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October 5, 2015

Management get the Workers they Deserve!

Some years ago I read a book on industrial relations whose conclusion was, in effect, “management get the workers they deserve”. Sadly I can no longer remember the title of the book nor its author, so I cannot give the well-deserved credit for this enlightening thought.

I believe that, in most cases, this is true – management do get the workers they deserve – which is to say that the organisation’s culture and working environment are set by management behaviour and attitude. If an organisation ends up with a cynical attitude to change, and a low level of participation in improvement, then it is management’s fault. Too many “flavour of the month” initiatives which come to nothing as management attention drifts to another “quick fix”; too many exhortations about “working together” and “openness” sunk by political game playing; too many promises broken as management protect their self interest; too much management focus on making targets (driven by performance ratings and bonuses) at the expense of efficient and effective processes.

Of course some industrial relations, particularly in the public sector, are driven by wider political agendas, but in most cases poor levels of employee engagement, cynicism to change, and a lack of belief in management mantras are, I believe, all caused by management themselves.

Change projects fail not because of the workers but because of management. It’s your fault managers! You’ve created the atmosphere of cynicism, game-playing and “keeping your head down”!.

This puts me in mind of something I learned on a training course a while ago. It is a phrase that you may be familiar with – “the meaning of communication is the response that you get”.

So true. It is not enough to make “state of the nation” announcements, publish glossy posters and leaflets, and set up project teams. Communication is not about making pronouncements (a management skill found in abundance). Communication is about listening and understanding. It is about connecting (a management skill sorely lacking).

The meaning of communication is the response you get. If your change plans lack traction or your improvement projects lack engagement, blame not your staff: blame yourself. The tone and example you set as a manager counts more than any “initiatives” and “projects” you put in place, or motivational “state of the nation” talks you give. Stop pronouncing and start connecting.

Management get the workers they deserve.

To get the workers you desire change your own approach to management and communication: listen, study, understand, engage, act.