Effective leaders know the power of labels, so they call for what they want.
Imagine entering a busy factory of a very successful company. After greeting the staff member assigned to take you on a tour, you are taken to a sanitation area where gowns, caps and industrial cleaning detergents are set up. Once appropriately covered, you are led through the maze of activity. Not only are hands busy at work to ensure the quota is met for the day, but smiling heads look up as we pass each station. Ever so often, we stop and ask questions about the process from the machine operator or we simply film the production process.
As we continue the tour, I realize that my tour guide is not simply a ‘hand’ in the factory, he is a valuable resource. Why? He had started there as one of the regular factory staff. However, his supervisor recognized his aptitude for working with the machines and solving any problems associated with them. The appropriate training was arranged. So, he now serves as the in-house mechanic to service the machines, ensuring that they operate at optimal level.
Do you know that 42% of employees do not feel that executives contribute to a positive organizational culture (TheExecuSearchGroup, 2017)? The history of human resource management tells the power of labels used to describe the staff. In contrast to my factory tour guide above, think for a moment about entering one of Henry Ford’s factories through a door labeled ‘hands’ entrance’ (Clegg, Kornberger & Pitsis, 2010, p. 299). What would you expect on the inside?
This label was born of Frederick Taylor’s use of “hands” in the early 1900s which symbolized “a headless and heartless worker who is easily replaceable, because all they contribute is manual dexterity, which is tightly trained and controlled” (Clegg, Kornberger & Pitsis, 2010, p. 299). Later emerged the human relations movement and Elton Mayo’s work of the 1980s which emphasized feelings and emotions. Here, we saw “workers as being human resources that can be systematically managed, trained, and exploited” (Clegg, Kornberger & Pitsis, 2010, p. 299).
So, how do you see your organization? Is it a machine, or is it a vibrant culture, a living organism that thrives in its environment? In the latter, workers and employers obtain benefits and each is seen as valuable to the other. Abuse is quickly punished because it affects the entire organism.
But, what happens when appropriate labels are forgotten and executives abuse their power? Organizations (living organisms) and their people suffer dearly. Take the on-going case of human resource abuses at the Google corporation and the resultant shake-up that is looming (Elias, 2020; http://www.msn.com/en-xl/money/topstories/googles-hr-head-to-step-down-amid-tension-among-employees/ar-BBZRniF?OCID=ems.display.welcomeexperience&MSCC=1581524947#image=BBOS3sz|1).
Some of the distress signals at Google included,
“a November 2018 employee walk-out after employees learned the company had paid departing Android chief $90 million despite credible claims of sexual misconduct, … protests over the company’s plans to work with the Defense Department on artificial intelligence technology and a plan — since abandoned — to create a censored version of its search engine for China.
2019… an overhaul to how its human resources department responds to complaints. Instead of each person reporting to their own human resources contact in their organization and location, there’s essentially a ticketing queue, workers said” (Elias, 2020).
As we improve technology and automate systems, are we regressing from human relations with the heart of the worker in mind, to machines where the worker is simply a waiting case number?
Somehow, we have to find a way to rediscover the heart of the child in the middle of our existence. Take a few minutes and watch the video below of coach Frank Martin distinguishing himself from being a parent, and the importance of life lessons established in childhood.
One approach to rediscovering the emotions and feelings of the worker is available in Black Gold: Developmental Pathways to Human Resource Development in Jamaica (Mitchell, 2015; https://www.amazon.com/Black-Gold-Mitchell-Keisha/dp/3659761052/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Black+Gold+by+Keisha+A.+Mitchell&qid=1581529133&sr=8-1) which locates the motivation to work in the way that we learned to play as children. For more inspiring works, see http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD .