There appears to be a growing number of managers and staff in both the public and private sectors who can't make the connection between the results of their individual and collective efforts and the future success of their organization. Rather than offer solutions or makes suggestions, these folks watch noisily, but unhelpful, from the sidelines, expecting someone else to take care of the problem.
Several factors contribute to this particular type of organizational dysfunction:
Communication that builds trust is lacking. When organizations have managers attend seminars to improve performance and productivity, they neglect to raise employee consciousness at the same time. They fail to see the managers will be picking up a new language expressed in words and concepts that would be incomprehensible to anyone not in attendance.
Companies mistakenly assume when the managers begin to use the new language with their subordinates, they'll also define the meaning. That seldom happens. Consequently, subordinates passively pretend to accept the new concepts being foisted upon them, but go right on doing things the same old way.
One kind of communication problem is subordinates know in a vague way their supervisors are upset, but their attitude is: "Those people are always angry about something."
Discontent from above seems to go with the job. When the managers return from a training program, however, they have a new list of complaints. Employees' perception is that a training seminar "makes" their supervisors dissatisfied with their performances, which have been relatively acceptable in the past. Before, they did know management was angry. "But now they're angry at us," the staff conclude.
The well-meaning seminar leader instructs the "student" managers to involve their people in the change process. When the "graduates" try to engage their staff as instructed, however, employees interpret "suggestions" as blame. Their perception is that sudden attention on them means they are at fault in some way.
Another communication problem is managers do not comprehend how dissatisfied their workers are with their performance. The truth is management has no genuine interest in hearing criticism, and there is no setup within the organization for direct feedback.
Managers have always perceived hostility from below, but believe it is just built into the power structure. They are quite taken aback at the lack of respect their workers have for them. They find the reason subordinates do what they are told is seldom out of respect for them or their explanation for assigning the task, but merely because the employees want to keep their jobs.
Developmental opportunities for leaders and followers are different.
For any kind of real change to occur, everyone has to change together. Both sides must be in the same state of readiness and willingness. They must all receive training, they must accept the same new goals, they must comprehend the same new language and they must be equally motivated. When there is an imbalance, a company can only limp forward toward its goals.
Almost always, managers believe in the change sooner than their subordinates do because all of the organization's attention is focused on them, viewing them as leaders and employees as followers. Furthermore, managers are far more aware of outside forces and how they affect the need to change. They are acquainted with the service area because they do collegial comparisons to get an update on what is happening in the industry that is going to change the function of their division in the future. Generally, members of the work force does not do this. Their attention is only on what they need to finish before the end of their day.
Therefore, organizations must compensate for the imbalance by raising employee consciousness about the changes that have to occur and widen their perspective of the marketplace.
Lack of motivation is often accompanied by a sense of entitlement. Within the workplace, there is a direct correlation between entitlement and motivation. If people believe they are entitled to their jobs and wage increases regardless of their performance, and they think they will get a paycheck no matter what happens, they will not be motivated to do better. In other words, entitlement causes inertia, which is the enemy of motivation.
The worker's reasoning is: "Even if do better, I won't be paid more, so why should I bother?" This is not the attitude of a high achiever. People who have high ideals are more interested in their own personal best than they are the size of their paychecks.
Taken from Jones' new book, "Help! I'm Surrounded By Idiots: A Workplace Survival Guide," available at www.worxpublishing.com. Jones is a motivational speaker and seminar leader. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. All letters are forwarded to the author and may be published as Letters to the Editor.