08/12/2009

By Guy Norgrove

Once any organization gets past the “happy family” stage it is a racing certainty that someone somewhere is feeling left out. Its not so much the fact in itself that should ring alarm bells, it’s the capacity that person has to “infect” everyone else that should make you sit up and take notice. In any event their very existence points to a lack of transparency in the organization that is not ideal.

Now it could be that you are happy with the mushroom manager approach to staff, but really, haven’t we gone past that stage by now. That was the subtext of 1960s , 1970s and 1980s British industrial relations. We would all like to think those days had gone for good, but it seems that with postal workers and management and British Airways the body corporate just does not learn its lessons anywhere near quick enough.

It does perhaps seem trite to say that any vacuum anywhere in either physics or the workplace has a propensity to get filled with something. In the case of industrial relations a management vacuum will be filled by disgruntled workers, and management through its inaction will have lost both the initiative and the right to manage which is after all said and done, an “understanding” between the various stakeholders in an organization.

Going back to “infection”, the important thing is to recognize that there is a problem if even just one valuable person feels disenfranchised. It might be tempting to think that it’s a one-off, that they were always difficult or that its somehow their fault for not working “it” out for themselves. One thing is guaranteed though, and that is that everyone else will know within a week of perceived “disenfranchisement” happening that that person is disgruntled, and some will start to identify and sympathise with their “plight” and before you know it you have a bush fire that takes far longer to put out than if you had nipped it in the bud, or arranged programmes and processes that prevent it happening in the first place.

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