The ultimate engagement tip? Let employees hire the boss

Decision-making should be left to those with the most knowledge about a subject, not the most status.

One of the main problems with the typical manager/employee relationship is that one person is the boss, and the other … well … isn’t. Let’s face it, not many adults like being told what to do. That’s true to some extent even when the boss is really great. It’s especially true when employees don’t have the option to say no, or even to negotiate a mutual agreement.

Information should trump rank

Decision-making should be based not on who has the highest rank and most authority, but who has the best information and greatest knowledge about a subject, regardless of “status.”

Good managers follow that principle as a matter of course, and it’s an integral part of how they tap into employee motivation. But not all managers are that good.

One way organizations try to equalize the balance of power is by using the 360-degree appraisal process. Others elicit employee input through town hall meetings, luncheon roundtables, senior leader blogs, open-door policies and a host of other activities. While well-intentioned and occasionally effective, those efforts are typically pretty feeble in promoting a culture that’s based on the best information rather than the most authority.

Give employees input into the hiring process

How do you make sure decisions are based on knowledge instead of titles? Let employees hire their boss. “What?” you gasp. “You’ve got to be kidding, right?” Maybe a little, but not much. Here’s how it works.

You begin as usual with crafting the job description. Instead of just having it reviewed by the manager’s manager, appoint a representative group of the employees who will report to the new manager to look at the job ad. Then you go through the usual drill of selecting candidates and interviewing qualified prospects.

After that, here’s where you do something radically different. Instead of picking just one person for the job, pick two or three who meet all of the qualifications. Then let the employee representatives interview those top candidates, and they make the final selection.

It’s a win-win

Crazy, right? But think about it. You get the best of both worlds—someone who makes the grade for management, and the employees he or she will manage.

If you want employees who are willing to step up, take charge, and be held accountable for their performance, you have to treat them like adults who have a say in the matter, not children who are to be seen and not heard.

Les Landes is president of Landes & Associates, which focuses on aligning marketing communications and employee engagement. He is also the author of the Inside Out Blog and E-Column, which features tips and trends for creating alignment in organizations.

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