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

The Impact of Personnel Decisions on Employee Morale and Team Performance

Fashionably_Fired

People are fired every day. The remaining employees were witnesses to the personnel decision and the aftermath. Coworkers may not be familiar with the whole story. They may suspect a person had performance issues, but were not aware of all of the particulars. However, they will form an opinion. Their opinion can affect their morale and the overall performance of the team.

The grape-vine and the rumor mill are the primary sources of information. It may present a jaded, slanted, one-sided day and misguided view of what happened. If they only hear the side of the affected person, the company may not get a proper hearing. Employees may see their peer escorted from the building or received a phone call about an employee’s departure from the organization. Their interpretation of the event will send a buzz of communication throughout the company.  How management responds to these events will keep people focused and committed to the company and its goals and customers.

There are a series of personnel issues that management has to address. There are situations when a person violated company policies in an egregious manner. They may have a person in a job well over their heads. The situation is complicated when the person is personable with a long career with the organization. If they were no longer able to keep up with the workload, the job separation may have been a humane decision.  Termination was an act of mercy, putting them out of their misery, whether they saw it that way or not.

Some people will not discuss their status change with their peers or drag the company name in the mud. However, in an effort to look like a victim, some will blame the company for unfairness and cite a history of false claims which have nothing to do with their situation. They portray themselves in a positive light.

A sales representative was fired from her company for just cause. In order to save agents and preserve their ego she spreads lies to her peers. Additionally, she contacted the customers in her territory and made unfair, untrue accusations against her management and the organization. This caused a reduction in sales, as she was truly liked by her clients.

Human Nature

Human nature causes many of us to preserve our ego when we leave an organization on bad terms. People will rarely acknowledge their role in a termination. It is unusual to hear people say;

  • I was in over my head
  • I no longer had the necessary skills to perform the job
  • I lost my passion
  • The job had passed me by
  • I’ve violated company policy and was caught

It is more convenient to paint themselves as a victim and the company as the villain. Sometimes, people are fired for cheating or violating some of the companies’ rules and regulations. Invariably, Management will hear stories about the manager being a jerk, unfair and untrustworthy. If the person was highly regarded by their peers, there is a drop in trust and morale. Some people feel that if the affected person could be terminated, their own position may be very shaky or tenuous at best. “If they could let her go, I better watch my back.”

When people do not trust the company to do the right thing and feel decisions are made in a vindictive manner, employees will work out of fear. This fear increases anxiety and does not necessarily give the best performance and may show up or breakdown in other ways.

Professional Etiquette

Employees do not have access to the whole story, for it is not their business. However, if someone was struggling on the job, as a peer, they may have wondered, why the person was hired or why it took management so long to get them. If the person was not pulling their weight or were violating policies, their peers are usually the first to know. Many times after a person is terminated, the co-workers would ask, “What took you so long?” To which I would respond, “If you knew the person was a problem, why didn’t you come to us?” They would usually answer that it was not their job and they did not want to be responsible for someone losing their job.

Respect for employees and potential legal issues for the company, are good reasons to not discuss everyone’s performance issues. The best thing an organization can do is to discuss their overall personnel philosophy. If people trust the company and believe the company has their best interest at heart and act in a fair and impartial manner, they will assume the personnel decision was made for the right reasons. Companies candidly state they do not discuss individual performance levels of employees with their peers. However, they want everyone to know that personnel decisions are not made in a haphazard manner. They have a respectful workplace with an open door policy to allow all employees to discuss their performance with their manager and the Human Resources Department, when necessary. Some companies will allow employees to go over their supervisor to discuss performance with higher levels within the organization. This is a cultural matter which varies within companies and departments.

A Trusting Culture is the Key

I believe that prevention is the best intervention. This also applies to morale issues regarding terminations. The best response actually occurs on the front end. Within a high-performance culture where leadership is transparent and respectful, people are less likely to panic when someone is terminated. When a company has firmly established core values, people know what is expected of them. When these values are communicated, a culture develops that creates an environment of trust. David Horsager, in his book, The Trust Edge, says,” Everything of value is built on trust, from financial systems to relationships. He states eight components of The Pillars of Trust. They are clarity, compassion, character, competency, commitment, connection, contribution and consistency. When these eight pillars are strongly present, employees have to trust in their organizations.

The more employees know about the values behind decisions, the more trust and relaxation are present in the face of job actions. They realize that a termination or resignation is the result of an exhaustive, extensive series of events and soul-searching that may lead to the end of employment. Employees also realize that if they perform their jobs to the best of their ability, they will be treated fairly. They also, know that when people leave the organization, it is probably for a good reason.

Copyright © 2014 Orlando Ceaser

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