If you're a people manager―especially a first-time manager―there's no doubt you've had times of doubt and indecision. That's normal. Fortunately, organizational psychologist Gary P. Latham has updated his classic management guidebook for front-line managers. The book, Becoming the Evidence-Based Manager: Making the Science of Management Work for You (2nd ed.) (SHRM/Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2018), is full of practical advice on using effective management tools and practices.
From hiring and motivating employees to making good decisions, Latham points readers to commonsense approaches to fundamental management issues. But there's more than just common sense at play here. The author offers science-based evidence to back his recommendations. After all, to be the best manager you can be, you need to be confident your actions will work.
In a new chapter on creating a psychologically healthy workplace, Latham reminds managers to focus on their own health—particularly their mental well-being. Drawing on scientific research, the book suggests that when supervisors focus on their own mental health, they start a "virtuous cycle." As they adopt and model good management practices, the health of their teams will improve as well.
When an individual employee has a mental health problem, it becomes the supervisor's problem, too. To help the worker and to maintain a healthy work environment, managers need to increase their mental health literacy, Latham writes. Understand mental health issues and treatments. Remove the stigma and discrimination surrounding employees with mental illnesses. Consider mental health awareness training that teaches managers how to recognize and respond to mental health issues, the author suggests.
Another new chapter focuses on ensuring your career success. What steps can you take to increase the odds that you'll have a successful career? We all know why we like or don't like our jobs. But it's not always easy to sort out what's important to us. To do that, examine your career anchors, Latham writes. What would you be most reluctant to go without in your job? Among the eight career anchors to consider are:
- Autonomy—the freedom to decide on how to do your work.
- Security—the opportunity for long-term employment.
- Service—the ability to contribute to bettering society.
Another tool, the Career Orientations Inventory, a 40-item self-scored survey developed by an MIT professor emeritus, could help you figure out the career path you want to take, Latham writes.
In laying out strategies to engage employees, which is covered in another new chapter, Latham turns to behavioral science. Empirical evidence and case studies show that workers who are engaged in—and not just satisfied with—their jobs embrace the organization's core values, including respect, entrepreneurship, passion and customer orientation. Research also shows that engagement peaks when employees perceive their jobs as meaningful and have the necessary resources to perform them. It's up to managers to provide that. If you're a front-line manager, this book provides you with information on how to do so, along with strong evidence to support you on your journey.
John Scorza is associate editor of HR Magazine.