5 Ways to Ensure Mediocrity in Your Organization

By Liz Ryan
Provided By BusinessWeek

The recession is no excuse for ignoring, misusing, or demeaning talent. But hey, if that’s what you really want to do, follow these suggestions.

The last time I checked, the U.S. led the world in productivity per employee. That’s the good news. The bad news is that much, if not all, of that boost in productivity has come on the backs of workers, especially salaried types viewed by too many management teams as infinitely elastic resources. As one management consultant told me: “The average company takes better care of its copiers than it does its talent.”

Many chief executives use the tough competitive environment as a handy excuse to put off salary increases, tighten the screws on performance, and generally drop any pretense of creating a human-centered workplace. But the tough-economy picture has two sides. Only those companies that make the effort to keep their employees productive by treating them decently can expect to see continued productivity gains. Much of the workforce has tuned out, waiting for a more welcoming job market to make career moves. Those organizations that haven’t wavered on their commitments to flexibility, recognition of talent, and transparent leadership will keep A-list players on board as the job market improves. Their competitors may be wishing they’d paid a little more attention to employee TLC as employees start peeling off for greener pastures.

Here are five of the most insulting leadership practices, the ones that virtually guarantee a business will end up with the most self-esteem challenged, optionless team members when the dust settles.

1. If you desire a mediocre workforce, make sure your employees know you don’t trust them.

Nothing spells “You’re dirt to us” like a corporate culture that screams, “We don’t trust you as far as we can throw you.” I refer to company policies that require employees to clock in and out for lunch or software that tracks every keystroke and change of URL in case a molecule of nonwork-related activity squeaks into the workday. When employees know they’re not trusted, they become experts at “presenteeism”