If I were a senior leader or a manager in almost any large organization, I would probably feel as if I were in hell.
The brimstone is flowing quite freely these days. We're in the age of "employee disengagement" and companies are fighting the "war on talent." Half of their employees are thinking of leaving, and the other half have already quit but they're sticking around for the regular paycheck and great benefits. On top of that, the most loyal employees are about to retire.
These days all employees seem to be complaining about how out of touch leaders are, and how stupid management is, and they whine about all the things that get in the way of getting their work done and how they don't get the support and recognition they need. And when they're not whining, they're browsing monster.com, which is full of enticing career ads from competitors.
What's a leader to do?
I can imagine the conversations that are happening across the corporate world:
"I've had enough of this!" says the leader, to whoever is close enough to be listening. "I'm tired of people complaining about what bad managers we are. Everybody knows there's a problem, but nobody is telling me how we can fix it! I've have to improve those engagement scores, and if I don't, my bonus is going to get hammered. I want some advice on what to do about this. Give me a list of things we can do, and then let's start doing them!"
Imagine, if you will, that an employee communicator is sitting close enough to listen.
But you're just a communicator. You obviously can't change the company's management style, which is what needs happen.
Or can you?
I've got some ideas for what you might put on that list.
1. Find the folks who are trying to lead change, and support them. I'm willing to bet that there are some smart and committed people in your company who are trying to change the management style. Which takes years, but is worth doing. Find them. Help them build a communication plan to support what they're trying to accomplish. Help them build their training material if they're planning training sessions for managers. And why not even offer to participate in the training? Managers need to be better communicators, and you can help.
2. Help de-demonize managers. Most managers are not complete idiots, nor are they jerks. They are human beings who are trying desperately to do a decent job. They are demoralized by all the complaining, just as the complainers are demoralized with all the bad managing. It's a viscious cycle. As a communicator, you are already helping the folks who are helping managers change their behavior (see above). But you can also help the managers themselves. When things begin to really change, and they start becoming
better managers, recognize them by telling their stories. Profile the best ones and let them talk about the difficulties they faced as they tried to do better. Do articles about the best-managed teams in the company and what the new style of leadership is accomplishing.
3. Help employees support their managers. There's a line of thinking out there that says it's not all management's fault. Here's the gist: if employees change their behaviour by taking more personal responsibility for their work, and actually support managers by helping them get what they need, the complaining will drop off and people will start working together better. So, why not publish a story about that? Do a "steeter" where you ask employees what they can do to help managers do their jobs better. Interview some managers and ask them what they need from their people. Publish some practical, expert advice on how employees can help get rid of bad bosses by helping them be better bosses. Barry Nelson over at The Story Board has a great article about this that can be adapted to any organization. Buy it from Barry, or build your own.
4. Facilitate a conversation about the issues that are ticking people off, and include management in that conversation. This is a perfect use for an internal blog. Start one that features posts from managers outlining problems they want to solve, and invite employees and other managers to comment. By creating dialogue you bridge the gap. You humanize managers. And just by having the conversation, you actually demonstrate the changed behaviors -- like good old fashioned listening, and open, two-way dialogue.
Communicators, this list could be management's ticket out of hell. Do you think it has more than a snowball's chance?
What else would you add to this list?