Prompted by Kieron's blog on employment law shake up which prompted commments from me, and Elaine  - as something that's important to me personally like Elaine, and professionally because it impacts peoples mental health and general well-being.

Why morale then and not mental health?  One stems from the other.  Good staff morale means good productivity, happy staff means good customer service, fulfilled people make effective decisions and choices with a clear goal ahead - for themselves and your company!

Often and at the moment there are 'initiatives' to improve workplace health and well-being - Groundwork, Mind and other organisations influenced by government objectives.    They are well aware that unhappy people are hard work to manage, co-ordinate and motivate.   So why then do employers so often fight instead of manage their staff? Why do they (you?) feel they need to control staff members, teams or departments?

Yes, I know that managers, leaders and organisations need to have control.  It's not the same as controlling people though.

As a counsellor I see clients influenced by bullying, micro-managing supervisors, new managers coming in to shake up the team or department - but which, in the end, serves to just upset the apple cart and not achieve the positive, proactive changes they intend and need to implement!

Why is that?

Several reasons perhaps.  You may have more and if so, please share.

  • The middle managers (some directors, not just supervisors, depending on the business model) feel insecure themselves in the changes so need to feel in control and hence control the behaviours of their staff, the people at the heart of the business
  • The staff get only part of the story, often not even half!  So they feel very uncertain, insecure and worried.  Very distracting from home and work isnt it, to worry about whats coming - good or bad?
  • Unhappy people have time off work, snap at other people, uncertainty brings arguments and disgruntled employees who fight for their own security, sometimes against their peers and colleagues - this just leads to lost productivity, time of work, distractions, minimal customer care and stress from the 'fight or flight syndrome' (lost jobs or fight to keep yours against colleagues, which has been common recently in organsations suffering cuts).

So whats the solution?

Emotional intelligence!  Sounds a little too "touchy-feely" for you?  Well, it is.  Touchy feely indeed - identifying feelings, empathy for your staff and their needs, understanding how they might or will react to change/news/shake ups/realignments/monitoring etc.   This is now recognised as key to good management.   EI as it is known means leaders and managers can predict - or preferably - ask employees what they will need to effectively manage the changes going on.  And then be able to give that to them.

No.  Its not to costly and time consuming.  Its efficiency and effectively managing change!

Understanding, appreciating and working with the PEOPLE in your organisation means you get the BEST from them!

Giving to receive is a good analogy.  It needn't be costly, not time-intenstive.  You really just need to ask - and listen to the answers then provide as much as you can to meet those needs and yours/your organisations.  If you cant't be honest and let your staff know what you can and cannot do.  They are like you -human and adaptive to change, eventually.  You know the goals, the outcomes, the objectives - maybe if they do too (real ones) then they can help.  You might be surprised at what comes out of this.  But yes, too, it helps to word it right being honest but professionally sharing the information with effective communication (format, timing, audience awareness, message etc).


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Comment by Julie Crowley on October 5, 2012 at 4:28pm

:) your daughter though is a budding woman and I quite agree with her there! ;)

Yes, you did say before there are too many procedures and policies etc. which does indeed make life difficult for all concerned generally, ticking boxes and remembering rules rather than doing the job in hand.  I like your comments about the culture attracting likeminded people, including customers presumably, intersting to think on that more.  I too was unsure about managing the performance side of things, so there is still a ruthless side to their management and having been a 'victim' of 'awkward management' techniques, I can vouch it isn't a proactive not effective long term strategy, if only because of the image publicly that will be shared following this treatment.  However, I guess that is a response to what most people say that it is hard to 'get rid of underperforming staff' which personally I'm not sure about, but believe there must be better ways - including supportive performance management/development (obviously where appropriate and cost effective though). 

Interesting and again, encourages this discussion further so thank you once again for your insights!  I'm learning lots and many ideas to consider and think about, and develop my own ideas further.  :) (Good luck with your daughter though and maybe you need to share some family techniques here for employers too!)


Comment by Kieron Hill on October 5, 2012 at 3:55pm

Quite agree, I think his point about getting rid of procedures and rules is absolutely spot on, we allow ourselves to get bogged down in procedures and processes which only serve to keep HR departments in business and don't actually achieve anythign for the company or employee. I was also interested to hear him say that another company used the style of harsh targets and ruthless management and it was still profitable it all comes down to setting a culture that is in line with your aspirations as a business owner, and following them consistently.

It has long been my view that you will attract to a business the sort of people who get on with the cuture you create. So if you set up a culture of harsh targets, ruthless culling and micro-management you will attract the type of people who thirve in that environment (and believe me there are plenty of people like that). If you set up a business with a culture of allowing people to achieve there goals through setting their own rules then that too will attract a certain type of employee, but will be anathema to others.

I share many of the views that James Timpson hold however I disagree with his views on dealing with colleagues who do not perform. However where I most agree with him is in the postiion of management in the structure. I managed about 300 staff for a corporate organisation and throughout I acheived my most satisfying results when I viewed myself as below them in the hierarchy and saw role my as supporting them rather than managing them. My embarassing failures occured when I forgot that principle and tried to get staff to support me as their manager or started to boss them around (even my 9 year old daughter won't let me get away with that!)

Comment by Julie Crowley on October 5, 2012 at 3:16pm

Further to this discussion Kieron, nice to see you at the talk at Mahdlo today with James Timpson (shoe repairs), who I though was inspirational in his staff management - using 'colleagues' and working as trusted equals, giving them responsibility but as discussed, expectations in return, and as well as providing for their basis needs of a wage, motivation with bonuses and benefits like loans.   It was all the type of thing I referred to here in meeting your staff's needs to gain their loyalty and productivity.   It clearly does work based on their turnover and a recruitment waiting list.  I was heartened by this and have tweeted/Facebooked the discussions a little with James's permission when he signed my book copy.  I look forward to the read and the additional insights perhaps, but yes, this is the sort of employer other employers could benefit from mimicking I think, in some ways at least.

Comment by Kieron Hill on September 28, 2012 at 11:00am

Good stuff Julie I completely agree the way you put this answers the criticisms I hear from small businesses about EI. Sometimes getting our ideas across is all about using the language that people understand and often the staff morale innovations seem to be aimed at their peers rather than busines owners who could really benefit from those ideas. the interesting bit for me (and my view has changed over the years) is where are the boundaries to that relationship. I think sometimes employers try to get involved in areas of their staff's lives that they shouldn't (this is often an attempt to be liked or tio control). A therapist friend of mine once pointed out that it doesn't say in the average contract of employment that staff should be committed to the copmpany they work for body and soul nor does it say that they should love the boss! Good to see you last night by the way!!

Comment by Julie Crowley on September 28, 2012 at 10:15am

It isnt about making employees happy, its about engaging in a mutually respectful and ;caring' way with other people (on both sides) which is what relationships of any kind are about, work being no different than other relationships.   Understanding, appreciation, acknowledgement and flexibility are what relationships need to work effectively.  Similarly at work.  Ignoring the needs of employees e.g. security in knowing whats really happening around them not half a story, security that they wont lose home and family when the company goes bust suddenly, believing they are working for the same objectives and values brings loyalty and commitment.

It isnt about changing business needs to suit someones wish to have a day off every week or to watch a football match when it suits.  Its about management's emotional intelligence - meeting essential needs of human beings in order for them to function at a 'high level (Maslows hierarchy of needs), and hence be creative, effective, commitmed and not distracted from the organisations business.   A leader or manager is still an employee of the organisation but they can meet those needs for security, knowledge and personal control when changes happen in companies (values and objectives, ownership, cuts and realignments -whatever those changes are), whilst those 'not in the know' cannot and feel loss of control.  They are therefore distracted in the lower levels of the hierarchy just trying to survive!  This damages their ability to provide their best for the organisations benefit.  And through no 'fault of their own' - its simply a human need, a human drive.  Thats all I'm saying about working with people to fullfill their needs - not their desires.   Organisational management dont always see that.  My experience, Elaines and many others recently have found this and talk about it at least to me, so it is out there as a real poroblem.  Unless its acknowledged and tackled it isnt going to help any business to grow or the economy to improve. 

Comment by Kieron Hill on September 27, 2012 at 9:22am
Very interesting Julie. I think we need to look at how we put these ideas to employers in a way that empathises with their needs as well. An example of this is that having an open, honest relationship with employees means telling them things they don't want to hear , not being a "confessor" who will bend over backwards to change their business to suit the private lives of employees. A personal view is that when employers step back from getting involved with their employees private lives, they start to set sensible boundaries which makes the workplace much more secure and hence a more comfortable place. One thing I would say is that making employees happy is a very loose ambition. My next door neighbours idea of happiness is to watch endless videos of West Bromwich Albion. I don't think trying to make him happy at work is commercially viable.




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