Improving Managerial Effectiveness
Leaders usually, but not always, exercise authority by making legitimate requests. In response, staff might commit, comply, or resist. Athletic trainers can use many methods to decrease the likelihood of resistance and increase the possibility of commitment (Yukl 1981). When making requests of subordinates, athletic trainers should take the following positive steps to ensure commitment.
- Be courteous and respectful. Avoid emphasizing differences in status, intelligence, financial responsibility, and other factors related to rank. If Sharon was having trouble with one of her employees, she would be unlikely to gain that employee’s commitment by saying “I’m the boss. You work for me. Do it or else.” The employee might comply, but that would be the best Sharon could hope for.
- Radiate confidence. If the leader communicates doubt through verbal or nonverbal cues, the staff is unlikely to comply with enthusiasm. The athletic trainers who came to Sharon for redress of their medical benefits complaint would probably feel better about the situation if Sharon approached the issue with confidence, saying, “Don’t worry. I’ll get this mess straightened out.”
- Use simple language. When instructions must necessarily be complicated, check to be sure that subordinates understand them. If Sharon is communicating a complex treatment plan to a new staff member, she would do well to use the simplest language possible, ask the staff member to restate the instructions, and check later to make sure that the staff member is carrying out the instructions. Inexperienced leaders often make the mistake of using excessively technical terminology as a way of demonstrating their position power.
- Make reasonable requests. Test requests for legitimacy by consulting with coworkers above you or at the same level in the organization. Referring to formally approved policies, rules, and negotiated agreements can help legitimize requests. Sharon might have strengthened her position with her partners in the opening case if she had taken the time to get some advice on the reasonableness of her position. If she could have referred to formal company documents, such as the employee handbook, she might have been able to make a stronger case.
- Provide rationale. Providing reasons for your request will help reduce the perceived status gap between you and your staff. If Sharon circulates a memo to all clinic staff that informs them that employee parking fees are about to double, she had better explain the reasons for the price increase. If she doesn’t, the employees are free to attribute any false motive they can think of to account for the increase. If she does explain the increase, the employees still won’t like it, but they have a better chance of understanding it and complying.
- Use the chain of command. Following established lines of communication decreases the possibility of message distortion. Make requests in writing whenever possible. If one of the clinic’s employees bypasses her supervisor and takes her concern directly to Sharon, all three parties will be in a difficult position. Sharon and the employee now have information that the supervisor doesn’t have. This lack of information will certainly lead to trouble at some point in the future.
- Use authority regularly. If you make legitimate requests regularly, your staff will be less likely to resist. If Sharon continuously backs away from issues that require her to make decisions based on her authority as a partner in the company, her employees will grow accustomed to that mode of decision making. When the day comes that Sharon does exercise her authority, the employees are likely to resent her for doing so.
- Exercise authority to confirm task accomplishment. If you do not demand compliance for legitimate requests, future noncompliance is more likely. If Sharon asks one of her employees to do something, the employee doesn’t do it, and Sharon doesn’t take any action, all employees will soon figure out that Sharon is a pushover and a weak leader.
- Be open-minded. Staff members who consider their leader a heartless automaton with no concern for their ideas or feelings are unlikely to respond to requests with enthusiasm. If Sharon listens to her employees’ concerns with genuine interest and acts on those concerns whenever possible, she is much more likely to gain the trust and respect of those employees.