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April 20, 2016

How Big is the Chasm?

Ian's Morning Musing image

I was frankly startled by the results of a poll that was undertaken by Sail Point. The findings in their global survey claimed that 20% of the participating employees would give their work passwords to hackers in exchange for cash. This one in five ratio has worsened from the one in seven ratio recorded in a similar survey just two years ago. Interestingly, the U.S. scored even higher at 27%. I don’t know about you, but if this percentage is even remotely accurate, I find the number of seriously disgruntled employees (aka character deficiency) to be alarming.

Against this report, let me highlight Gallup’s very recent conclusion that only 35% of U.S. managers are engaged in their jobs, and that, 82% of the time, companies fail to choose managers with the appropriate competency. One might make a reasonable assumption that there are many managers who are not engaged because they themselves recognize that they are not well-suited to, and/or capable of, doing the job. If we accept the aforementioned information at face value, is it possible there could be a correlation between inept managers and dishonest employees?

Whatever attempts we have made to develop managers; it does not appear to have borne much fruit, at least on the basis of Gallup’s findings. Also, could there possibly be a correlation between this disturbing employee behaviour and the inequity between employee and executive pay? No doubts there are a slew of variables at play, but let me highlight one other in particular.

It is conceivable that this type of behaviour is in retribution for what organizations are doing, or perceived to be doing, to people? Christine Porath, an associate professor of management at Georgetown University, ?provided a statistic from polls of thousands of employees over the past 20 years; reportedly, 98% of these employees have personally experienced uncivil behaviour and 99% have witnessed it. She claims that we have fallen victim “to a work culture rife with rudeness, bullying, and other incivility” that has often trickled down through the ranks. More specifically, in 2011, half of those surveyed indicated they were treated badly at least once a week.

Contextually, rude behaviour ranged from outright nastiness and intentional undermining, to ignoring people’s opinions and to checking e-mails during meetings. Obviously, there is a wide spectrum, from being verbally abused to being offended over the use of an iPhone. Most, if not all, organizations have ?an employee, or two, who is always looking to find fault. Likewise, we likely have our fair share of naysayers and we treat them like the little boy that cried wolf. However, 98% means that too many leaders fall prey to falling short on a fairly regular basis. Moreover, Porath’s findings reveal that a mere 15% of employees report being satisfied with their employer’s handling of incivility.

It is hardly surprising then, that most employees do not bother to report inappropriate behaviour and/or rudeness. The fear factor, based on distrust and/or the imbalance of power between managers and employees, is the likely reason for this.

Many of us have faced the very upsetting, and sometimes unsettling, situation wherein our children are the victims of unprofessional treatment. Whatever guidance we provided, most of us recognize the need to strengthen the resolve of our children, and to toughen up to face life’s realities, even the unfair ones. Life can be cruel.

I think the same thing applies to our employees. We have to find the ways in which they can thrive and retain a vitality and enjoyment of life, even if they work for a manager who does not understand the importance of motivating employees, let alone being civil.

If we can accept the possibility that incivility is more widespread than what we want to believe in organizations, and if we make an assumption that Gallup’s ?recent claim that only one out of ten managers possesses the capabilities to lead well, would it not be profitable for us to build employee resiliency, which includes our own? To do that, Porath offers a two-pronged approach.

One is to thrive “cognitively,” which is to focus on individual growth, momentum and continual learning. This sense of personal growth, constantly moving us forward, better equips us to be more hopeful. Combine this with the second component of thriving “affectively,” which is the focus on our health and wellness, effectively renewing our capacity to be energized and passionate about the work we do.

This notion of rejuvenation is not lost on a company as successful as Facebook, who openly confesses to worrying about employee burnout. I am sure we have all experienced a situation(s) where we have been so immersed and motivated in our work that we have lost track of time. As CHROs, many of us would love to be in a place where we have to repeatedly make people go home because they are so engrossed in what they do.

Facebook is cognizant of the fact that employees need to “re-fuel” in order to keep progressing towards their laudable purpose of connecting the world. So, whether we are building individual employee capacity to counter ?management dysfunction, or re-fueling the energy cells in fast-paced companies, at the core, employees need a vitality to survive in some cases, and thrive in more positive situations. What a huge chasm there is between sabotage and igniting passion in the workplace.

Ian Hendry headshopt

Ian Hendry is the president of the Strategic Capability Network. In his Morning Musings, he provides insight on issues facing today’s business leaders and looks at subject matter related to upcoming SCNetwork events. He is also VP HR & Administration at Interac Association.


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