The news from Egypt – people power at perhaps its most effective – provides several lessons for business.
Many organisations will be looking at the way the Israeli people have managed to turn round the political situation of their country – and, ultimately, to force a bigger change of government than was expected – while wondering what might happen if a similar situation were to arise at their workplace. Even organisations that are not unionised are at risk from disruption by staff who decide to take action, however slight (relatively) that action might be.
No business can ever know how few disaffected voices it takes to galvanise others into action. But businesses do need to be alert to the fact that there almost always will be some – and that they could lead to conflict. Leaders, at every level within a business, need to be alert to dissatisfaction and take pre-emptive action.
People who take drastic steps – and they are almost always drastic – usually do so because they feel they do not have a voice. Although they might speak using words – making disgruntled asides to colleagues by the photocopier or kettle; raising issues with a sympathetic but ineffectual boss; going to the HR department; being uncomfortably vocal in meetings; writing strongly worded emails or letters – there are some for whom finding the words is difficult.
Instead, their disquiet is played out by their absence (taking sickies or going on sickness leave); their inactive presence (they come in but don’t do much, paralysed into inaction, lacking confidence and commitment); their lack of morale (leading to reduced performance, lower productivity and, often, dragging others down with them).
In all cases, it is the response that matters most. And, typically, responding is the hardest part for many businesses.
Line managers might feel unable to act, or to pass on comments or give feedback, for fear of their own futures. Department heads might have no power to influence change even if they risk nothing personally – obduracy from above might prevent them from speaking out. Leaders might worry about appearing weak if the corporate culture decrees that negotiation is seen as giving in. The reasons are varied and complex – but they are solvable.
If the root cause of a problem is lack of effective communication because of conflicts of interest, for example, using a mediator could provide the conduit to an effective change of views. If it is because of weak policies, using an outside specialist to audit and analyse processes could bring clarity and a new direction. Often the cause is the threat (as many see it) of change – or the inappropriate introduction of change (without consultation or adequate explanation, for example). Strategic advice, looking at the barriers to change and how they can be overcome, could be the answer.
Whatever the situation – and whatever level of impact it has on your business – avoiding mutiny in your ranks is essential. If there are rumblings of dissatisfaction in your organisation, taking swift action and using outside specialist help could ensure your own, and your business’s, future success.
31/01/2011 | Posted in Success, Strategic advice, Productivity, Presenteeism, Policy development, Performance, Morale, Mediation, Leadership, Feedback, Conflict, Confidence, Communication, Commitment, Change, Audit, Analysis, Absenteeism,
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