In this article, Derek Stockley discusses how important the influence of management is, particularly the influence of managers in senior positions.
Staff perception of management
When I wrote a human resources article* a few years ago, I included the following:
"Are managers mean?
Many employees seem to think that they are. In training sessions over the last twenty years, in both the public and private sectors alike, I have received some comments criticising managers for being uncaring, inconsiderate, bombastic or the like.
Comments on participant training evaluation forms have included comments like 'this training should be compulsory for all managers'. Such comments show that employees believe that managers need to develop their interpersonal and leadership skills. They also indicate concerns about the way employees feel they are managed...."
The influence management has is very significant.
Organisation examples of management influence
I was recently reminded of the above mentioned article when I heard about the demise of a key business unit of an organisation I know. Staff turnover had increased dramatically, with key staff leaving at about the same time.
Unfortunately, I was not surprised. The tell tale signs have been there for some time.
The first hint to me was when the organisation, without any consultation, changed its payment arrangements - basically changing payment terms overnight. This upset key people associated with the unit.
The unit staff seemed to focus heavily on organisational and political issues.
In situations like this, staff divert their attention to internal matters, rather than focussing on external relations and dealings. When customer service levels suffer as a consequence, a downward spiral begins.
When organisations are in difficulty, staff need support rather than poor treatment.
As much as is legally possible, staff need to be informed of the situation.
I was in a shop recently. The company had been reported in the media as being in difficulty. A comment was passed: "Are you closing down?" The counter staff immediately responded: "What have you heard?" In the short conversation that followed, the uncertainty faced by the staff was obvious, as was their concern about their future. They felt that they "would be the last to be told" what was happening.
In times of difficulty, communication with employees becomes more important. The shop staff were not positive about their situation and this was reflected in the way they acted. Poor morale is not helping. In times of difficulty, leadership is required. The staff should be asked to help and support the organisation through difficult times. Whilst legitimate concerns may be there, it is far better for staff to be working through the difficulties with management, rather than complaining about the "mushroom treatment" (keeping them in the dark).
Management actions are very important. If a company or organisation is in financial difficulty, then cost cutting may be inevitable. The way management tackles the problem determines the long-term outcome. Cost reduction that destroys morale will only have a short-term advantage if the organisational fabric is destroyed in the process.
Senior management have a major influence. The chief executive is a key appointment. His or her leadership is critical. The senior management team sets not only a direction but also "the tone" of how things are done.
In times of difficulty, it is important to work with staff. A positive culture, where people are working hard to overcome difficulties, is like a turbocharger.
On the other hand, forced change on an unwilling staff is like a big discharge of water into a desert - the sand quickly absorbs the life giving water. The same with poorly executed change. If management have not raised support, if they have not provided good leadership, then the energy is wasted.
If organisations lose their focus on service, they eventually suffer. If management influence is negative, rather than positive, staff morale and the organisation climate suffers.
In summary, management must back up their statements with positive actions. Their behaviour has to help rather than hinder. It has to be concrete, real and positive.
A desirable statement on a training evaluation form might be:
"It was good to see senior managers present. Their active participation in the summary session was most helpful. I know that their presence and commitment, combined with the training, can only help me perform even better in my position."
* People are still the most important asset - an article stressing the importance of people and discussion of some issues relating to the achievement of high levels of performance.
To the best of my knowledge, the details about the organisations described in this article are true. I have not had any business dealings with either organisation. The organisations are not current or past clients.
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