Why should a leader not compare & contrast?
- July 23, 2016
- Posted by: Reena Saxena
- Category: Behavior Management
“Personality begins where comparison leaves off. Be unique. Be memorable. Be confident. Be proud.”
― Shannon L. Alder
And yet, it is so difficult to be unique, or to flaunt it. Research shows that human beings do compare themselves with others, and form an assessment of their capabilities based on that.
The Fab Five
Broadly, there are five scales of comparison, which appear to determine the self-esteem of a person:
- Social Attractiveness
- People with a high self-esteem are pleased to see their placement vis-à-vis others on a comparative scale, but lose interest in this comparison after sometime. They do not feel a need to do that.
- Comparison and contrast make a person with low self-esteem unhappy, and they try to hide from public view, lest the weaknesses are exposed. However, they are driven by a need to improve, and flaunt their achievements, as they move up the scale. They compare and contrast at every stage of their upward journey, as it lends a feel-good factor.
Co-operation or Competition
- People in a co-operative situation tend to judge themselves as good or bad, based on the performance of their team.
- In a competitive situation, people in all teams visualize themselves poorly, by a comparison with the highest performers.
Organisations use this psychology to maximize productivity. But the context in which performance is being measured should always remain clear, and made known to the stakeholders.
- Contests and incentive schemes are introduced to drive people to maximum performance levels. These are usually a combination of competition between individuals and teams. All the above factors are at play here.
- Performance appraisals are mostly designed to measure individual performance, and an employee, has to drive the point hard, if s/he has done well in a challenging environment (the economy, technological or geographical limitations, internal issues during the period of appraisal).
- The cultural fit of an employee is decided based on how well s/he performs on the five scales of comparison.
In each of the above three cases, the needle moves on a different scale, and yields different results.
The Overall Perspective
- The absence of clarity on context, or an overall perspective, can inflict immeasurable damage, in the following scenarios:
- An employee withdraws into a shell, due to a low score on the comparison scale. The person does not reveal the facts, which led to a low performance, as s/he sees it as a matter of shame. The organization has missed out on a lot of information that could have helped them gauge the external environment, or internal problems, and reshape strategy.
- If the performance gap between the highest performer and others is very large, the performing employee understands the dependence of the organisation. It might lead to a demand for a disproportionately high rank or wages, and a threat to leave, if the demands are not met. Complacence also becomes an unconscious barrier to scaling up performance
- Past masters at the game can resent the rise of the brash, upcoming stars.
Pic : mensxp.com
- An overall consistent performer can feel depressed, owing to lack of recognition in a time-bound contest.
- People with high individual contributions may lose morale, owing to a low team performance. The juxtaposition with a low contributor in a high performing team can exacerbate the situation further.
- A high-performing employee can leave, owing to a poor cultural fit. The organization loses out on these ‘islands of excellence’, if there is no effort to integrate them in the mainstream.
- An employee who is held in high esteem by peers and subordinates for the excellent support s/he provides, is rated low by superiors, due to political or some other factors. This usually ends up in the employee’s resignation.
How can the gap be bridged?
Modesty is only an attempt to maintain like-ability. A perceived gap in any of the Fab Five parameters, causes the less fortunate to withdraw. The people at the higher end of the spectrum downplay their strengths and achievements, in order to make others feel comfortable, and reduce the gap. This is labelled as humility, modesty, charm or charisma in different situations. It is all about creating a level of comfort.
However, this approach has its limitations, as spelt out by the wise.
Modesty is a learned affectation. And as soon as life slams the modest person against the wall, that modesty drops — Maya Angelou
False modesty is worse than arrogance – David Mitchell
True it is that covetousness is rich, modesty starves — John Milton
Promoting individual excellence through coaching
1. Coaching and counselling can help employees identify their core strengths.
2. Coaching can remove the mental blocks that are created due to comparison and contrast.
3. Coaching can help in creating individual goal sheets aligned to the organizational interest.
4. A 360 degree feedback system can highlight the fertile ground, where an individual can deliver his or her best.
A business needs a competent army at every post, and experienced commanders to be the pillars, in all organizational vectors. Anything less would cause the roof to fall rapidly.
Pic : blog.commlabindia.com
Collaboration is the key to success, not comparison or contrast.
Inspiration and research support