Leaders: You get the work environment you deserve

Work used to be a lot more fun. Companies were looking up and looking out. There was a lot more growth and a lot more opportunities inside and outside of organizations. But today’s economic situation has created a long-term change in the work environment and some resulting resentment and control issues among employees that will require extra attention and new ideas on the part of leaders.

This passive-aggressive behavior is popularly known as “quitting and staying” and it happens anytime you combine a large number of employees with limited opportunities together with unresponsive management. On the surface, everything seems to be going along okay, but underneath, tensions and emotions are anything but tranquil. It’s a difficult situation for leaders because it is hard to get a handle on. People are not overtly working against company goals and initiatives—they just aren’t working as hard toward them.

It’s a normal reaction, but that doesn’t mean it can be left unaddressed, says Scott Blanchard, consultant, author, and EVP at The Ken Blanchard Companies.  In an interview for Blanchard’s Ignite newsletter, he explains that it’s not healthy to have people working just for a paycheck. Leaders need to take direct action to identify where people are feeling disaffected and work hard to reenergize the passion and motivation that still exists.

Otherwise, the impact on the work environment can be predicted almost every time.

As an example, Blanchard points back to an experience he had working as a consultant to a client in the automotive industry.

“When I used to work in the automotive industry there was a principle that said, ‘You get the union that you deserve.’ And what that basically meant was that if you had a respectful relationship with the union and you didn’t break promises and you sat at the table together and shared what was happening in the business, relationships improved and things got better. And the same is true with your company—you get the environment that you deserve.

“If you do not make any attempts to make lemonade out of lemons and if you’re not working to bring people together and engage in good practices, you’ll get what you deserve as a result of that.

“One of the things that the late, great management consultant Peter Drucker said years ago, that is still true today, is that the only things that happen naturally in organizations are the creation of fear, frustration, inefficiency, friction, and political mayhem.

“And what Drucker went on to say is that positive things  happen in a company only when leaders identify  a purposeful, unified direction, shared operating rules that everyone holds sacred, and a tenacity to make good things happen.”

Take a proactive approach

It may seem like a large problem to tackle, explains Blanchard, especially if these issues haven’t been addressed in a long time. Still, Blanchard recommends getting started as soon as possible.

“It may feel hard to do at this point, but the best companies are the ones that are making efforts to work together,” says Blanchard. “Everyone is in the same boat. If you don’t create a positive environment where people are encouraged to work together productively, you are going to end up with a lot of people thinking only of themselves.

To address the situation, Blanchard recommends that leaders look at 12 employee work passion factors that impact employee perceptions of their work environment.  By addressing what can be done on an individual, managerial, and organizational level, leaders can positively impact the work environment going forward.

As he explains, “You have to be proactive. Taking the approach of, ‘There’s nothing we can do!’ and throwing your hands up is a strategy that will predict a marginalized workforce, guaranteed! If you are just doing nothing, it’s not going to get the results that you want.”

To read more about Blanchard’s thinking, check out the January issue of Ignite.  Also, be sure to see the information about a special Leadership Livecast coming up on January 25.  Over 40 different business thought leaders will be addressing the phenomenon of “quitting and staying” in today’s organizations.  It’s a free event and over 3,000 people are currently registered.

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