position in recognition of this project”.

“Your wife feels the same way you do?” asked the manager.

“of course,” said Anton.

“And do you really believe I intended to take advantage of you? That I won’t see that your work is given full credit at the home office? That I have been using your talent  and rewarding it only with a small pay raise?”

“Not exactly,” said Anton. “But after all my hard work, I suddenly felt that I was being taken advantage of. That’s what the other technicians has predicted”.

“I’m  sorry  they feel that way and say that about me. Perhaps I should reexamine my relationships with them, for I value all of them,” said the manager. “I value you very much, too. I had not realized how much recognition in the form of a new title or assignment meant to you. Let me see if there isn’t some way to demonstrate to you my genuine appreciation for your contribution to this organization. I’ll try to do it in such a way that it does not put you in a bad light with your associates”.

A few minutes later, the manager returned to his office and Anton went back to his desk. The technician at the next leaned over and whispered to Anton, “Did the boss give you hell?”

“No,” said Anton, “he turned out to be a good person after all. I see his point of view and he sees mine. It really was stupid of me to lose my temper that way, but the manager never said anything about it”.

“That’s right,” said the other technician, “he can make you angry occasionally, but he’s a better person to work for than most”.

Above real case illustrates three vital aspects of human relationships:

  • Each person moves within a unique cause-and-effect system of his own. Anton’s behavior was the direct result of an external stimulus that energized his unique set of inherited and culturally, environmentally, and experientially conditioned attitudes. They caused him to respond in a particular way. Other persons would almost certainly react differently in this situation (to an identical stimulus). Each would have his or her own unique behavioral system. If we knew exactly the quality of the attitudes in a person’s behavior system, we could accurately predict what action that person would take under various circumstances.

  • Motivation provides the main drive for each person’s behavior. The goals each employee seeks direct his inner forces in ways that may appear either acceptable or unacceptable by his superior and to his associates. But they are rational to that individual. Anton’s actions were influenced by his boss and also by the other technicians. In sorting out his motivations, Anton was trying to satisfy his own goals and to harmonize them with those of the manager. At the same time, he was conforming to what he felt his work group expected from him. When the three sets of motivations appeared in hopeless conflict, Anton became frustrated. In his unique behavior system, the reaction to intense frustration was an emotional explosion. In the unique system of other persons, the reaction might be to cry, or to sulk, or to resign, or to work even harder to master the situation.

  • Leadership is the process of influencing employee behavior. This is especially difficult since it must be done within the limits of the individual’s motivational system and the constraints imposed by the work group. Anton’s boss handled this leadership problem well. He developed an empathy with Anton in order to learn more about his motivational system and the influence Anton felt from the other technicians. With this knowledge, the manager was able to help him redirect his behavior in a way that satisfied Anton’s goals, the manager’s goals, and perhaps, those of the work group.

(By Peter Frans – Principal Consultant / Trainer)

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