Pointing In The Wrong Direction

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What is truly puzzling in this age of mass communication is the increasing number of people who are unable to make any connection between the results of their efforts and their company’s future. When their employer suffers from a sudden market shift and the profit picture starts to dim, these people not only disconnect from the problems facing their employer; they also fail to collaborate to improve the situation.

To see what can happen if this condition persists without intervention, let’s listen in on a conversation with a group of managers whose company was struggling to stay afloat.

Early that same day a consultant had met with groups of workers who had complained bitterly about their managers. The managers in question sat quietly as the list of accusations unfurled before them. They could not believe all the complaints of incompetence, miscommunication and lackluster leadership. It was their perception that the main problems centered on the employees’ resistance to change, not them.

The animated discussion that followed exposed a lengthy list of their own complaints. Not surprisingly, their attitude towards the employees had the same vitriolic flavor as that of their subordinates.

To back up their accusations, they pointed out the levels of sick leave abuse, tardiness, absenteeism, bad attitudes, work stoppages and even sabotage that were occurring in every department. “What bothers me,” one manager said, “is that they only care about their paycheck. ”

This statement contradicted what the workers had reported earlier about people being fired just for pointing out a problem. The term “my way or the highway” was referenced repeatedly. None of the managers readily admitted to using those exact words. However, a few people finally did concede that they had used similar language when faced with an argumentative subordinate.

At the end of the session, the managers began to boil things down to the central concern: how to motivate the workforce. As one manager put it, “We’ve got to figure out a way to light a fire under the hourlies.” Since there was little indication that the “hourlies” wanted their fire lit, this suggested solution did not offer much promise.

The one thing both sides in this company had in common was that each pointed the finger at the other. Their lack of collaborative spirit was poking holes in a boat that was already sinking. At the root of the lingering animosity that tainted the whole relationship was the fact that they did not see themselves as corporate partners with common goals. Quite simply, there was no teamwork or cooperation whatsoever. All of their interactions centered on personality clashes instead of dealing with the task at hand: how to improve the product and how to get it into their customer’s hands more quickly.

In an environment like this, while people are busy pointing their fingers at one another, nothing is being done to address the productivity problems that are staring everyone in the face. The inattention to outcome by both sides negatively impacts sales, customer satisfaction, quality, materials inventory and even plant safety.

Sadly, such conditions are becoming more commonplace. It does not make for a pleasant or fulfilling experience no matter what your role.


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