The title of this article and the photo may give the impression of some humorous story about to be told; however, what I am writing about is a very sad day at the corporate office.
The setting was an executive conference room. The attendees were a group of corporate safety employees who were presenting to upper management. It was a time of cost cutting, and all programs were being evaluated for value. Several issues were on the table, and there was no doubt that there would be tough questions and conflict. One woman was there to defend her safety program. She had over 25 years experience, and was an expert in her subject matter. The senior management did not have very much understanding of the subject matter, and also did not have a lot of value for it. Their focus was to cut cost, and this program was a target. The woman expressed her concerns that the program was going to be diluted to the point of usefulness. After a heated debate and feeling that she was being set up for failure, she flung her pen on the table in an outburst of frustration. The minute the pen hit the table, her career ended with the company. This woman is a good friend and I am glad to say that she started up her own business and is earning many times more than she was previously.
So what was the result of this confrontation? Her group, who had previously been short staffed, was now under even more pressure. More work was not being done. By the time they hired a suitable candidate (they couldn’t find someone with the same qualifications or experience) one year later, the work had piled up. The person who was hired turned out to be good at the job and a great character to work with; however he got frustrated with the colossal amount of work that needed to be done, and he was bitterly disappointed with upper management’s lack of value for his work and the absence of resources to get the job done well. He left within two years, and it took another year to fill his spot. The circle of workplace frustration continues. Imagine the financial cost of this destructive cycle.
What can we learn from this?
The success of technical groups is paramount for any organization. If they are not energized and empowered the results can be devastating:
a. Technical people can get frustrated that their proposals are not readily accepted (“I gave management all the high tech. information and they still said no!”)
b. Energy levels can become eroded, morale issues and apathy can creep into the workplace
c. Competent experts may get frustrated to the point of jumping ship and going to work for the competition
d. Project deadlines get missed due to unresolved conflict
Ten Aspects of Exceptional Workplaces That Can Help Empower Technical Groups:
1. Employees have a sense of value for the company they work for
2. Employees feel that their job is important and valued by peers and management
3. Technical groups make an effort to put information in a format that is vividly clear to the specific audience. They present their technical information to others to get a feel for it being understandable
4. People are good listeners
5. Technical groups take the time to meet and discuss possible questions and answers when preparing to present information at a meeting with the potential for conflict.
6. Technical information is made understandable using descriptions that the audience can relate to
7. Employees and management are trained in negotiation skills, listening skills and conflict management skills.
8. Companies hire people with exceptional communication skills and impeccable ethics
9. The company has a culture that embraces respect and trust
10. Employees address unresolved conflict efficiently and effectively through workplace resources