Discovery Surveys, Inc.
Specializing in Employee Opinion and Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Improving the Workplace

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.

1 out of 2 employees do not feel their supervisor positively motivates them.

I confess. I am an avid Red Sox fan and spend considerable (probably too much) time every week watching not only the games, but also the pre-game and post-game (only if they win, of course) shows. A side benefit of watching the interviews before and after the game is that I continually learn from a very knowledgeable manager, Tito "Terry" Francona, about managing employees. Here is a recent example of what Terry said to the media:

Back up catcher Doug Mirabelli was traded away during the off-season and then reacquired because of his usually phenomenal ability to catch Tim Wakefield's fluttering knuckleball. Commenting on Mirabelli's three passed balls in one inning that led to a run in a game against the archrival Yankees, Francona said, "When you see balls getting by Dougie, you know that ball is moving pretty good.

This is typical of the way Terry manages to say positive, upbeat, and reassuring when talking about his players. Even just after they have pitched a horrific game, when they are in the midst of a terrible batting slump, or when they exhibit unsportsmanlike behaviors on the field, he always says positive things about and to his employees. His players feel appreciated and supported by him. I believe it helps them to become better players.


Terry is a rarity among managers in any type of organization. Most are much more likely to say negative than positive things about their employees. They say them directly to employees, as well as behind their backs. This typically exacerbates rather than improves the situation. Employees who are even only occasionally criticized feel unsupported, anxious, and stressed. As a result, their attitude and performance suffers.



  1. Communicate the Positives

    Make a list of positive things about each of your employees and then make it a point to tell them frequently how much you appreciate their work and why.

  2. Make a Disparaging Word Never Heard

    Make it a practice to NEVER utter a disparaging word about employees to their coworkers. It will get back to your employees and de-motivate them. Keep negativity to yourself.

  3. Catch People in the Act

    Behaviorists have proven that positive reinforcement is most effective when it occurs immediately after the behavior that you are trying to increase. Don't wait until the performance review to praise an employee. Do it right away.

  4. Don't Rush to Judgment

    When an employee does something wrong, good managers withhold judgment and give the employee the benefit of the doubt. For example, if an employee comes late to work one morning, instead of immediately thinking negatively about the employee (e.g., he's lazy, he doesn't care about his work, or he just can't be trusted), they probe to learn more about the situation so that they can understand it from the employee's perspective (e.g., my car broke down, my child was sick, or traffic was unusually bad).


Take a lesson from the Red Sox skipper. Stay upbeat and positive when managing your employees. Communicate the positives, catch employees in the act of doing good things, don't "dis" them, and don't rush to judgment. Make this your management mantra and you won't have to wait another 86 years to become a champion.


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