MEDIOCRITY RULES

A conversation with a former colleague crept into my thoughts after watching a scene in Sex and the City 2. The old conversation was on how employers should make employees feel more welcomed in the company, that they should respect their talents and not just shove tasks down their throats, and talk to them, not at them. The scene from the movie was where Miranda couldn’t eat breakfast because of the butterflies in her stomach. She dreaded seeing her boss who made it known to her that she wasn’t persona grata. In an earlier scene, she was explaining to everyone (the girls plus partners) at a wedding that her boss was more at ease in “speaking” with her through e-mail and, during meetings, would silence her by raising his hand.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that a happy employee is a productive employee. Gone are the days where the owner/boss rule from their ivory tower while the employees toil for hours on end and not dare voice out an opinion. Or is it? Stories from friends and my experiences seem to suggest the opposite. The dragon bosses are very much alive and have moved out of their ivory offices. Now, they are more visible, encouraging you to speak out in the spirit of democracy, which, on hindsight, is nothing but pseudo-democracy. In reality, asking for opinions is merely pro forma, an exercise in futility because they’ve already made up their minds and whatever you say is cast aside as gobbledygook. In some cases, insult is added to injury when voicing opinions turns into one convoluted guessing game – if you can’t guess what’s on their minds because they’re not exactly speaking coherently, you turn out to be the one who is uncreative, unintelligent and unable to think out of the box.

I’ve had my share of experiences of bizarre management practices that turn logic on its head. Reading the article of Liz Ryan, expert on the new millennia workplace and former Fortune 500 HR Executive, made it easier for me to wade through and understand the corporate world. It’s something to ponder on when one is faced with the dilemma of to stay or move on to greener pastures.

Ryan’s article 5 Ways to Ensure Mediocrity in Your Organization offers an informative check list on bad leadership practices that promote mediocrity at the workplace.

  • Don’t trust your employees – Trust is something that is developed through time. It begins with employers believing in its workforce – they’re capabilities – and that they can complete their tasks. It’s a sure-fire plan to make employees think of working elsewhere if their company shows they don’t have faith in them by, for example, monitoring their every movement. Ryan says that employees who are put under surveillance (clocking in and clocking out, writing appointments in a log book) develop “ ‘presenteeism’ or the physical appearance of working, without anything getting done.”

A company where a friend worked closely monitored every possible movement of employees including going to the loo and brushing their teeth. Management, for example, put a stop to her brushing her teeth by telling her that it wasn’t allowed anymore unless she brushed immediately after lunch. One of the women was told to lessen her bathroom breaks while another was told to list down in a little notebook the tasks she accomplished per day. They were also warned against going to the nearby cafeteria (the company didn’t have a canteen of its own) to buy food or drinks early in the morning. The irony was the head honcho who issued the directive made it a habit to have his breakfast there day in day out.

  • Don’t recognize achievements – Like elementary school children who get gold stars whenever they score high marks, employees also need acknowledgement for a job well done every now and then. However, as Ryan pointed out, the workplace is filled with leaders with irrational fears viz. fear of employees with high self-esteem, employees asking for a raise and appearing weak by appreciating an employee’s hard work.

The accomplishments of a friend who worked in media were absolutely overlooked. She never received praised when her magazine was picked as a co-partner of major events over several competitors or when she, at one time, bested other travel journalists from other countries in reporting on hospitality and tourism.

  • Keep employees in the dark – Information is one of the most powerful currencies in world then and now. In the workplace, employees who are kept abreast of the goings-on are able to do whatever they’re supposed to do well. If the company is to move forward, both employer and employee must share the same vision and goal.

The same friend I talked above was at dagger’s end with her new boss because he refused to   let her in on his plans. He talked to other people except to her.

  • Value submissiveness over initiative – Being part of the herd is good and bad. Good because you know how to interact with the group; bad because you lose your voice. In my experience, it was annoying when my immediate supervisors made a great show of valuing initiative when, in truth, they put more importance on keeping quiet and following orders without questions. Most of my supervisors praised obedient employees while non-passive workers were ostracized and belittled, whichever came first.

 

  • Don’t encourage individualism – Companies need to make up their minds: do they want thinking and independent workers or obtuse employees? A friend of friend laments how her immediate supervisor egged people to offer ideas or suggestions during meetings, which they’d shoot down a few minutes later or, worse, take as their own idea. In the end, micromanaging won over independence.

I have one more to add to Ryan’s check list: wallowing in mediocrity is not every employee’s dream. That they slip into mediocrity is the result of a workplace culture ruled by fear. That a workplace culture promoting run-of-the-mill thinking wipes out creativity, initiative and independence. Employees want a sense of job satisfaction. Is that too difficult for employers to understand?

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One response to this post.

  1. Great writeup!
    I agree with everything listed and have a few more I can add too like “Make your vision statement to be to blatantly stated as to make lots more money”.

    Reply

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