Years ago, I worked at a media corporation which had about 4,000 employees. The company is still alive and doing very well. One day, a company-wide email was sent from the VP of Human Resources outlining an upcoming employee voluntary survey.
He outlined the reasons for it, the benefits of it, and the fact that over a hundred stakeholders has been involved in creating it.
The usual items were mentioned; fair compensation, good health benefits, the ability to advance, and an atmosphere where strengths and passions are encouraged.
One item that scored surprisingly high on the survey was management’s inability to deal with non-performance. So what did that meant? This is what Malcolm Gladwell outlines in “The Tipping Point” as the broken window hypothesis. It is an environment where the little things are ignored which become big things which are also ignored. It’s easier to avoid than to deal. But if we don’t deal, we are fooling ourselves to think our behavior goes unnoticed. If we don’t care, how can we expect them to care?
Gladwell uses the example of the NYC transit commissioner who vowed no subway trains would leave the station with graffiti on them. Each time a car came into the yard marked up; it was cleaned and put back out. This cycle continued until maintenance workers began to see something remarkable – the tactic was working. The transit authority cared so New Yorkers began to care. Management dealt with non-performance – or in this case, the defacement of public property.
Recently, a colleague contacted me about doing some team building and leadership workshops with her team. They had conducted an internal survey and some behavior issues had come to the forefront. The challenge was how to address them. The purpose was not to call out the one or two employees others “thought” were the “problem”. It was a matter of including everyone in the solution.
Two members had been with the organization more than 25 years and their behavior had been endorsed and rewarded so neither thought they were the cause of any concern. They were the two people most other members mentioned when discussing any said concerns. But think about it for a moment, do we ever volunteer ourselves as the cause of the problem?
Didn't Want to See
In my colleague’s case, instead of moving forward with some valuable workshops that would have created a more cohesive team, stronger bottom line, and more enjoyable working atmosphere, she was fired. The non-performers had enough influence on the manager who didn't want to deal with all that icky people stuff he felt it was easier to get rid of the troublemaker.
We are living in a time when the world is still dealing with the worst economic downtown in 80 years yet we continue to hope problems go away and people just work harder.
Before we cut another job or corner, let’s have a good honest look at our own performance.
Kneale Mann | Leadership Strategist, consultant, writer, speaker, executive coach facilitating performance growth with leaders, management, and teams.