You’re about to have an interaction with your boss. Here are your choices:
- The boss praises and recognizes your work.
- The boss tells you how to do your job.
- The boss scolds you.
Which do you choose?
This is the question that leads to the proposition that if you want to engage employees you must give them praise and recognition. But sometimes we leave out the most revealing alternative: “Is the glass half full or half empty?” The alternative view might be: “perhaps the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.”
In the question above, perhaps the real alternative is D. "I don’t need no stinkin’ boss". Perhaps we don't really seek praise and recognition from the boss, it's just the best of three pretty bad choices. Perhaps we choose A. only because we don’t see the D. alternative.
The psychology of identity would suggest that D.might be the better choice, that we don’t want to be put in the Child role as implied in A., B., or C.. It is a huge problem in running a business. In some very real sense, if you’re the CEO, your biggest liability is the people you hire as bosses. In the book Behave! How to get 100% of your workers fully engaged we talk about how to solve this problem.