#258 from R&D
Innovator Volume 6, Number 1
Markowich, a consultant, speaker and author, specializes in
organizational development and the management of change, and is on
the faculty of Temple University School of Business.
He is located in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, and can
be reached at (215) 938-1687.
With terms like
empowerment, involvement and ownership filling the massive
management literature, you’d think that, by now, all workers
would be excited about their work and would trust their
many remain cynics, mistrusting their bosses, and management in
general. So how can
management gain trust, and gain the energy and creativity that
comes from such trust?
recommendations are based on the following five assumptions:
don’t come to work to:
3) People have a vested interest in seeing their company prosper.
4) People support what they help create.
5) People aren’t, by nature, passive or resistant to
assumptions, let’s consider the following actions.
to be cynical if you believe in your boss.
People will be loyal to a leader who has earned
A company was
undergoing a union drive and the president sent every employee a
note asking them to vote against the union.
However, the note had the opposite
effect. He had
minimal credibility with his employees.
He hardly left the executive suite, and was seen as the
invisible ruler. As a
result, any hope of defeating the union disappeared with that
to distinguish themselves. Let
others become heroes. In
a cynical company, it’s not unusual to hear that it’s only a
good idea if the boss thinks of it!
I know of a case
where a specialist saved many thousands of dollars through a
simple auditing change. Her
manager, asked her to send the report of this savings directly to
the president. The manager was willing to give the specialist all of the
managers, I believe, would have contacted the president,
Ask not what your
workers can do for you, but what you can do for your workers. Are you a problem solver or a problem causer?
A manager’s value is often a product of other’s
efforts. Why should
subordinates work hard to make the boss look good? One reason is if the manager helps employees with their work.
This can happen by being available to answer questions and
employee whose performance is based on receiving accurate and
timely information from other departments.
If the information is late or inaccurate, the employee may
complain and look to the manager for help.
You can imagine the impact of a manager who assists versus
the manager who isn’t interested, or is too busy, to get
Lack of respect
for customers is a key ingredient in a cynical company. Unfortunately, many employees take their frustration out on
customers—the people who really pay their salaries.
I came across
Audrey whose job it was to resolve customer problems.
Many times a customer would be very upset and emotional.
They took it out on Audrey.
However, she always kept her cool.
I asked what her secret was and Audrey responded with, “I
don’t have the problem, the customers do.
My job is to help them, so why should I get upset just
because they’re upset?” She
knew her job, and did it well.
Staff who have
the greatest involvement in the planning process, have the highest
level of interest and commitment.
One way to achieve this involvement is through
self-managing work teams, where a group of workers decide the best
way to achieve output. Another
way is through gain-sharing, where employees receive part of the
savings realized by achieving projected productivity targets.
Programs that encourage employee involvement have turned
many failing companies around.
It’s risky to
ask employees for their opinions.
If takes guts to do something other than to say, “We’ll
take your ideas under advisement.”
I’ve looked into why people are generally reluctant to
give ideas for improvements.
They had learned to be cynical for these reasons:
Fear the boss
will take credit if the idea works; but if it fails, credit will
quickly be attributed to the person who had the idea.
Fear of being
embarrassed or put down by the boss.
co-workers will resent the idea.
Fear that the
boss will view the idea as a threat.
“Is he trying to show me up?”
Fear that the
boss will see the employee as a troublemaker.
have an especially difficult time offering ideas.
Co-workers may be afraid, or jealous, of a potentially
fast-rising star. “What
makes that new employee think she already knows how to do things
You need to
create an atmosphere where staff will offer ideas; a few will be
good, many only O.K., and a few will be bad.
However, without an environment that fosters new ideas, you
won’t be getting those few good ones.
And they are what you need to survive in these fast-paced
share the pain during hard times: cutbacks, wage freezes and
demanding more are examples.
But what happens when the company turns around?
More often than not, it is only the higher levels of
administration that are rewarded.
Some executives fear that bonuses and other incentive
programs will become expectations, once granted.
I find that
employees accept discontinuation of bonuses in bad times if
facts are given and if
there’s a willingness to share the spoils.
Can you blame workers for being cynical when they don’t
receive raises for financial reasons, but executives still get
and not TGIF
Thank God it’s
Monday, and not Thank God it’s Friday.
You have arrived when employees say TGIM and not TGIF.
You probably laughed when seeing TGIM.
However, think about the amount of time you spend traveling
to work, working and then returning home.
Multiply the hours by five.
It’s a big number. You
owe it to yourself and your employees to go from TGIF to TGIM.
The failure to
defeat cynicism will be very costly and is one battle management
cannot afford to lose. Fortunately,
cynicism doesn’t have to prevail.
The legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, said,
“It’s not a question of how you play, but whether you win.”
However, I believe, “How we play will determine if we