The Afflictions In Workplaces Today

Over a period of time, organizations metamorphose in the context of the ever changing needs of the DILEEP RANJEKAR business environment, social changes, customer expectations, and, the ever evolving nature of the employees. More and more organizations, after growing in size, have become de-humanized with excessive dependence on technology and processes. In many ways, leaders of the organization begin managing with the help of set rules and policies that do not account for unique individual needs. A general look at the present day organization reveals several shortcomings of the organizations. In this column, I am discussing just four of them.

Decision Making

Someone forwarded me an e-mail of an employee, who, incidentally, was diagnosed with cancer. Upon learning the diagnosis, the employee was thoroughly shaken, and, wanted to know how the organization could help him. He wrote to his supervisor in March 2016. Through internal channels, consultations with the company medical practitioners, and, several rounds of queries with the cancer afflicted employee, the organization communicated to him after full four months that they can at best bear 25% of the total expenses that the employee may incur for the treatment. Four valuable months were lost and the employee was finally not taken care of. The cancer was having its own toll on the employee, and, finally the employee decided to explore other alternatives outside the organization. Several questions could be asked? In the present day scenario, why was the organization not clear about its policy and approach in dealing with such emergency cases? Why did the organization not view this as an emergency case and respond immediately? Why did someone not take the ownership and provide a quick response to the employee? Such a case is not an exception. Even in normal operations, whenever individual employees raise valid issues, the management either takes a long time to respond, or does not decide at all. Decision making has become a game of football — where the ball is passed to one another without making a goal.

Approval for Everything

I remember having studied the Hilton Hotel case about three decades ago, wherein every customer interfacing employee was authorized to spend upto US$ 36 per day, if so required, to meet the expenses required to satisfy the customer- no questions asked. Despite this clear understanding, hardly anyone spent such an amount — however, the feeling of empowerment that it created was enormous. Organizations like Google are basing all their employee related actions on trust, fully relying on employee integrity, and, find huge positive impact on employee morale and motivation. On the other hand, there are several large organizations that govern every little action of employees through policies and rules that restrict usage of even printers, scanners and e-mail services. As a result, very senior managers are forced to use their personal scanners and printers at home — delaying certain actions necessary for the business. The same is applicable to issuing of gate passes, security clearances etc. In order to make the process fool proof, the organizations are making it so cumbersome for the employees that they lose interest in doing anything that deals with these processes. There are also instances where the sales people, while dealing with customer’s unique needs have to seek approvals at every step — that can delay the process of clinching the deals leading to loss of business.

Matrixed Organizations

While multidisciplinary approaches and matrixed organizations are the need of the hour, instead of presenting a holistic and integrated face of the organization to the customer, it often presents a fragmented face of the organization. Unless such matrixed organizations function as well-oiled engines, it often leads to several parts of the organizations pulling each other down creating helplessness among the performing parts. Illustratively, the strong link between the sales and the delivery functions is extremely necessary for an effective, speedy and smooth service to the customer of the agreed offering. However, if either sales or the delivery function try to assume predominance over the other, it becomes a power struggle resulting in non-delivery of commitments to the customer. As a rule, the organization needs a powerful team that integrates these two teams, and, makes necessary interventions that protect organizational interest. Frequent changes in the organizational structure and leadership are the other common sources for frustration among the rank and file. It is more so if every new leader wants to make — host of other changes in the teams. This creates enormous discontinuity in the process of offerings of the organization. Often, the focus in such changes is purely internal without caring for its implications for the customer.

Teleconferences

In businesses that are spread across geographies, the use of technology to bring people together is inevitable. TCons have become an integral part of the communication and networking. They possess the potential to close the gaps between distances, geographies, people and time zones. However, the problem is often in the manner in which it is conducted. Several people join the call from different locations. After joining the call, to avoid the disturbance caused by the background noise, employees use the mute mode except for those who are speaking. At times, totally unconnected people join the call. At times, there is no clarity on the final outcome of this call. At times, many people joining the call do not read the presentation, and, simply keep listening, trying to make a sense of it. Many a times, people have not thought enough over the issues under discussion, and remain passive throughout the call. The calls go on for long — at times even upto two to three hours — demanding the investment of time by all those on the call. Issues are not adequately framed. People do not make concrete proposals demanding the suggestions, and, finally decisions about what is being presented. I have seen people logging in and engaging in totally different activities. Thus, while the T-Cons sap a lot of organizational time, the end result remains uncertain. The primary function of the leadership is to create enabling conditions in the organization to realize the best potential of each employee. For this, the leadership has to apply their mind in various cases to make individualized decisions. While policies, technology, rules etc. are required to be created to assist the management of large organization, the leadership cannot relegate its functions by managing through policies and rules. In many ways, organizations are unknowingly destroying the ownership of employees and causing erosion of employee motivation. Time has come to closely examine the efficacy of processes that are being followed by the organization and do away with those that are not serving the interests of the customers, employees and vendors.

Dileep Ranjekar 
Chief Executive Officer of Azim Premji Foundation, is also a passionate student of human behaviour. He can be contacted at dkr@azimpremjifoundation.org.

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