Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Beyond Employee Disengagement


It is clear that there is a lot of employee disengagement in the workplace today. This is not only in Australia but seems to be a global trend.

We think it is largely due to the unprecedented pressure placed on organisations and employees to improve performance and financial outcomes with less resources, less money and a declining sense of human value.

Towers Watson, 2010 Global Workforce Survey

reveals the following:
  • 69% of employees believe their senior managers do not communicate openly and honestly
  • 97% thought their managers did not treat them as key parts of the organisation and no fewer than 60% felt their senior managers treated them as just another organisational asset to be managed.
  •  61% of employees in the US feel senior management does not exhibit attitudes and behaviours that reflect they care about the well-being of their employees. (71% of employees for UK)
  • Only 47% think their leaders are trustworthy
  • Only 42% think their leaders inspire and engage them
  • 61% question whether their leaders deal effectively with poor performers
  • Only 42% think senior management encourages development of talent
Clearly there is a strong emphasis on Disengagement in the workplace, however this with other factors leads to a far worse problem-Moral Disengagement!~

Moral Disengagement occurs and has occurred in Australia at the highest levels throughout the political spectrum, religion, care of aged population and unemployment to name a few. Why do humans have the ability to rationalise moral disengagement and then to be able to manipulate their actions to suit their purpose. At this level Disengagement becomes Disintegration.

A typical example of this has occurred at the highest levels of Australian politics and it seems unfortunately to have become an acceptable practise: Quotes from our Prime Minister in 2010 and then only 6 months later shows the following level of Moral Disintegration.

"There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead."
-- Ms Gillard, August 16, 2010
"I'm determined to price carbon. History teaches us that the countries and the economies who prosper at times of historic change are those who get in and shape and manage the changes. The time is right and the time is now."
-- Ms Gillard announces her Government's plan for a carbon tax, February 24, 2011
This is not an isolated case of Moral Disengagement but it is one that shows the character not only of the person but also of what we see as rapidly becoming acceptable standards of morality. How can we allow our own complacency to become so disengaged that we now expect corruption and deceit within Government leadership-it is enough that we understand that it is within the corporate world but it now seems to becoming more obvious in the highest levels of politics. So shameful!!

As Employee Disengagement increases in the workplace we can expect increases in Moral Disengagement thus leading rapidly to Moral Social Disintegration.
Suffice to say what is happening around us is the infestation caused by the lack of Noble Virtues and Noble Intentions where self sacrifice has now been replaced by self interest and then acceptably justified.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


There are a number of aspects about training that do not seem to add up.

My personal view from many years of experience is that most training does not work. It does not work despite the fact that most training organisations can claim that their specific program will produce results. To be honest in some instances it does but only for the short term. Usually it is a waste of money. Let us look at the reasons why and we begin at the senior leadership of an organisation.

The Leader feels that there is something wrong within the workforce and determines that the staff need some kind of training -let us say it is in the area of improving customer relations and personal efficiency. The Leader then instructs the HR Manager to investigate and recommend a suitable program. The HR Manager then researches to find a suitable program at usually the best price and may even do some elements of confirming testimonials of the training provider and then makes the recommendation to the Leader.

At this stage we could have already developed the first problem which would be potentially a communication problem between the Leader and the HR Manager. HR people are usually not renowned for appropriate decision making. In fact in most organisations the HR Manager is not in a decisive or creative role however in this instance they have made a recommendation based on a level of judgement that may never have been truly tested. Usually they are not leaders, they may be good performers but only within a very restrictive capacity. However the decision is finally made by the Leader and so the training program begins.

The training provider is excellent and produces compelling reasons and methodology to improve customer relations and the personal efficiency of the staff. Results and outcomes of the training are very good and all staff receive a Certificate of Attendance. All is well. The trainer has done a good job, the HR Manager has fulfilled their obligation and we can assume that the Leader has received value for the investment.

However this is often not the case. Superficially all is well but the results are only very short term. Why is this?

The answer lies within the psychology of the individual staff member. People are driven by their habits-both good and bad. Essentially we have all spent many years developing routine ways of dealing with all kinds of situations. As an example take work place change. When confronted with change most people react in a very negative way. Fear of change sets in quickly. We do not like to have our habits and routines threatened.

So we can attend the most brilliant of training programs but the impact on our personal psychology will be limited. The reason why it is limited goes right back to the Leader instructing the HR Manager. People may recognise the need for skills and attitude improvement but this is important and discussion should begin with the Leader and directly to all the staff including the HR Manager.  By placing a HR Manager in the middle only results in a loss of trust by the staff in the Leadership. Considerations may even go to the level of lack of trust by the staff in the HR Manager and the way the reason for the training is communicated.

If it is so important then all communication should be from and with the Leader of the Organisation. If the Leader truly wants to engage all the Staff then they need to be seen as taking this proactive step of encouragement. Once the function has been moved down the line to the HR Manager the level of importance has also been moved down the line in the psychology of everyone involved.

Let us look at the two ends of the spectrum regarding the impact on staff. Assume that I am very effective in what I do and I have truly wonderful customer relationships and I receive the email or the instruction from the HR Manager telling me that I have to attend training to improve what I thought were my perfect skills. My initial reaction is going to be one of disbelief which may then turn into anger to think that I am being treated this way. Should I attend the Program you can be very sure that I will not be supportive and will not really listen - my skeptical attitude will ensure that money has been wasted on me. The other end of the spectrum happens if I know that I am not that good in my job-I feel embarrassed about my mistakes and my nervousness in dealing with our customers. I am always stressed about this and feel quite low in my self esteem. Then I am told that I have to attend this Program. My initial reaction is one of fear-I know that this Program is all about me because I have failed  and now they want me to become totally embarrassed in front of all my work colleagues. What am I to do? My first thought is that on that day I will be sick and unable to attend. Even if I do relent and attend the Program I will be so nervous, so anxious and so stressed that I will remember nothing. It will be the worst days of my life.

This is how it could very well be for many people in such a situation.
The real issue is not to just provide methodology as to how one can improve customer relationships and personal efficiency. There are many text books and videos on this subject and they all represent the "outside-in " approach. The trainer presents and the audience listen and may even be encouraged to participate. The training can last from 1 hour to 3 days but it will be useless unless the mind of the individual attendee is changed in a profound way. This change of mind could take place in the first hour but usually this does not happen-the staff members turn up, appear to be listening and even appear to be participating but in truth they are not. They are sleeping and they do not wish to change their behaviours and habits.

Unless the mind of person is ready to be opened to change then they will consciously and subconsciously fail to accept anything that is being offered. The same rationale applies to a habitual smoker-they know they should not do it-they know it is unhealthy-they know that it may kill them-but still they smoke.

If we want to truly get people to do something different then no amount of conventional "training" will work. It only works when their mind is ready and this only comes when they recognise and understand themselves better. This is where it begins.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

The 3 Key Questions

This is a photo from my garden. I spend a lot of time in my garden as I believe that this is the perfect place for reflection.

If we want to truly develop the essential qualities of Noble Leadership then we must devote the time to reflection because it is from this that we can develop Wisdom.

As we all know this is a quality which is in short supply today!!

Within a workplace environment I believe that there are 3 Key Questions that can help us to determine the health of our relationship with our employer-both the individual and the Organisation.

We can also ask of ourselves these 3 Questions to determine our view of our Political leadership. It seems to me that such simple questions can reveal so much.

The first question to ask oneself is this:

Am I proud of the work I do?

The second question to ask oneself is this:

Am I proud of the organisation that employs me?

The last question is this:

Am I proud of my boss or my leader?

We should have a non discriminatory answer to each of these questions. Each answer should only be "yes" or "no". Our responses can be objective if we answer in this fashion but if we start to add more information into our answers such as "I would be proud of my work if only..........." or "I would be proud of my leader if only they would .............."then such answers become very subjective.

Clearly our answers should be a simple "yes" or "no".

Now, if we fail to answer each question with a positive "yes" then we will see that we are becoming disengaged from either our role, our boss or our organisation. If we answer a positive "no" to each question then we have clearly disengaged ourselves from our workplace and the longer that we stay there then the more at risk we become of developing an unhealthy level of stress or anxiety.

Ask yourself these questions and thereby determine your own level of honest integrity regarding your role and your employer.

If you would care to confidentially advise me as to your responses I will be very happy to include the final results in our Workshops.