How to break the cycle of poor industrial relations
Work-Life Integrity is the Answer

The Performance Paradox

Paradox_000004474493XSmallAt the European Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) conference in London earlier this week, a speaker introduced us to Neuroscience, a clearly complex topic and definitely not something one can claim to be an expert on after a 45 minute session! I did, however, learn 3 key things which I hope will stick with me for more than the duration of the conference, and I would love to share them with you now.

  1. Threat is bigger than reward.
  2. The brain searches for threats every 5 seconds.
  3. The “SCARF” Model.
The first two factors are self-explanatory but are significant because when the brain responds to threats there is a part of it that can apparently shut down very swiftly and thereby reduce our capability to respond appropriately. (The primary cortex if my memory serves me correctly, but I am afraid I did not make a note of the technical bits!)

This is what makes the SCARF model so important, because this is what helps you to become more “resilient” and therefore reduce the effects of threats and thus this part of the brain “shutting down” or freezing. As you might suspect SCARF is a mnemonic, used to identify things that are important to the way we respond to signals. Thus:

S – Status
C – Certainty
A – Autonomy
R – Relatedness
F – Fairness

Of course because it is a mnemonic these elements are not necessarily in order of importance. Yet there is one in particular that stands out for me – autonomy.  This one seems pretty obvious, and would be for anyone who has watched a small child try to assert its independence. And it is this one that I believe is one of the biggest factors in the workplace, because it is a source of workplace tension.measuring,

This is because all humankind’s technical advances mean we are now capable of measuring more than we ever have before. And because we can, we do. Thus we identify more and more performance measures for our people which we are only too happy to introduce, simply because we can. The can create a problem because these performance measures then become objective is their own right and thus:

  • Detract the focus away from the actions that drive them.
  • Diminish autonomy
  • Become threats in the way people perceive them.

Naturally this makes them counter-productive rather than productive and has the effect of disengaging rather than engaging your people. So here you are, introducing all types of initiatives to engage your employees while the very systems and processes you are relying on to monitor, measure and manage their performance are actually sabotaging both performance and employee engagement.  Hence the performance paradox.

So what do you do propose to do about it? How are you going to create performance measures that promote autonomy rather than kill it, and thus start getting the kind of performance that you are looking for?        


The comments to this entry are closed.