I thought this was a great summary of the workplace zeitgeist from Kim over at Ignite Global:
The way we grow up often enculturates us into using old, inefficient ways of working together. We absorb our habits and beliefs about how to motivate others from parents, teachers, friends and TV. We all know about puppies and rolled up newspapers. We accept that criminals go to prison, or get beaten up by masked avengers.
I believe one reason that managers find talking with their staff difficult or uncomfortable is that they have an internal conflict going on. If you are trying to “push” someone into doing work (having learnt to operate this way as you grew up), you want to appear authoritative and unapproachable. The scarier you are, the more avoidance behaviour you can create. The model is for the employee to avoid signs of disapproval such as verbal punishment and unpleasant body language by doing stuff the manager wants done. As the manager, this behaviour is rewarded with a feeling of being in control and having staff do the work. Of course, this rarely gets 100% effort from the staff, and if they are uncomfortable, they tend to switch off or just leave for a less stressful job.
Changing this authoritarian management pattern takes steady work and a leader who is seeking to change the basis of their relationship with their people. If you want trust, loyalty and enthusiasm, then change can and does happen. The starting point is learning to believe that your workplace can be a much happier, trusting and cooperative space.