Bad managers are easy to spot – most employees could give you a list of personal encounters. Good managers, on the other hand, are more difficult to identify. What makes someone good? Is it merely the absence of bad, or is it something entirely different?
Good managers matter. A study of management practices of 732 manufacturing firms in the United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany found that the firms’ financial performance was a function of the degree to which they followed “well-established management practices” in the areas of operations, performance management, and talent management (Bloom & Van Reenen, 2007). Staff engagement is most strongly linked to the behaviour of leaders (Harter, Schmidt & Hayes, 2002). A study conducted at Florida State University shows that the line – “employees leave their bosses, not their jobs” – is more than just a line (Harvey, et al., 2007).
But what makes the difference?
One of the most useful and enduring notions in psychology is the concept of the Just Noticeable Difference, or JND. Discovered by E. H. Weber in the 1800s, it describes the smallest difference in any stimulus detectable
by human perception. Weber worked with
weights: adding 1 gram to an gram held in your
hand is noticeably heavier, but does adding 1
gram to 60 in your hand make a noticeable
change in your perception of weight? You
can try a similar experiment at home if you
have a dimmer switch on your lights. Simply
turn the light up and down, and see if you
can find the right adjustment for a noticeable
difference in the brightness. That’s the JND.