In Praise of Management Consistency
Lack of managerial consistency is stressful and demoralizing.
Posted Apr 15, 2020
I was recently reminded, in a conversation with an old friend, of the value of management consistency — and the problems that arise when a manager is chronically inconsistent.
The importance of managerial consistency (or lack of it) has been a persistent, recurring theme over multiple decades for people I've known and/or coached. Few management attributes can be as stress-inducing for employees on a daily basis as not knowing what's expected of you, or what kind of management mood will await you from one day (or moment) to the next.
Good enough one day, but not the next
Sure, a certain amount of behavioral variability is to be expected. No one's an automaton. But when an employee does what he or she feels is very solid work and it's well-received, and the next time similar quality work is summarily dismissed... that's a recipe for uncertainty and anxiety.
In short, what's good enough one day may often not be good enough the next: This is a hallmark of capricious management.
People like a steady hand at the helm, not someone who blows hot and cold. Erratic behavior alienates. Facing chronic inconsistency, an employee is constantly back on his or her heels, nervous, not knowing which way the wind will blow today... and whether it's Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde whom the wind will blow in.
As an employee myself (and I was for many years an employee along with being a manager), I always appreciated predictability. What I came to realize over the course of my career was that it mattered less to me whether a manager was stern or gentle, authoritative or easy-going. What really mattered was whether I could count on the person. Could I trust him or her? Did they mean what they said, or did their words carry as much weight as water running through a sieve? Ultimately I cared most about temperament and reliability.
While consistency is a desirable trait at any time, I'd argue it's even more important in these uncertain, unpredictable times. People want normality and predictability in their lives, especially when so much has recently been lost.
Consistent behavior makes a difference in any kind of relationship — marriage, partner, dating, you name it. And make no mistake about it, the employee-manager connection, whether good, bad, indifferent or ugly, is a relationship too.