Peter de Jager is a provocative Speaker,
Writer and Consultant. His primary focus in on how we manage change,
technology and the future.
In addition to speaking at conferences
worldwide, he's also written monthly columns for CIO Magazine and
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think is so, and in so doing perhaps open up new opportunities.
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Consider these situations;
• One afternoon three people, out of a remaining staff of five, hand in their resignations.
The resumes of the other two employees are already in circulation.
• An employee who used to be reliable, pleasant and productive is now missing deadlines,
surly and doing the least amount of work possible without getting fired.
• An individual, who was once creative and innovative at every opportunity, now never
offers an opinion or an idea.
In each case, the manager has no idea what is going on. That ignorance of cause won’t stop the managers from taking action:
• The manager will complain that employees have no loyalty. He will come to the conclusion
that good help is hard to find and isn’t looking forward to the cost and effort necessary to
replace the three departees.
• As soon as he can, he’ll find a reason to fire the individual in question. His reasoning is
simple, “We’re responsible for our own attitude” and “bad attitude can’t be tolerated
in any organization.”
• He expects that this individual will progress beyond silence, into full fledged bad attitude.
He begins to document why he will be forced to terminate the employee.
The sad reality is that these are all real life examples, and the managers in question were directly responsible for their own pain.
Here are the three causes; they share a common theme “Poor People Skills”;
• The employees had worked on a priority project for two months. They worked
10-12 hours everyday, including weekends, ultimately the project was a success.
At the end of the project they were given one day off, and then one of the employees
was ‘let go’ for financial reasons.
• Management made a promise to the individual that when a particular position opened
up, they would promote that individual. The position went to an external hire.
• Credit for an idea offered to the company and adopted with great enthusiasm and
success, went to the manager. He never mentioned the employee’s role in the process.
If these situations, and their many variations, weren’t so common, they wouldn’t
be worth writing about. Yet, they are common and even though no reader of this article will admit to being guilty of these offences… they’re worth discussing as a symptom of a management failing.
We know that if we impose on people, then we should go out of our way to compensate
them. If we don’t, since people don’t like being taken advantage of, they’ll leave at the
first opportunity. The best leave first.
We’ve known since kindergarten that a promise is a promise and going back on our word,
will result in dire consequences. People are trusting until we prove to them their trust is
We know, because we don’t like it being done to us that we shouldn’t take credit for work
done by others. Theft of credit is considered a crime by all except the courts.
Why then do we choose to treat people this way? More to the point, why don’t we understand that treating people unfairly inevitably works against us?
I suspect, but cannot prove, that the answer is embarrassingly simple. Managers don’t really perceive their staff as “People”,
staff are merely “Resources” which we deploy like machines to accomplish tasks. The fact that most companies have a Human “Resources” department, lends some credence to this suspicion.
If we accept the proposition that companies don't think of employees as
people, or that managers don’t think of their staff as people, then that
would explain why we work people until they drop, break promises and treat their effort as if
they were our own.
That’s a ludicrous proposition of course. I’m not aware of any manager, even those guilty in the above situations, who would admit
that they see their people as just "resources".
Yet… despite those denials, the actions just described make sense only if we assume managers perceive their people as nothing more than machines.
Is there a solution? There isn’t a reader of this article who doesn’t know what the answer is… treat people as people. A simple, obvious solution, begging the question… why don’t we do that?
© 2006 Peter de Jager - Peter is a Keynote Speaker and consultant specializing in Change Management.
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