A Thought on Managing People: Communication
While having lunch with a colleague I raised a sensitive issue of growing employee dissatisfaction that has been reaching an alarming level. One of the staff, apparently furious about a new policy, had sent an angry email to all people in the institution, slamming the top executives for a recent policy. He responded with an answer that to me sounded more like self-defense and an equally harsh criticism toward the person who sent the email.
I said, ‘I guess the heart of the problem is the accumulated resentment and dissatisfaction that has been raging for a long time and has not been properly addressed by the top executives. So, i would say that a proper way of starting a solution is opening a channel of communication. Communication is vital when employees feel that they have been disadvantaged by a certain decision, while the top management insist that the policy must be instituted. Without communication, what soon forms is a gap between the employees and the management. In such a gap, prejudice and misunderstanding thrive, and in time it destroys trust and good will. The diminishing trust will soon lead to apathy, withdrawal, and massive resignation. ”
As a top manager myself, I am fully aware that sometimes a policy is to be inevitably imposed. It’s like saying: ‘do this, whether you like it or not.’ In such circumstance, what I would do is seeking ways to alleviate the burden caused by that strict policy. A recent measure that I recently took is prohibiting a certain staff member to participate actively in some external activities because of the work load that demands intensive attention to details and coordination. Yet, knowing that this person is very keen on such outdoor activities, I’d probably give him a few days near the weekend to get involved in the activities, provided that he has completed the most urgent adminsitration stuff.
Managing people is always complicated. You deal with beings who are not only intelligent, but also emotional. It takes sensitive feeling to detect what is actually going on behind your back. Once you identify that, it takes courage to confront it with open-mindedness and good will to listen to others, and then thinking of the best solution. Closed communication and rigid standpoint only make matter worse.
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