The Psychological Secret to Being a Successful Manager

Do you feel like your management techniques are not translating well? Does your work environment need a bit of team cohesiveness? Are you getting frustrated with your employees and your managing skills not succeeding? Maybe you need to reconsider what a manager requires to be successful.

Being a good manager is much more than flawless scheduling, having an organized workplace and making people motivated to work. To be a great manager, you must create and build a working environment that fosters a supportive and genuine human connection. This is easier said than done, but saying that is not entirely out of your hands to make the changes necessary to grow your work community. A manager who doesn’t open up the room for conversation can’t expect the work environment to be free of tension. A manager who doesn’t set clear expectations for the workplace can’t expect workers to be on the same page. And most importantly, a manager who doesn’t do their research before leading their team can’t expect to have a productive workplace.

There are two basic overarching rules about human interaction that must be understood to execute your managerial skill set effectively:  

  • The Fundamental Attribution Error 
  • Conformity

Understanding these concepts will make a world of difference when trying to change the workplace environment.

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Beware of Attributions in the Workplace!

At the individual level, the more you understand yourself, the better you can predict or anticipate how you will behave in the future. The more you spend time analyzing yourself, the easier it is to pick yourself up if you are low and change your behaviour. If you think about it, if you didn’t understand or know yourself well enough, you wouldn’t know how to fix a problem or change the route a situation is going. It’s the same at the group level. To adjust the flow and coordination of a team, you must understand why the group is acting the way it is. The importance of a deeper understanding of human needs and interactions cannot be stressed enough. 

To be able to dive deeper into this topic, a basic understanding of human psychology is necessary – specifically social psychology. One of the hardest and most significant challenges we face as human beings who live in complex societies is human interaction. Lay psychology or ‘common sense’ can get you so far in social scenarios until your intuition is prey to common urban myths about how we relate to each other and what works. As a manager, when you are having a problem between your employees, it is easy to attribute the misunderstanding and tension to the personality of the individuals rather than the situation that may be causing some to act out in misleading or unpredictable ways. This is a theory psychologists like to call the Fundamental Attribution Error. To think that the behaviours of an individual are solely due to their personality is a common mistake. We are all guilty of thinking this way and saying “so and so did this again, well not surprised because of who they are.” We are quick to judge the way people behave and attribute it to their characteristics rather than the circumstances they are currently facing. It is critical for people in leadership roles to understand that people are influenced by the social situation they are engaged in and are not driven entirely by their personality traits. To be a successful manager, you must recognize that you will have to analyze workplace conflicts on a much deeper level. You will have to distinguish between personality clashes and conflicts that are rooted in social scenarios. 

Let us use an everyday example to explain this theory. Say your co-worker ‘Amy’ is known for being a little moody and impatient. Amy’s co-workers will then be used to attributing things she does to her moody and restless personality. If Amy walks into an important meeting where she is pitching her idea and is again in a pessimistic mindset, her co-workers (manager included) will quickly attribute her mood to internal causes: “Amy is her usual self, what can we do”? No one will blame her actions towards the present situation. No one will ask: “I wonder if Amy is irritable because she is nervous about her big pitch!” This is the problem. As a manager who wants to understand their employees better, you must acknowledge that a large part of our behaviour as human beings will be a reflection of the situation in which we find ourselves in – this situation will explain our behaviour.

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Birds of a Feather Flock Together

You may be thinking that the problem of one individual can’t be contagious. How could one person have the power to lead by example and make it stick? When one employee is exhibiting a work habit, you don’t approve of; the chances are that other employees will start displaying signs of the same work ethic. 

The act of conformity is not usually initiated by request, but rather it is a form of yielding to the influence of social pressure. Simply put, conformity is when we change our beliefs, perceptions and behaviours to agree with group norms. As humans, we are natural observers who are 24/7 picking up information about what we should and should not do. These social norms are the basis of how the workplace will behave. As a manager, you must be aware of such facts to be the leader employees need to not succumb to social pressures of conformity. The aspect of conformity you must be mindful of is that of the Normative Social Influences taking place in your work community. These social influences dictate that our main priority is to get along with others around us. By now, you can see how one problematic employee’s actions can create a domino effect of problems. 

Being aware of the needs a group of individuals requires to work cohesively is vital to the success of the workplace. Having an understanding of these basic psychological concepts will work wonders for your managerial skills. 

Let us help

In addition to advising best practices for workplace management, at Imagine Better Solutions we can help guide you with our Management Coaching. We are trusted mentors eager to partner with you and ignite your skillset to lead a group of individuals successfully.