Who do People work for?

Ms. Madhuri Gupta the 53 year old member of the Indian IFS - Indian Foreign Service was recently arrested for allegedly spying and providing information to Pakistan. Most Indians were aghast, many wondered, how could she have indulged in such unpatriotic activities?

Ms. Madhuri claims that she did not receive any financial benefit but did it only to take revenge against her bosses in the IFS, who treated her badly.

This raises several big questions ;
1. What do we Indians understand and believe is India ?
2. What is patriotism in today's world.?
3. Who do people work for?
It would take too long to go into all the points therefore here are some thoughts on the last point.
• Try to meet your elected representative in Government. Is he or she even approachable?
• Visit a government office, do they appear to be the servants of the citizens?
• What about many organisations, do they exist for the customer?
• Look at employees, how often do they work for and in the interest of their organisation?
Legally and technically these people work for their organisation and stakeholders, but in reality they work for people. They work for their superiors within the organisation i.e. people, within their organisations.

Ms. Gupta appears to be prima facie unpatriotic, she claims that she bears no ill will against her country. She says her damaging actions arise from her ire against her bosses and the system she worked in.

Was Ms. Gupta always negative? If she rose through the organisation she must have been doing something positive. When did she become negative and what caused her to become like this?

It may come as a surprise but secret destructive behaviour where in people turn against their own organisations, is not all that uncommon. This happens nearly all the time and across many types of organisations.

I must once again refer to various American studies for strengthening my point of view. Beyond doubt the maximum amount of documented research on all topics are carried out in the USA.
Corporate Organisational Board which is a for profit think tank based in Washington DC in the United States carried out a survey in 2004 on 50,000 executives worldwide on an Employee Engagement Survey. The results show that ;

  • Emotional factors are four times more effective than rational factors when it comes to employee effort
  • Engaged ( connected) employees are 20% more effective than the average employee.
  • 72% of the people surveyed in the global workforce say that they are not fully engaged in their work ( they do not feel connected or have a sense of belonging to their organisations)
  • Of this 75%, twenty percent of the employees are actively disengaged from their work and 11% said they actually worked against their organisations. This negativity is most often expressed in ways like not doing the right thing or sharing information with colleagues. About 3% work to actively sabotage the organisations efforts.
    Another research has repeatedly shown that nearly 73% of poor morale is the result of poor leadership.

Lets refer to another view based on one of the largest studies undertaken by the Gallup Organization. The study surveyed over a million employees and 80,000 managers and was published in a book called "First Break All The Rules". It came up with this surprising finding:

If you're losing good people, look to their manager .... the manager is the reason people stay and thrive in an organization. And he's the reason why people leave. When people leave they take knowledge, experience and contacts with them, straight to the competition.

" People leave managers not companies ," write the authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

Mostly manager drives people away?

When people cannot retort openly in anger, they do so by passive aggression. By digging their heels in and slowing down. By doing only what they are told to do and no more. By omitting to give the boss crucial information. A colleague says: "If you work for a jerk, you basically want to get him into trouble. You don't have your heart and soul in the job."

Different managers can stress out employees in different ways - by being too controlling, too suspicious, too pushy, too critical, but they forget that employees and subordinates are not fixed assets, they are free agents. When this goes on too long, an employee will retaliate in numerous ways and the trigger may even be a trivial issue.

Human Resource experts say that of all the abuses, employees find humiliation the most intolerable. The first time, an employee may not do anything, but a thought has been planted. The second time, that thought gets strengthened. The third time onwards, he or she acts and in most cases they look for another job. In Madhuri Gupta’s case she did not leave the organisation, she sold her organisation by compromising it.

On the other hand there are individuals who give their all to build and nourish their organisations, again this is based on good leadership and a positive work environment.
In the positive or in the negative view taken by these people, the major influencing their outlook and hence actions stem from their superiors. In their growing up years it is family and teachers. In later years it is the person for whom they work for. In the case of the entrepreneur, they look only at themselves based on their heroes.

What can you do to avoid becoming a Madhuri Gupta or have someone like her running loose within your organisation or even personal life? Let me share with you our own experience.

The first generation owners of our company, my uncle and father had a very rough relationship with employees. The relationship was always confrontational.

We inherited many good practices and things, but good labour relations was not part of our legacy. Soon after taking over we had a labour strike. After a very long conflict which lasted over 17 months both we and our workmen were drained out.

We brothers learnt from observing our elders and from the labour strike, that there are no victors in a war, there are only losers.
So we resolved to build and nurture a harmonious relationship with employees and create a positive environment to grow, not only for the company but the employees as well.

While it was the right and moral thing to do, our management team did not see it that way.
Managers and staff thought we had lost the will to fight and we were crazy. They had developed a hardened attitude.
On the other hand in spite of our best efforts we simply could not win over our workers, they refused to believe that we had lost our taste for battle.

Their reactions were understandable after all perception always lasts longer than fact.
We followed a simple rule of advertising; 'Keep the message simple, repeat it often'. It took a good a couple of years for everyone to start believing us and our intentions. Even then it remained fragile for another couple of years before becoming solid.

With the grace of God and the support of many, our family, customers, suppliers and our employees we started a brilliant rise in our fortunes. The employees were charged when they saw that by believing in themselves, their colleagues and their organisation we could truly become a world class organisation with win-win and all inclusive growth.

This meteoric rise gave birth to many issues but the biggest problem was recruiting people who shared our beliefs.
We were constantly on the lookout for managerial talent. We recruited many managers and staff members who were tested for technical competence and knowledge. We were however negligent about their people skills and values. In time we realised the heavy price we had to pay for this negligence.

Human beings tend to try and dominate their immediate circle of influence. They want to be the Alfa member of the pack. Some do it by the primitive way of violence and fear, others do it by persuasion and offering rewards.

The art of good management is to seduce people to achieve rather than intimidating them to do your bidding. It requires significantly greater effort and patience to inspire and lead than to forcibly drive people. We can drive people with fear or we can lead with inspiration or a reasonable combination of both fear and rewards.

Several staff members, managers and general managers were recruited that pretended to share our values but were actually belligerent and even abusive in their conduct with their junior team members. Several cases of molesting workers in addition to frequent verbal abuse were reported.

These slave drivers did get output to rise dramatically, after all fear is a powerful driver of human action. However a year and a half later down the road, all our efforts directed towards nurturing relationships, team building and providing a sense of belonging went down the tube.

When confronted the belligerent managers took pride in their actions, claiming that your juniors should be fearful of the boss. Violence is the most primitive behaviour of mankind and should not be tolerated particularly in a progressive organisation.

In one plant we took immediate action and in the other we failed to take any noticeable action because the managers were 'indispensable'.

Blaming urgencies many people recruit senior staff that do not share their management's or organisation's values. One bad boss can turn an entire section of people within the organisation against itself.

Sadly when faced with a dilemma, values are often sacrificed at the altar of expediency. We too had been guilty on this count.

When running under extreme pressure there is a tendency to take shortcuts or to take shoot from the hip decisions. We soon learnt that “a shortcut is the longest distance between two points.”

Exploitive relationships can be developed in an instant , but there are no shortcuts in building genuine relationships. They have to be developed and nurtured over time, yet they can be destroyed quickly with a few stupid words or thoughtless policies and actions.

Eventually we got our act together and changed our approach. We weeded out people who were not in tune with our beliefs, regretfully some of them were outstanding in their technical competence, they just operated on a different frequency. By our actions we were more than rewarded by the commitment and hard work of a magnificently effective team. An organisation can never be free of malicious people, but they can certainly create an environment where such people find it hard to survive let alone thrive.

People work for other people before they work for organisations and nations.

With a fairly significant percentage of people disengaged and disconnected from their organisations, we should not be surprised if we continue to see many more people like Madhuri Gupta emerging in Government and within business. Effective management of people and relationships so as to be productive and positive, is the hallmark of great nations and institutions.
Question is what type of organisation do you want to be leading or working for?


Post a Comment