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Management Styles – Iron Fist vs. Employee Investment

I’ve been working since I was 18. There is nothing remarkable in that but it’s given me an opportunity to observe many different managers and their styles.

The Iron Fist method is very popular with managers who take over troubled departments or branch offices. These managers seem to think that this was an effective means of impressing upon their underlings their power and willingness to get rid of people who didn’t measure up. I think the reasoning behind this method was that people would work harder if they were scared they’d lose their jobs. The problem is that it negatively affects moral and unhappy people are not necessarily productive people. Economic downturns unfortunately cause this method of management to thrive. I suppose it looks good on the bottom line when dead wood is jettisoned.

I’ve never understood this iron fist method of management. It results in turnovers and winds up costing the company money to retrain replacement employees. I guess upper level managers who haven’t been in the trenches for years must perceive this behavior as effective. It’s really not and in the long run, this sort of regime is bad for companies.

Luckily, I’ve also worked under managers who see the value in helping their employees grow. It’s wonderful working for a company that invests in its employees. People feel valued and respond positively by using their new skills to work smarter for the company.

I realize that this is an oversimplification of the work environment, but it still surprises me how often I hear iron fist stories and how rare the employee investment environment is.

The supervisors who have always gotten the most out of me and my peers are the ones who live their dedication to the company, put in the hours and spend time with the people they supervise in order to train them and convey what their expectations are.

The economy will settle down and the velvet glove mentality will become more common. Hopefully somewhere along the line company owners will understand that proper development of employees (through training and interaction) is the best use of resources and high turnover is costly in the long run.

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2 thoughts on “Management Styles – Iron Fist vs. Employee Investment

  1. Good points here. I am about to write an article on this topic as well and was looking to link to someone who shared a similar view. Many employers are calling for change and using the “Iron Fist” approach; none have succeeded using this method that I know of.

    • Iron fist style management works in the short term by increasing productivity by using pressure and fear as motivators, but costs in the long run because of high turnover and the expenses involved in training new staff.

      Best luck with your article and thank you for your interest in this blog entry.

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