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Great Organisation @Learning ([email protected])

Great leaders transform toxic cultures by empowering, involving, listening, appreciating, challenging, supporting, mentoring and coaching people potential. They value hard work, honesty, integrity, commitment and create a collective team-vision

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Two years ago, while speaking at a HR/ OD conference in London, I explained to the HR/OD-community why Best/Great-places-to-work in may be a flawed concept. A HR-Director of a Fortune 100 company stood up and said, “Jerry, we are in GPW-rating, so what makes you say that?” I said, “Ma’am, let me explain with some hard-data and research, but before that let’s learn from this light-hearted joke”.

One day Hari Sadu is hit by a bus.  (for the uninitiated, Hari is an obnoxious manager, who was the poster-boy for the TV commercial of India’s biggest job-portal I played the video at the event. In the video, Hari’s direct-reportee conveys to a restaurant reservation-executive the spelling of Hari’s name as “H for Hit­ler, A for Arrogant, R for Rascal, I for Idiot and S for Scoundrel, A for Ass_ _ _ e, etc)”.

He dies and arrives at the gates of Heaven and Hell. God and Satan who are both in the welcoming committee, greet him. Hari, who has made people’s lives miserable as a boss for years, feels he will end up in Hell, He is shocked when the welcoming-committee tells him, “You have a One-Day-Trial-Offer in each place before you choose your permanent abode.”

Hari chooses Hell first. The doors open and he steps into a beautiful luxury resort. There are a variety of music concerts happening. Everyone is partying and having fun. Hari has great fun and enjoys dancing and singing with everyone. Once his 24 hours are over, Satan escorts him to the gate and bids him adieu.

Now it’s time to spend a day in Heaven, where Hari meets all wonderful, harmonious, peace-loving people who enjoy gardening, soft music, leisure, family time, learning and knowledge-sharing and pleasant conversations. Before Hari realises it, the trial-period in Heaven is over and God leads him out.

It’s Hari’s moment of choice and he has to decide where to stay permanently. Hari thinks for some time and replies, “Well, I never thought I’d say this, I mean, Heaven has been really great, but I think I had a better time in Hell.”

Satan is overjoyed, but God nudges Hari to think again and reminds him it’s a permanent decision now and it’s a one-way entry. Hari is unyielding about his choice, so Satan guides him back to Hell and says, “Open-Sesame”. The gates open and Hari steps in with Satan.

Now, Hari finds himself in a forsaken, wasteland which is stinking, miserable, hot with putrid smells and sees everyone around, suffering in misery and pain. The Devil puts his arm around Hari, who stammers, “I don’t understand. Yesterday I was here and everyone was partying. What happened today?”

Satan leers at Hari and says, “Yesterday was the enticing Great-Places-To-Work recruitment-process, now you’re my employee and I am your manager. WELCOME TO HELL!”  

I further explained to the gathering of HR/OD heads, “Technically NO-PLACE can be great to work in! Why? Simply because people join a place but work for a MANAGER! If you compare Great-Places-To-Work ratings with employee-comments on Glassdoor, it’s contradictory.  When we check the REAL REASONS for leaving, as independent HR-OD coaches-consultants, months after they have left and settled in other jobs, we are often told that they could not cope with the unreasonable whims and demands of managers. (Note: In exit-interviews, conducted by HR-Heads in the full-and-final settlement days, most employees fudge the real-reason, because they are fearful of not being paid their salaries and dread retribution from their managers/organisation).

Most people join an organisation but work for a manager. Most managers have mindsets to “juice out” the employee by efficiently micro-managing them to get quarterly-annual results. They do not focus on developing, empowering and listening to their DIRECT-REPORTEES. To use my favourite metaphor: Managers are busy squeezing employees like lemons to get the juice out.

Now hard-data-research shows mediocre-managers of this ilk create a toxic-work-culture. Research over the years has proven that over 85 per cent of people hate (notice the emotion – not dislike – but hate) their jobs. This is the Gallup-study-2017.

The number of global-employees described by Gallup as “emotionally-disconnected-disengaged from workplaces” was only slightly better in 2017 (85 per cent) than four-years-ago (87 per cent). In 2013, Forbes magazine reported that “work is more a source of frustration than fulfilment for nearly 90 per cent of  the world’s-workers”. Research also suggests that over 95 per cent of people leave their manager, not organisations.

To determine a worker’s “engagement” level, Gallup asks participants to essentially respond as “true” or “false” to the following 12 statements:  

l I know what is expected of me at work
l I have the material and equipment I need to do my work right.
l At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
l In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
l My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
l There is someone at work who encourages my development.
l At work, my opinions seem to count.
l The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
l My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
l I have a best friend at work.
l In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
l This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Pay attention to all the points in bold. Except for point 12 (besides points in bold) all other points are directly related to Managers who ignore these actions. CEOs/ HR-OD-Heads/ Leadership committees of organisations that have a workforce even as small as 500 people, cannot control/influence managers’ behaviours with their teammates.

Truth be told, making an organisation a Great-Place-To-Work in is in the vicious-circle-of-concern for CEOs/ HR-OD-Heads/Leadership committees of Organisations. Toxic culture makes people sick, stifles potential, innovation and entrepreneur-mindset, make projects fail and makes people feel like miserable employees who choose to quit.

Toxic environments are created by short-sighted managers and there is no way an organisation can control that. Today disengagement has a high-cost (billions of dollars) of  low-trust for organisations globally.

Organisations should focus on point #12, which is directly in their virtuous-circle-of-influence. Growth is not about some minor promotion and salary hikes. Growth is about helping people to learn and unleash their true potential to become who they can become. If organisations help employees to learn and unleash-their-potential, then engagement, innovation, inclusion, ownership, performance and happiness-quotient of employees shall rise and organisation-productivity will increase.

Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Great leaders transform toxic cultures by empowering, involving, listening, appreciating, challenging, supporting, mentoring and coaching people potential. They value hard work, honesty, integrity, commitment and create a collective team-vision rooted in shared-values.

Rather than have efficient managers, organisations should coach/mentor people to be great-leaders who focus on unleashing-human-potential. For this, organisations should focus on making workplaces “great organisations @ learning [email protected], where people learn and grow through continuous improvement and a culture-of-learning. This is what Peter wrote in his book, The 5th Discipline.

My talk/insights were appreciated at the HR-OD conference in London. This inspired me to work on creating [email protected] fellowship, ratings and awards for the HR-OD community in India. In alliance with the Learning & Development Global Network, Tangram Research & Consulting, HR networks and several HR-OD professionals from global organisations, we will be launching this annual-initiative soon.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Jerry is a management & OD consultant, celebrated inspirational orator, teacher, UN advisor, internationally certified leadership subject matter expert, trainer, Executive coach and an effective, innovative fundraiser and missionary entrepreneur

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