Too big for your britches…

Too big for your britches…
Empower your employees, don't rule over them
Empower your employees, don’t rule over them

Some companies are complex, highly diverse workplaces with a lot of people to manage.  A host of different departments to oversea a multitude of tasks.  You can’t negate the fact that companies and their departments, their divisions have territorial tendencies.

Cue Elf:  Buddy (Will Ferrell) in mail room.

Buddy (Will Ferrell) in the mail room.
Buddy (Will Ferrell) in the mail room.

That scene from Elf and others, hint at the reality that is our workforce and its continued hierarchical, top down approach.  Very rare is it a company that has a bottom up approach.  You can say it, you can articulate it, you can communicate that you do, but if it isn’t readily apparent, it is all just glossy shine on the outside and misery on the inside.  Case in point.  I won’t mention any names or companies.  A few years ago, I was with a host of friends enjoying a welcome respite from the day-to-day.  Eventually, our conversation turned to work.  This person was a bit down in the dumps, and I asked why?  They hadn’t received the commission they normally received during the holidays.  This was during the hard time of the 2006-2009 recession. I asked them to explain.  Apparently, during the previous get together by all staff for their annual party, the company had to downsize the festivities.  Usually, everyone got a bonus, even those non-sales jobs.  The previous year the company decided to discontinue these bonuses to all of their employees, except their sales staff.  Someone found out, and complained.  Long story short.  Someone felt cheated.   A person who didn’t work in sales and didn’t receive a commission went to the powers that be and called them on it.  Times were tough too and the company decided maybe it was better not to give anything out.  I asked a few probing questions of my friend.  Needless to say, we didn’t talk for a few weeks after it.

I’ve worked in an industry for regular hourly pay, salary, and salary and bonuses.  More than likely it was a turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Sometimes a gift card.  Not much, but I was grateful.  It helped.  All the Christmas parties were the same.  A few had raffles of cool prizes.  But our management staff wanted any bonuses or extra pay to be equal for all.  We worked as a team in hotels.  Everyone is rewarded for their hard work.  It may not have been much, but it was something. Sometimes a word or your name on a plaque got us through the hard times.  So back to my friend.

I asked the person to put their feet in the shoes of the individual in that ‘mail room’.  They may not have the education you have or the experience or the job title, but they do the same hard work as everyone else.  Interruption by my friend, saying that their job wasn’t equal.  No, they aren’t equal, but they still do hard work.  Define work.  What is work?  What is their job duties?  Could you do their job?  Do you know how to do their job?  They do their job for minimum wage or just a bit above.  Shouldn’t they be rewarded for their devotion just as much as you.  They came back with the argument that their job captured revenues for the business that allowed those in the mail room to be paid so that they could put food on the table, pay their bills.  Yes, I agreed.  Yet, if they didn’t do their job or aid you in doing yours, you couldn’t close on a deal with the delivery of that parcel with important signed contracts.  You couldn’t do your job without the delivery of office supplies.  You couldn’t do your job without them running their butts around town, when you had to get a contract out yesterday.  You couldn’t do your job if they didn’t fulfill that order made.  The two jobs are linked.

They again argued about working hard and about revenues.  I asked, “Is it?  Are revenues the only important detail of a company?”

The look they gave me could cut glass in two.

I smiled.  “It isn’t always about the bottom line.  It isn’t always about making a profit.  Sure profits are important and we do need to pay bills, but we cannot get to that profit without thinking and addressing the process and people who get us to that profit.  If one cog in the wheel isn’t working up to its effective and efficient potential, the system slows down and could possibly stagnate.  It could cease to exist.  Your job is linked to the way that mail room, those people feel and work.  Think you are far superior to them, that your job is more important, then you’ve lost sight of the reason to be in business.”

“How is that?”  They snorted.

“This is about the relationships you make and continue.  This is about long-standing relationships today and tomorrow.”

“Sure my customers are important.”

“Then who are your customers?”

“Huh?”

“Who are your stakeholders?”

“My customers.”

Holding off the desire to face plant my cheeks in my palms, I continued.  “We could go on and on asking the same question.  You do not understand your customers, your stakeholders.  This is about relationships.  If we do not create, nurture and maintain those relationships, our business will stagnate and decline.  This is about all of your stakeholders.  One of your stakeholders is that person in the mail room.  They have a vested interest in the health of the firm.  Not just the sales person that makes sales calls.  Did you ever ask that person in the mail room how they feel?  Did you ever say hi, greet them on your way into work?  Say good-bye on your way out?  Did you ever stop and ask them about their families?”

They hesitated, and I had my answer.  No or very rarely.

“Did you ever think that they are just as grateful as you are for the job they have?  That they can work for a company that even considers giving them a party and a bonus.  Not every company so rewards their devoted employees.”

As the book stipulates:

I think that is something else with the people-process culture: . . . you get to know people. The people get to know each other” ( J. Cernohous, personal communication, July 25, 2014).
Kersten EdD SPHR, Jeanette; La Venture EdD, Kelly. The Human Factor to Profitability: Building a People-Centered Culture for Long-Term Success (Kindle Locations 658-659). River Grove Books. Kindle Edition.

And the discussion went on.  What am I saying?

Employees should be engaged in their workplace.  That they need to feel and be a part of that team.  Not stranded in some oasis, ignored.  Again, I argue for that point that all of us see and process information differently.  We all have a unique point of reality.  Sometimes the finer details are uncovered with fresh eyes.  Don’t discount the person on the front lines.  You need to consider their input.

 

 

We don’t live or work in a box…

We don’t live or work in a box…

What...?

We don’t live in a “box”. Life Moves at a pretty fast pace around us. Life is about movement and change. Organizations are organic, living and breathing entities.  Therefore, change is inevitable.

Constant is never guaranteed, even with steadfast core values and behaviors.  Just as nothing in life is guaranteed.  Core values are a foundation, but that doesn’t mean the house can’t change over the years of existence.

One day even that foundation may crumble and erode away.

The box isn’t permanent.  Some days, I don’t think any one item has permanency.  There is an end point.

The other day here in the department, one my colleagues was roaming around testing us if we remember the ‘Tab’ drink and the jingle.  For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the music, but I do remember that ugly old can and awful aftertaste.  Not many could remember the jingle.  Just one of those lighthearted moments to break up a stressful day.  Illustrates a good point.  Somethings in life stay with you, others don’t.

Tab isn’t around any more.  Products have a shelf life.  Most do. A product life cycle.

Everything has a life cycle, even tenure on this planet.

So, what is left behind?  A moment. A memory.  An experience.  An interaction.  An action.
Experiences, interactions, take hold in the consciousness and remain.  Some stronger than others.   Hence, if organizations are living, breathing structures they thus have a complex ‘personality’.  A complex matrix of interwoven personalities.

Life isn’t breathed into a company until you add the human element.  Or is it that founder, that person with the original idea that is exerting their personality over others?  So, maybe then this goes to the development of that mission and vision statements.  That are supposed to articulate the personality, the core values of a company.

Therefore, I question if we assimilate the personality of organizations into our own core values.  Or our own values present and melded together with the companies.  Threads of commonality. (Chicken and egg debate?)

Sort of like leadership.  What is leadership?

Leaders are ahead of us, beside us, with us that we might not even know we have commonality, and are behind.
Behind us–because we as employees and managers are so innovative and creative, so forward thinking, we are head of the company thinking. We have ‘progressive thoughts’.  The child has far exceeded the parent.

Box Cat
From past experience, I can tell you that several work places did not have my same common core values, and I would never take up their value system.  I had more integrity than that.  My integrity was more important.  So, which is more important organizational cultural values or your own?  Hints at acculturation conflict.  Is that the point you know, that this job won’t work out and it is time to find other boxes to inhabit?

So, how do we work with a variety of cultures, even our own work system.  How do we navigate such waters?

How do we keep the workplace from becoming a stagnate pool of water?

As I reread our book, I am caught between reality and the body of knowledge presented in the book.  This is nothing against the writers or their work, but I, as researcher, have been trained to question everything I read.  I critically analyze.  I study the craft of writing from different angles.  I study the world in which I live.  And that life has two different paths, professional and personal.  I study human behavior.  I study.

Just as you should.  You should develop your independent thinking skills and do not take anything at face value without thorough examination. And just make sure you back up your opinions or conclusions with factual information or other peer-reviewed evidence.  The book is a good example of how they have used a body of knowledge to support their hypotheses.

Recognize that you will have an emotional reaction to what we read before we sit down and critically analyze.  And I was having one of those moments.  My emotional inner self was boxing it out with my rational side.

The questions that arose and keeps pinging around in my brain are about organizational culture…p. 19 to be exact.

Typically, employees incorporate organizational values into their own value systems and prioritize them in terms of their relative importance as guiding principles (Rokeach, 1973 as quoted by Kersten and La Venture).

I had flippant remark tingling my lips after reading this.  I took a breath and realized my mistake.  This is 1973 thinking. I was a teenager back then.

I have to remember–1973 mode of thinking about organizations and culture was far different from today.  Just as 1950s culture is different from today.  Just as 1920 is different…conundrum potentially averted.  It is not that we don’t have commonality among generations, that we don’t all celebrate and suffer the same given life’s little nuances.  Okay, example.  1920s saw the evolution of dress for women.  Hemlines went up.  Every older generation was suffering apoplectic moments.  Fast forward to 1940s and the first vestiges of the bikini.  Get the drift.

Let’s return to that resource.  I don’t think I have ever incorporated the complete organization’s cultural values into my own core values.  I had established core values and looked for common ground, commonality.  I’m not a blank slate when I step through the doors of any company.  No one is and we come toting our own baggage, good and bad.

The word conformity doesn’t exist in my nomenclature, but I have to be honest–I do conform.  I loathe the word.  It exists and I will give it its voice, but I hate it like I hate blue cheese.  (I know, not everyone hates blue cheese.)  Everyone approaches life in their own manner.  Different points of reality and so forth.  But if I’m sitting in my favorite pub and everyone is having buffalo wings with blue cheese, and I’m the only one ordering ranch, that should tell me something.  How can I use this example to illustrate my point?

Get back to that point!

Innovative culture
One definition of innovative culture.

Yes, conformity and routine kill innovation and creativity.  So, can the mission and vision of a company that doesn’t evaluate and test their values.  As I said earlier, companies disintegrate, erode away without seeing how all the parts of a company work together, especially the human element.

What I like about Marriott is that they do articulate their values.  But do we just see the bright and shiny?  Why don’t we talk about the plausible cracks and holes in the system?  Those employees that fail and fall through those cracks.  Those that pack their bags and leave?  Who created those cracks in the fist place?

Is that then an organizational cultural failure?

Then who is to blame?

Who sets the standards on which to judge?
The benchmark on which to measure?
No two people learn the same.  No two people work, manage the same.  No two people are alike.
No two people are motivated to work the same.
Can a value system still be weak and work?
Can a value system be too strong, and thus rigid to stifle creativity?

See my problem…I’ve got a host of questions running through my mind.

Therefore, there has to be some form of commitment between parties.  There has to be a mutually beneficial contract that allows for individual identity and commonality.

This can lead into further discussions about innovative culture and positive organizational scholarship.