Motivational Speaker Carole Spiers explains that a healthy workplace culture comes from inspiration, not regulation
Just the other year, a startling new phrase ‘toxic culture’ became part of the verbal diet of HR departments and professional counselling teams. It was not actually describing anything very new. But it did put out a depressing signal about the general workplace atmosphere after so many decades of legislation about working hours and conditions, employee welfare and pollution control.
By now, it was supposed, sickness and absenteeism would have melted away, shopfloor violence would be unheard-of, strikes would be a distant memory, and team morale would have improved so much that the subject wouldn’t need mentioning.
Instead, managements are having to cope with cycles of low morale, leading to poor performance and profitability - which in turn threaten the jobs of good and bad employees alike.
What is their best route towards a healthy corporate culture ?
The regulations - all part of the problem
We’ve all heard of well-meant laws that turn out to have the opposite effect from the one intended (Prohibition in America, for example.) Well, it’s possible to see a parallel in the soaring piles of workplace regulations, originally designed to keep rogue-bosses in line, with the government effectively taking over large parts of their responsibilities.
But you can’t get something for nothing. If you inhibit the power of management to manage, you are tying the hands of the young leaders, and preventing them from making those bold, imaginative leaps which fuel innovation and create jobs. In other words, preventing them from applying necessary leadership.
In April 2007, Personnel Today reported a serious leadership crisis in UK business, with a majority of managers admitting that they felt under-confident about their leadership skills.
Let’s see how this works in practice.
Vacuum of command
A good young manager wants to show a prospective new client around the works. But owing to a technical fault, the temperature in the boiler-room is one degree hotter than permitted, and nobody may pass through. The visit has to be cancelled and the contract is lost, along with a number of new jobs.
How do we read this situation? Is it a case of men driven to their limit by appalling shopfloor conditions? No, they have walked out on a technicality, simply because they were allowed to. There has been a vacuum of command and they have felt no urge to support their employer.
If the manager had been allowed to manage, the workforce would have been assured of his goodwill in keeping the temperature comfortable, and probably wouldn’t have noticed a one-degree fluctuation. Even if they had, they would be likely to back him.
The management of change
That was one small and simple case, just to illustrate the point about conflicting loyalties. Many real-life cases revolve around a much bigger and more complex issue: the management of change.
Now this represents a massive challenge in confronting a workforce with unwelcome truths, and often having to explain what look like broken pledges, such as job-for-life.
It also represents a massive opportunity for managers to throw away the rule-book (because the rule-book can do so little about change) and provide active and inspiring leadership - sometimes in an eve-of-battle spirit that may encourage a bold, risk-taking attitude among people who had never thought that way before.
Change management is a wide brief that places great demands on your communication skills, your imagination, and your gift for making rapport with different human types. You may be having to introduce a low-tech workforce to unfamiliar new IT systems. You may be having to mastermind a big relocation, perhaps against strong resistance. You may be having to enforce the latest diversity laws with appropriate tact and sensitivity. You may be having to steer your team around the pitfalls of a merger or takeover.
The three standard responses to forthcoming change
Seeing the need for change. Able to understand the strategic aims driving it. Perceiving opportunities it can bring for their own career. These people are your natural allies. You could train them with formal change-management courses.
Mistrusting the new and the untried. Wanting to cling to 'familiar furnishings'. Feeling cheated out of expectations based on no-change. These people need sophisticated counselling, using 'active listening' to diagnose their problems and frame solutions.
Undecided ... Agonising on the brink. Suffering from conflicting loyalties and contradictory impulses that inhibit performance. These people are suffering from a high degree of stress, requiring specialist interventions.
In managing corporate change as it affects your employees’ life and work, you are also demonstrating the steady change in the role of management itself. Away from coercion towards persuasion. Away from hierarchies towards the encouragement of empowerment through self-development. Away from petty rules sometimes enforced out of spite by the ‘little-guy-with-a-bit-of-power’, towards working with loyalty and love, like a craftsman.
Helping to create a corporate culture that is healthy physically, healthy mentally, healthy spiritually.
Carole Spiers is an International Motivational Speaker and founder of Carole Spiers Group, one of the UKs leading stress management consultancies, whose psychological insights have improved productivity for clients such as Sainsbury’s, Tecom (Dubai), Unilever, the Bank of England and many others. www.carolespiersgroup.com gives authoritative advice on healthy corporate culture and both the human aspects of workplace stress, including workplace bullying, violence, post-trauma, redundancy, absenteeism and stalled negotiations. Carole is Author of Tolley’s ‘Managing Stress in the Workplace’ and ‘Turn Your Passion Into Profit’
Their publications and sales CDs have been sold globally. To sign up for their FREE stress management updates and stress tips – click http://tinyurl.com/zxbgo or for more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +44 (0) 29 8954 1593. www.carolespiersgroup.com
Meet Carole Spiers in person at her Self-Marketing Bootcamp ‘Turn Your Passion Into Profit’ in central London, Thursday June 28th 2007. And discover the fastest way to grow your new business, gain clients, boost profits – all on a zero budget! Click here http://www.turnyourpassionintoprofit.co.uk/ to book your space before all tickets are sold out.