Category Archives: Recommended Readings

Employee Enragement: Why people HATE working for you

By now some of you may or may not have realised, I’m working on some cultural change in my workplace at the moment- and it isn’t easy. No one expects it to be, but then I guess you never realise how hard it is when you have people in a particular industry that aren’t quite like those in the private sector.

In terms of the LSI, the primary styles of the people that I work with are:

Avoidance:

• A strong tendency to deny responsibility for one’s own behaviour
• Feelings of guilt over real or imagined mistakes
• Fear of failure
• A pre-occupation with one’s own concerns
• Lack of self-disclosure that eventually leads to emotional isolation

Approval:

• Low self-esteem
• Pre-occupation with opinions of others
• A tendency to be too agreeable, “wishy-washy” and compliant
• Difficulties with conflict, negotiation and confrontation

Oppositional:

• The ability to ask tough- probing questions
• A tendency to seem aloof and detached from people
• A need to look for flaws in everything
• A tendency to make others feel uncomfortable
• A negative, cynical attitude
• A sarcastic sense of humour

Sounds fun hey…

I was reading “Employee Enragement; Why people hate working for you” by James Adonis and I thought I might share a few key things that I have personally experienced in my working life so far that you may find humourous/appaulling/entertaining (or not!).

Just to give you some background, the book outlines 50 of the top reasons for employee disengagement and while some are quite funny- it is something that our people managers are doing every single day.

#49- Care and compassion: In one of my jobs there was a problem with the air conditioning. You know the story; some people near the glass are sweating while the people in the middle are freezing. Well they did do some testing, and I was sitting in a section of the office that was 14 degrees. I tried to stay warm but I ended up being really ill with a virus after no one would do anything to help me. Despite working really hard for 10 and sometimes 12 hours a day, when I took two days off sick the Senior HR person demanded to know why I wasn’t there and a colleague explained the situation. When I came back she said ‘had a bit of hay fever did we?’. What a cow.

#45- Empowerment: One HR director had to approve everything. And we’re talking down to invitations to induction. If you can’t empower your senior specialist then why are they there?

#41- Office psychopaths: haha so many examples coming to me right now. One I will share that happened to me this week. My workplace has hard floors and long corridors. I am female and I wear heels. This is what was put on my door this week. It is kinda funny, but at the same time- very, very weird. Passive Aggressive much?

quiet shoes

#27- Overworked: Nothing is more important then a person’s health and wellbeing. Sure deadlines will pass, but we are talking about people here. A manager once told me I couldn’t go home after 12 hours and I felt like I might be sick from exhaustion. Please managers- watch your employees and put them first.

#5- Negativity: Everyone must have worked with a Negative Nancy or Debbie Downer at some stage. They are draining, exhausting and may or may not be labelled an ‘oxygen thief’ in the team. I’ve encountered many of these and even been one myself at various times. One teammate I worked with threw a tantrum because we were presenting to the management team and I had printed some slides to explain my section and hadn’t told her. It was a last minute thing on my behalf, but I didn’t think it warranted her screaming, throwing things and swearing at me. Not acceptable. For any reason. Ever.

And the number one reason is lazy and underperforming co-workers according to James Adonis. He says that in a lot of companies many people just get paid for turning up rather than on how they perform, and this is very disengaging for the ones who work really hard. This is particularly true for government organisations whose remuneration scales are generally very transparent.

Out of necessity sometimes, managers end up spending more time on the bad employees when they should be dedicating time with the good performers. So what do you do then?

James suggests that you:

1) Train them
2) Motivate them
3) Nuture them
4) And if that doesn’t work sack them!

What do you think??

you_re_fired

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HR Blogs to Check Out…

Recently some people have asked me how I get the interesting articles and info that I do, and to be honest I subscribe to blogs and try and do a bit of reading each day to see what is out there. I thought today I might provide some lists of HR blogs that you might like to check out when you have some time.

publishers-blog

Fistful of Talent has released its Top 25 Talent Management Blogs

Evan Carmichael released his Top 50 HR blogs to watch in 2009

In Australia, here are a few ones to subscribe to:

http://www.hrbuzz.com.au
http://www.ahri.com.au
Human Capital Magazine
Destination Talent

Otherwise, another good idea is to check out the blog roll when you find a blog you like. You can then click through to that blog and subscribe if you like it.

Happy reading!

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Do you encourage a coaching culture?

Recommended Reads:
Lindbom, D. (2007), ‘A Culture of Coaching: The Challenge of Managing Performance for Long-Term Results’, Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25, No. 2, p. 101.

In recent times there has been much emphasis placed on coaching in the workplace. Lindbom takes this further, arguing that there needs to be a strong organizational culture of coaching in order to fully support managers and provide regular performance feedback to all employees.

Lindbom says that culture is “the entire organization, its values, strategic goals, and the formal and informal systems in place that guide managers and employees in everyday work life”.

Essentially what we are talking about is a culture where people continuously receive and seek out feedback (formal and informal) in order to improve their performance.

HomerSimpsonCoach

So how do you make this happen?

Lindbom’s article places great emphasis on incorporating performance management and coaching into the core competencies and the strategic plan. This illustrates true top-down commitment and lays the foundation for success in quality people management. Similarly, much of the literature echoes this message insisting that widespread support for performance management from the upper management team is essential (Griffin. 2004) and that gaining consensus and buy-in from senior management early on in the effort can help establish legitimacy and visibility for the process (Fletcher & Williams. 1996).

Additionally, this then has the potential to increase employee commitment to the organization and its goals. Moreover, Ariyachandra & Frolick (2008) go further in articulating the term ‘Business Performance Management’ which facilitates the creation of strategic goals and supports the subsequent management of the performance to those goals. This concept highlights the need for performance management to be strongly interlinked with specific strategic objectives and key performance indicators or core competencies that are meaningful to the organization.

Finally, Lindbom highlights the importance of formal systems and informal networks in effective performance management and also the need to provide managers with the right tools, training and support to effectively coach and improve performance. With these components in place, in addition to the incorporation of performance management and coaching into the core competencies and the strategic plan, Lindbom argues that a strong organizational culture of coaching will be established resulting in supported managers and employees regularly receiving feed back on performance.

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Afraid of giving performance feedback?

Recommended Reads:
Steelman, L.A., and Rutkowski, K.A., (2004), ‘Moderators of employee reactions to negative feedback’, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 6-18.

Steelman & Rutkowski’s (2004) paper provides a valuable contribution to the area of performance feedback as it examines moderators of employee reactions to negative feedback. This is an important area to explore, as not delivering negative feedback can be extremely disadvantageous for both the individual and the organization. Concepts such as the “halo effect” where a manager rates the individual highly because of a one-off high performance which masks mediocre performance over the rest of the appraisal period and the “Mum effect” where managers withhold negative or undesirable information significantly impede learning and development for the individual, which can then cost the company considerably in terms of desired results linking to the strategic objectives.

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Moreover, this has the potential to impact upon employee’s self-perception and how they receive future feedback about their performance. This is because unless they receive accurate feedback on their performance in real-time they will keep making inferences and assumptions about how they are performing and are often met with disappointment and frustration when they discover their perception is not aligned with their managers. Importantly, Clampitt (2005) notes that a manager “cannot not give performance feedback” because if the manager doesn’t give explicit feedback, they will infer it, and continue to perform at standards they deem acceptable to themselves. Hence illustrating why open communication and regular feedback is so important and obstructions to learning and development such as the ‘halo’ and ‘Mum’ effect need to be avoided at all costs.

Subsequently, the results from Steelman & Rutkowski’s (2004) survey which surveyed a total of 405 staff across two manufacturing companies indicated that favourable characteristics can in fact mitigate the negative consequences of unfavourable feedback. For instance, it found that employees are the most motivated to make changes to their performance when negative feedback is delivered from a source they consider to be credible and of a high quality. It is additionally important that the feedback is delivered in a considerate, meaningful manner which includes providing factual information and taking the time to work with the individual to set goals in order to improve future performance.

Hence these findings are important to consider when delivering feedback in the working environment. It is crucial to be aware of various effects such as ‘halo’ and ‘Mum’, as not delivering negative feedback can be extremely disadvantageous for both the individual and the organization. Moreover, by changing the way in which performance feedback is delivered, it is possible to fact mitigate the negative consequences of unfavourable feedback with favourable characteristics.

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Performance Appraisals- could you be biased?

Losyk’s (2002) ‘How to conduct a performance appraisal’ is a brief snapshot on what he considers to be key elements of delivering positive and productive performance appraisals. He argues that understanding our biases is the “biggest challenge that impedes an effective performance review”.

So what sort of biases are there?

‘Actor/observer bias’ is an attributional bias where a manager or supervisor for example consistently attributes all failures to the subordinate, discounts their successes and generally assesses their performance as insufficient (Cannon & Witherspoon. 2005).

‘Blind spot’ bias occurs when an employee mirrors the manager in terms of knowledge, skill, ability or even behavioural deficiencies. If the manager isn’t particularly aware of their own short-comings they are likely to be ‘blinded’ so to speak and not take these areas into consideration when conducting the employee’s performance appraisal. This then means that the employee does not become aware of these development areas, and is additionally blinded to areas of mediocre or even poor performance. This can be highly disadvantageous for the individual in the long term when they look for advancement and find out that they need to lift their performance significantly in order to take the next steps in their career.

performance_appraisal_comments_3

It is important to note that biases can also be positively skewed which again means that employees become less aware of the areas in which they need to develop. For instance, positive biases such as the “halo effect” where an employee’s one-off high performance masks mediocre performance over the entire appraisal period. This can significantly impact upon employee’s self-perception and how they receive future feedback about their performance. This is because unless they receive accurate feedback on their performance in real-time they will keep making inferences and assumptions about how they are performing and are often met with disappointment and frustration when they discover their perception is not aligned with their managers. This is why open communication and regular feedback and is so important in the workplace.

Additionally, many managers feel almost compelled to inflate their ratings and this results in what is coined the Lake Wobegon phenomena “where everyone is good looking and all the employees are above-average”. This is most likely to occur when managers feel as if they must rate their employees on their performance and also in relation to how other managers will rate similar staff. This of course is poor practice as it does not objectively rate the employee and sends mixed messages around the feedback provided.

It’s wise to help your managers to understand these biases and how they impact on people and the organization before the performance appraisal period comes around.

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Helping your employees manage change in uncertain times

This morning I was reading an article by Towers Perrin called ‘Ten Tips to Help Your Employees Manage Change in Uncertain Times’ and they had a couple of great ideas that I really loved.

Of course there are the commonly articulated tips like for example, make sure you clarify your strategy and vision for dealing with the economic uncertainty as this will help you communicate the goals and priorities to employees. Communication during times of change is talked about a lot but often not done very well (see an earlier post on this).

change3

I love the idea of setting up a web site where employees can learn what your company is doing — and what your competitors are doing — to manage the crisis. It shows huge transparency and can help employees to feel a lot less angst and even paranoia, during these change periods. In order to build trust, you need to ensure that staff have access to the knowledge it needs to deal with the current situation.

They also suggest sending a weekly e-mail update with successes and challenges. They say that employees respect when leadership is candid, and by communicating with your people, you’ll help them gain confidence in the organization’s future. What a great idea- although I’ve always been a fan of leaders who touch base with their people even if its to say ‘there is no news’.

Another good idea is to meet with groups of employees to listen to their concerns and take onboard their solutions. Some of the best ideas come from the frontline, and this is also true with organisational change. Embrace their opinions and participation, and they will feel valued by the organisation and more committed to seeing out the changes required to ensure future success.

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Does your organization assess its employees on the competencies they deem to be most crucial for success?

Recommended Reads:
Abraham, S.E., Karns, L.A., Shaw, K., and Mena, M.A., (2001), ‘Managerial competencies and the managerial performance appraisal process’, Journal of Management Development, Vol. 20, No. 10, pp. 842-852, MCB University Press.

Abraham et al’s (2001) study initially surveys the literature concerning the term “competency”, identifying that there is some disagreement over the definition of a personal or managerial competency. However essentially, competency is referred to be inclusive of “panoply of characteristics, behaviours and traits necessary for successful job performance” (Abraham et al. 2001). With competencies defined, the article is then quick to establish the connection between competencies and effective performance management, and this adeptly captured by Pickett’s (1998) statement:

Managerial competencies provide a sound basis for an effective performance management program. Using the information obtained during the review of competencies required by the job and those possessed by the person performing that job, an integrated process can be introduced linking competencies with the annual performance review program and the determination of objectives.

The crucial part in that statement identifies that is it vital to review competencies required for the job, and compare with the competencies a person possesses as a part of the organizations performance management and appraisal system. Consequently, the main aim of Abraham et al’s (2001) study was to determine if companies assess and appraise their management employees on the same competencies that they identify as being necessary for success in a managerial role.

On the surface, this standpoint appears to make perfect sense. Organisations ideally should appraise their people on the components they identify as crucial in achieving success as guided by the organisations strategic objectives. Moreover, Grote (2000) asserts that core competencies can be easily identified, and then highlighted, communicated and reinforced via the organizations performance appraisal system. However many organisations do not follow this basic premise.

For instance, findings in a study conducted by Pettijohn et al (2001) indicate that the criteria used are not always the ones that salespeople for instance, view as being the most appropriate. Generally, the literature indicates that behavioural criteria is preferred over more results-based output criteria, as proponents argue that these criteria are subject to a greater degree of self-control than output criteria (Churchill et al (1985); Challagalla and Shervani (1996); Oliver and Anderson (1994). Despite this Jackson, Schlacter and Wolfe’s (1995), study of 215 sales managers indicated that the criterion was most based output related to sales volume. Hence, although behavioural competencies which have a significant potential to impact on company culture and the way an organisation operates, are identified as being important they are not adeptly reflected upon in performance appraisal. This then impacts on the employee’s self efficacy in terms of what competencies employees believe are achievable, and which ones they have the power to influence successful results.

Comparably, Abraham et al’s (2001) study reflects these findings in their study, illuminating that “for every one of the 23 competencies surveyed, the percentage of organisations that identified a competency as describing the successful manager was substantially greater than the percentage of organizations that used the same competency as a criterion in the performance appraisal process”. The data indicates that organizations are not appraising their employees on the competencies they deem to be most crucial to business success, which then places huge limitations on the effectiveness of the performance appraisal system and subsequently, the way in which organizations facilitate improved performance from its employees.

Does your organization assess its employees on the competencies they deem to be most crucial for success?

competency_model

Have a look at this example.

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