Stop Telling Your Employees What to Do

By Jordan Cohen at HBR:

It turns out there is a scientific reason why employees are less effective when tasks are dictated. Amy Arnsten, a neuroscience professor at Yale University, studies the importance of feeling in control. Her studies can be applied to employee autonomy in managing a team. In an interview at her Yale Laboratory, Arnsten explained that when people lose their sense of control, such as when tasks are dictated to them, the brain’s emotional response center can actually cause a decrease in cognitive functioning. This perception of not being in control, whether real or imagined, would presumably lead to a drop in productivity. If a manager describes the long-term outcome he wants, rather than dictating specific actions, the employee can decide how to arrive there and preserve his perceived sense of control, cognitive function, and ultimately improve his productivity…

…The knee-jerk reaction of many managers to a performance challenge is to “tighten the screws” and get involved in how and when a task is done. Both practical experience and now scientific evidence tell us often a better approach is to protect the autonomy of the worker and provide high level direction.

Read the full article here.