It hurts at the time, but it makes you stronger in the long run. It works for wayward kids, but can tough love work for organizations? Specifically, federal agencies?
A new piece of research from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government says: maybe.Steve Kelman, a professor of public management, who conducted the research joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris from the 2011 Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va., to discuss what tough love means in an organizational setting. “Everybody knows the phrase ‘tough love,'” Kelman said. But, interestingly, there haven’t been any academic studies of how it works in government organizations, he said.
But there has been “an ancient debate” about how to motivate employees, Kelman said. Is it by nurturing and caring for them or pressuring them or pushing them?
In studying a European law enforcement agency, he said, the research indicated that managers need a mixture of both for effective performance.
“What comes out of the research is you need to do both,” he said. “Nurturing, by itself, isn’t enough. Toughness, by itself, isn’t enough. You need to put it together.”
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-9 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.