Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Impact of Managerial I-Thou Mindset on Managing Employee Underperformance
by Longhurst, Pete, Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2019, 97; 13903600
Abstract (Summary)

Managing an underperforming employee is one of the most difficult managerial tasks. Academics and practitioners offer managers guidance in the form of performance management (PM) processes. These processes, which serve to mitigate risk for the organization, tend to dehumanize or objectify the underperforming employee. In this study, manager mindset is identified as an overlooked moderating variable in the PM literature that can help managers combat the dehumanizing nature of PM processes. Martin Buber's (1971) I-Thou framework is applied to manager mindset. This qualitative study of positive deviance explores ways in which 15 managers with an I-Thou mindset approach employee underperformance. Nine themes emerged from the interview data across three categories. Three themes emerged from the Mindset category: (a) the I-Thou manager assesses first his or her own role in the underperformance and asks, “Did I do my part in setting this person up for success?” (b) the I-Thou manager sees each employee as a person who matters beyond what the employee can do to further the manager’s own objectives; (c) the I-Thou manager believes each employee wants to succeed. Three themes emerged from the Behavior category: (a) the I-Thou manager personally invests in each employee to understand the employee’s strengths, objectives, and life situation; (b) the I-Thou manager demonstrates having the employee’s best interest at heart, in addition to the company’s interests; (c) the I-Thou manager is honest and transparent about the employee’s performance, not shying away from immediate, direct feedback when needed. Three themes emerged from the Human Resources (HR) Approach category: (a) HR partners provide valuable partnership to I-Thou managers by offering legal expertise and a variety of potential options for the employee; (b) HR partners can impede I-Thou managers’ efforts by focusing solely on mechanical risk mitigation processes without assessing the individual situation to look for alternative solutions; (c) I-Thou managers find creative solutions that benefit both the employee and the company and are willing to take on the calculated risks. Ideas for further research are suggested. Implications at the manager, HR professional, and organizational level are discussed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Austin, John
Commitee: Lynam, Abigail, Manning, Michael R., Andriesz, Sabreena, Homer, Lori
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: School for Leadership Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Business administration, Ethics
Keywords: Employee Underperformance, I and Thou, Martin Buber, Mindset, Performance management
Publication Number: 13903600
ISBN: 9781085631136
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