I just heard about a fascinating new paper by the well-known German economist (well-known for German economists, that is) Armin Frank. In a recent study Frank found that the worst way to induce excellent performance in employees was to supervise them. The more supervision a boss slathered on, the more the employee felt distrusted–and the greater distrust the employee felt, the deeper his performance fell. Supervision, in other words, achieves the exact opposite of its desired effect: It often reduces motivation and efficiency. As Frank explains, “Anyone who is suspicious of the willingness to work of their employees is in fact punished by poor work levels; whoever is optimistic and gives them free rein is rewarded.”

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