What Are They Saying?

organizationsWorking with organizations typically requires going to their primary location or locations to interact with their employees.  Reality takes on a completely new shape when you observe the inter-workings of an organization instead of just looking at a two dimensional summary on paper.  This week I visited with three organizations in three different cities before heading home.  As a result, a key part of my week was waiting.  Today, almost every facet of the travel experience requires some form of waiting: checking a bag, passing through security, boarding, delays on the ground, queuing for take-off, actually flying, taxing to the gate, leaving the aircraft, recollecting your bag, and waiting on the rental car.  Most of the time, I tune out the noise around me as I work on other things.

However, there are times that the conversations around you, especially when it is as busy as things are the week before the holidays prevents a person from blocking it all out.  Out of curiosity, I paid a little more attention to the type of things that fellow business travelers were talking about with each other or on their phones.  Yes, I admit it, I ease dropped some for amusement while waiting on the next exciting, travel-related wait.  The conversations varied between panic over incomplete gift shopping, anticipated sales, frustrated spouses, deviant children, and work deadlines.  What proved more interesting was that most people said the same thing about their organizations: “they do not get it.”

As I listened to different conversations in three different airports, I repeatedly heard these three comments as part of the explanation of why their organizations are failing them:

“Our organization is so messed up and nothing is being done”

It is a fact that every organization possesses the potential to improve.  No one works for a perfect organization and none of us ever will.  Nevertheless, the degree to which an organization attempts to do something about improvement varies.  Just as we assume that an employee that does not attempt to improve will stagnate and regress, employees assume the same about their organizations. An organization not moving forward inevitably moves backwards.  As leaders, we should continually assess where we are, how we can improve, and what our next step will be.

“I don’t think he cares about any of us, especially me”

Considerable research as well as conventional wisdom attests to the fact that people leave supervisors, not organizations.  The relationship and interaction we have with our direct supervisor plays a monumental role in our satisfaction, engagement, and productive outcomes.  In the absence of a fulfilling relationship, it becomes easy to visualize another reality.  I listened to one fellow traveler tell his coworker in detail how the boss takes little interest in anything he says or does.  No matter the circumstances, the boss minimizes the value and input of the employee.  After relaying several examples to his coworker, he concluded that the boss must not like him and he should probably look for another job.  If the supervisor does not show a sufficient amount of interest, then employees will feel compelled to find a place where they are appreciated.  Make sure your supervisors develop the kind of relationships that bring the best out in people.

“You are doing the work, so you should have the pay”

Who would disagree that pay should match the work performed?  Since the downturn, most employees have increased their duties and efforts without a change in pay.  Reductions in force, stretch opportunities, and the absence of resources all created opportunities for team member to take on more duties, volume, or both.  Most organizations need to revisit compensation and classification to reconcile these changes in a more formal sense as the economy recovers.  Employees do not necessarily have to be retroactively rewarded, but organizations need to bring current work into alignment with their systems and structures.

The question I asked myself as I boarded the last plane was “what would our employees say about our organization?”

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