GMAT : Analysis of An Issue

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An Issue

55. Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.


To what extent do you agree or disagree with the opinion expressed above? Explain your point of view by giving reasons and / or examples from your own experience, observations or reading.


I agree that supervisors should under most circumstances merely tell subordinates what to do, but not necessarily how to do it. Of course, employees need adequate training in order to do a job. But beyond that, trusting employees to discover and develop their own methods for meeting a supervisor's expectations can produce surprising rewards that outweigh any pitfalls of such an approach.

First of all, restraint in directing the how-to aspect of a project signals the supervisor's confidence in an employee's intelligence and abilities. Sensing this confidence, the subordinate will often respond with his or her best work. This phenomenon lends truth to the adage that people rise to the level of what others expect from them.

Secondly, by allowing a subordinate to decide how best to attain an objective, a supervisor imparts a share of responsibility for the project to the subordinate. This alleviates some of the burden from the supervisor who may have more time for other tasks as a result. At the same time, when the subordinate shares in the responsibility, he or she will probably feel more accountable for how the job turns out. There is likely to be better job performance.

Thirdly, directing every step of a project often blocks a worker's own creativity as well as creating animosity. Except in the training of a new worker with little or no experience, it would be naive and arrogant for any supervisor to assume there is one and only one best way the supervisor's own way to get a job done. A bright competent subordinate is likely to resent being led by the hand like a child. Allowing employees to choose their own means and methods will spark their ingenuity in ways that enhance productivity now and in the future and will foster goodwill and mutual respect in the workplace.

In sum, telling a subordinate how to do a job is rarely the best management approach. Instead, supervisor should assign tasks without directing each step. When employees are left to choose methods for completing work, they will be bolstered by the supervisor's trust motivated to greater creativity and inclined to feel accountable for outcomes.

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