Work Cultures and Management - Part I

Management can be considered the ‘glue’ that holds the company together. They are required to be strong and capable because they are called upon to meet and fulfil the demands of senior management as well as being directly responsible for the day-to-day challenges that eventuate from the employees.

The phrase “Employees leave managers not their company” although correct in many cases, is not always accurate as the problem goes further. What is happening to the Manager who is often “The meat in the sandwich” and where ‘everyone’ wants a bite?
There can be direct personality clashes or bullying by those who have the greater authority – these can instantly influence the immediate working culture and can have devastating consequences on those who are on the receiving end – (management included).
But what about when there is a general awareness of poor working culture and nothing appears to be done about it? “It’s the norm, so get used to it…”.
How does this affect the views of employees regarding management and the company? Accept it or not, it will affect their perspective of the company and question its’ true intentions and this in turn affects motivation and a host of other things.
Also, how does it affect manager’s views of the company, and their willingness to shape and strengthen the company when they see what the employee sees?
The message here is, that it’s not always the manager that is at ‘fault’. They are human too (though sometimes that is questioned). There is a bigger picture.

Being the “meat in the sandwich” there is immense pressure from both sides.

Managers need to know what is going on in the company elsewhere and see the factors that produce environments (cultures) that work and those that do not work – otherwise, they will work in ‘isolation’.
As a great person once said, “Imagination is everything…” and how management and the company are imagined and perceived helps drive prevailing working cultures.

Every manager has their own desires and approaches in the way they wish to develop their work environment with their team(s). This implies there are many working cultures existing in an organisation of which some are very good and others seem to be the complete opposite. One encourages whilst the other discourages.

In addition, employees are more than aware of when managers are under pressure and when their behaviours change. They are fully aware of destructive leadership behaviours – because it’s an ongoing pattern recognised by many people and not isolated incidents.

Employees often wonder why such adverse ways of treating employees are allowed. It must be that disruptive leadership behaviours are condoned by senior management. This then makes a mockery of the company’s core values that are promoted and ‘advertised’ for all to see via the Company’s website and promotional material. If senior management says they are not aware, then it makes a mockery of senior management.

When the manager has a positive encompassing approach, it can trickle out to other departments’ employees with whom they may interact, yet this is not enough to have a similar style instantly replicated elsewhere. The opportunity for this to happen must be driven from elsewhere.

The common sense factor that happy workers produce more – is sometimes not that common in a company.
Expectations from senior levels often anticipate managers becoming leaders and more recently ‘coaches’, yet these roles require different skill sets. So some will succeed, whilst others may not.

Managers typically refrain from openly expressing dissatisfaction with their superiors to their subordinates and may experience a sense of isolation. Consequently, employees observe the resulting behaviours and communication style and know there is something amiss.  When managers struggle to cope, it creates uncertainty because they are unaware of the cause of the observed behaviours. This inevitably unsettles the department as they go about their duties. 

Where there are areas of the business that generate uncertainty it creates what I have always referred to as “Pockets of Productivity”, which is very common in larger organisations. This is where both the manager and their ‘group’ of employees, retreat to their haven environment because they get on and achieve things. They try to ‘isolate’ themselves from others and company factors that disrupt, detract and create negative energy.
Managers and employees genuinely want to have a sense of purpose and achievement through their contributions and to enjoy working together as they perform their duties. This needs to be cultivated.

People join a company for “Gainful” employment. It’s a Self-Oriented decision because they believe they will receive their perceived rewards for the amount of effort expended and hopefully personally develop in the process. The extent to which they receive their rewards and opportunities for growth determines the direction of the working cultures that prevail - this includes managers.

Basically, when those perceived gains are no longer forthcoming, they will leave – period. Either physically or in the case of many others “mentally”. Both circumstances cost the company vast amounts.

So common is this, that it becomes par for the course. "It's what happens in business".  So companies budget $millions for the losses and the recruitment costs etc. without really understanding why it’s happening or if they do understand and do nothing to correct they justify.
“It’s ok we can afford it”, “It’s budgeted for…” – so the justification becomes part of the process and perpetuates the losses.

This is now a senior management and executive issue, not necessarily an HR problem and requires a deeper and more thorough exploration. 

Successful organisations work together from the top down and the bottom up and have awareness due to more opportunities to communicate without retribution.
So what can managers actually do to help themselves without it being a CLM (Career Limiting Move)? 

We'll explore this further in “Part – II” of this newsletter.


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