Tag Archives: commitment

Understanding Sabotage in the Workplace

Reflections on workplace perspective…..

Another Friday — another “Craig’s Top Five List”.  On Monday, we put forth a case for the ongoing value of management and success books.  While the current trend in the industry seems to be to discredit these reference materials and fear monger, we argued that the competent manager should understand the opportunities and limitations that come with these materials and include them as part of a package of resources that support a healthy attitude of continuous improvement.

Sabotage in the workplace is rarely as clear as this!

Sabotage in the workplace is rarely as clear as this!

We also reminded readers that workplace sabotage can emerge from the shadows of an organization in many ways, and that pointing the finger at success books is just too easy.   So, on this wonderful wind down Friday, let’s talk about sabotage — specifically, five ways that organizations can interfere with their own success:

  1. It Starts at the Top: A true leader understands the importance of building a strong organization and is constantly in search of powerful guidance.  Sadly, the American Automobile Industry is a perfect example of a rudderless ship.  With countless opportunities to lead the pack, they chose complacency.   For example, they were given the opportunity to be the leader in electric automobile technology and they chose to balk at this gift.  And now, they are scrambling just to survive.  Poor leadership will suffocate an organization; strong leadership will allow an entity to explode with possibilities.
  2. Buy-in, Stay-in: Rightly or wrongly, there will be times in your organization when lower level managers decide to take management matters into their own hands.  This will not be an all out mutiny; no, instead, while smiling and nodding support for their bosses, these managers will quietly and secretly begin the process of undermining the initiatives they dislike, in part by treating their area of responsibility as an island.  These managers need to understand that disagreement is healthy if it is voiced openly and if it is part of an appropriate consultation process.  However, there is also a time for unity of purpose where the team as a whole needs to get on side and offer a plan its best chance of success.  It is often difficult for a senior manager to know what is happening on the ground floor.  In their eyes if they hear nothing all is well.  They need eyes and ears with employees at all levels so they can understand the support or lack of support for their plans.
  3. Silos Belong on Farms: The more we slice and dice our organizations, the lower the unity of purpose.  It is not uncommon for units, sectors, divisions to see themselves in competition with each other, largely a result of both managers and their staff seeing their role in the organization as being critical and successful, while the role of others, their “inside” competitors, being performed inadequately to the detriment of the organization.  Unifying the organization’s sense of purpose and demonstrating how each role is an essential component of the organization’s mission is a critical responsibility of senior managers.
  4. Communicate- Empower- Communicate- Empower: This is “the circle of [organizational] life”.  Managers at all levels who fail to delegate will by definition underachieve.  They will waste organizational capacity; they will damage employee motivation, goodwill, loyalty, commitment, happiness and so on.  They will undoubtedly lose their best staff.  Once managers learn how to empower effectively, they must complete the equation — effective and almost excessive communication.  The empowered employee has a responsibility to inform and advise the manager; however, it is contingent upon the senior manager to ensure that an effective and satisfying mechanism is in place.  When I say excessive communication, I mean it.  This is the tool that allows you to sleep well at night.  Because of clear communication, you know with confidence that all is well on the home front.
  5. You are Only as Good as Your Talent: A couple of stories might help to clarify this point.  Following the interviews for a senior researcher position, the interview team agreed that no one met the minimum qualifications.  “I will cover what the best candidate cannot do” offered one senior manager.  I reluctantly agreed and we offered the job to the best of the group.  Big mistake!  My senior manager was constantly rescuing this employee, time lines were lagging and we lost our capacity to perform effectively.  In contrast, an organization hired a salesperson.  Their expectations for this position were low based upon the performance of the previous incumbents.  In a short time, this newbie demonstrated that she could outperform two people in this area and in fact her area became a significant source of revenue.  The manager quickly realized that he could throw a challenge her way and that she would often out produce established areas of revenue for the organization.  The stronger the talent, the greater the opportunity, the greater the result.
  6. Flavour of the Month Syndrome: Did I say a list of five?  Well, I could not resist offering this one last point. “It’s just the flavour of the month” he lamented, “I’ll just wait it out and before too long everything will be back to normal”.  The manager who gets excited about every new management idea will find that skepticism settles into the organization. Employees will soon realize that the manager does not know how to use creative ideas to effect a change in culture; employees will see the initiative as time wasted and give the illusion of buy-in by saying the right things, while only accepting the idea at the margin.  The senior manager has the right spirit — one of trying to bring the best to his organization; however, with a little help from other managers, he will complete the loop and carefully assess the value of the idea to the organization and the nature of its implementation.

Have you seen any of these at work in your organization?  What efforts were taken to resolve the challenge?