A Mutiny Through Lack of Engagement – A Silent Rebellion

JC-Penny
A mutiny occurs every day in organizations all over the world. They don’t usually make headlines or the business sections of publications. They may not display visible signs of hostility. They may not involve physically taking over a facility and relieving leadership of its command. The approach is subtler but devastating.

A mutiny is defined as forcible or passive resistance to lawful authority (Merriam – Webster’s dictionary). The word and concept, I observed recently while watching Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard in the 1962 movie classic, Mutiny on the Bounty.

The mutiny, in our context, is a revolution where people withhold potential and productivity. They will not give 100%. People who hold back on their best effort or potential. The revolt is on the inside. For example, they may not be totally engaged at work. They may give a quality performance, but not the virtuoso performance of their best effort. Some employees will adopt an “Over My Dead Body” mindset (OMDB), which means they theoretically would rather die than give their total cooperation to an organization or manager that does not respect or trust them. Workers may decide that the company does not deserve their best, therefore their masterpiece ideas, solutions and discretionary effort will be withheld; an insidious mutiny against unsuspecting leadership.

Mutiny on the Bounty is a story based on an actual event. The HMS Mutiny Bounty sailed in 1787, under the leadership of Captain, William Bligh. He was a difficult leader, whose ruthless leadership style focused only on the mission and not his men. One of his famous lines from the 1962 movie was, “Cruelty with a purpose is not cruelty, it is efficiency.” Captain Bligh was overthrown by members of his crew, led by Fletcher Christian (played by Marlon Brando) after demonstrating heartless behavior which led to the death of several of his men.

How do you stop a mutiny?

How do you stop a mutiny before it happens? Selecting a leader with the right skills, reputation and temperament is a good start. Open lines of communication and an atmosphere of trust through transparency and fair play creates a climate of accountability. In the movie, the sailors did not have their captain’s superior or someone in the function of Human Resources to hear their grievances. An effective human resources department provides an avenue for people to express their problems with leadership. Many times, such a person or department is not on-site. However, the organization may have an HR department or someone in that function to contact.

The beauty of our current leadership/managerial landscape is that many organizations have ascribed to the notion of a healthy work environment. There are employee surveys, satisfaction surveys, and engagement surveys to take the temperature or climate of the company. These surveys can uncover problems and managers can be presented with data and held accountable for changing their environment. These surveys are strengthened with direct contact with management and human resources to ensure the environment is conducive for maximum productivity.

It is imperative as a leader to gauge how your people are responding to your direction and the culture in your environment. A worst-case scenario may develop where people mentally abandon the company, but stay on the job, because you failed to address a toxic culture.

Managers can evaluate their culture through The Know System™ which could provide a simplified look at their environment. The Know System™ featured in the book The Isle of Knowledge is a fable about making better decisions. The story helps the reader to find the problems, solve problems and make better decisions.

The Know System™ is easy to use and helps the participants gather information to enhance the quality of their decisions and discussions. Let’s begin with 6 words from the word Know and a few related questions that relate to company culture.

1. Won – What would a winning culture look like to you? What type of atmosphere, level of engagement and customer satisfaction scores would represent success to you?
2. Know – What do you know and need to know about your culture and the people in your organization? (This can be enhanced with the words who, what, where, when, how and why, if appropriate)
3. Now – What are you doing now to ensure a healthy habitat? Are you placing priority on the proper indicators?
4. No – What are you doing that you need to stop doing? What goes against your culture and stated values that you need to say no to? What do your people want you to eliminate or stop doing?
5. On – You must always be vigilant to monitor culture and maintain a proper cultural air quality. What are you doing to track leading indicators of a great culture? How are you measuring your work environment? Some companies use a stop, start and to stay approach. What should they stop doing (say no to), start doing and continue doing regarding their culture? This could involve training, new goals and diversity and inclusion strategies.
6. Own – Do you own the culture as evidenced by leadership behavior? How are you holding yourself and others accountable? How are you reporting your performance and interest in a strong culture to your people?

When the organization does not feel like a respectful place, people feel that the company let them down and cannot be trusted. Mutiny or thoughts of mutiny are indicators the culture has failed or is failing many of its workers. They may resort to subversive action and taking matters into their own hands.

In the closing scene of Mutiny on the Bounty, Captain Bligh, who was overthrown and placed in a lifeboat with a few men and rations, finally arrived in England. He was not blamed for the mutiny; but it was “noted that officers of stainless record and seamen decided to revolt against him” and a mistake was made putting him in charge of the ship.

A mutiny may be disguised by a series of resignations and requests for transfers. Your top performers or the most influential members on your team may leave, causing a chain reaction of departures. Management must be perceptive, accessible and periodically check the culture pulse of the organization. People must believe that leadership is authentic, transparent and sincere and practices their core values. Trust will be enhanced when people really believe that they are the number one resource in the organization. Otherwise, silent mutinies will go unchecked, unnoticed, and people will be unfulfilled, and the cost to business, substantial.

Copyright © 2016 Orlando Ceaser

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