In the realm of management environments, the term ‘people management’ often falls short in capturing the true experiences of individuals navigating these systems. Stress, frustration, and at times, even bullying, sadly become accepted norms. The pursuit of desired outcomes using human input can, at its worst, lead to exploitation and the darkest facets of human behavior. While many organizations tout their commitment to ‘people-friendly’ environments, they sometimes fall short in fostering conditions conducive to achieving long-term business goals, and in some cases, it’s merely a veneer fabricated by either well-meaning but naive leadership or deceitful management.

I’ve come to view management environments as existing along a continuum. On one end, there’s extreme exploitation of people, while on the other, we find redemptive behavior. Redemptive, in this context, means an approach that benefits individuals, even having a therapeutic effect on the human psyche. Every business, whether acknowledged by its leadership or not, operates within a specific point on this continuum. This placement has a subsequent impact on the mental well-being of the employees within the organization. But can a management system truly have a positive impact while also expecting employees to achieve challenging results, outperform the competition, and drive towards the company’s mission? I firmly believe it’s not only possible but something I’ve personally witnessed.

One recent interview with an employee left a profound impression: “When I board the train to go to work, a smile breaks out on my face.” Such statements weren’t unique; many employees echoed similar sentiments. These individuals arrive at work with an intrinsic motivation; no bonuses or incentives are required to encourage them to perform at their best. They don’t dread demanding managers who fail to provide clear instructions or assistance when needed, nor do they lack feedback on their work. They understand the value of their contributions towards the company’s goals and are unwavering in their commitment to the business’s future.

A redemptive business environment commences with well-defined core values, clearly communicated and cascaded strategies across the organization, and a structural framework where each role is tailored to execute the overarching strategy. Individuals are carefully selected for these roles, ensuring they can fully utilize their skills in fulfilling their work assignments. Systems and processes are thoughtfully designed to confer a competitive advantage in the most efficient and effective manner. Managers are well-versed in the fundamental principles of balancing accountability and authority, while concurrently fostering trust and enhancing the capabilities of all employees.

The realization of genuinely good people management, bordering on the redemptive, is not only attainable but also yields business results that far surpass those of organizations leaning towards the exploitative end of the continuum. I’ve personally borne witness to this in three businesses: a global entity with around $500 million in sales, a midwestern U.S. company with $40 million in sales, and a startup in Turkey with slightly over $1 million in sales. If you’re interested in discussing the nuances of people management, don’t hesitate to reach out; I’d be delighted to share insights and experiences.



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