How do you treat staff and why do you do it that way? Jan van der Spoel is an expert in the field of trust in leadership and organizations. He takes a critical look at the role of managers. In this first expert blog, he writes about the expectations employees have of their work and how these have changed over the years. We are doing well in the Netherlands. We write good macroeconomic figures, have years of growth and thanks to smart innovations we look to the future with confidence.
But things are rattling under the hood of our business community. It squeaks and it creaks. The engine regularly jams and we have to fiddle with it more and more to keep moving. After the corona pandemic, people left their employers en masse in what is now called the great recession . They no longer want to work in boring jobs such as the hospitality industry or healthcare.
The most common reason people quit their job is an annoying manager or supervisor. But those roles are not without worries either. Several studies show that 60 percent of novice managers fail in their jobs within 18 months. Between 35 percent and 55 percent of mid-career managers suffer from stress and burnout complaints and 80 percent are considering looking for another job. Of every woman who makes a career within an organization, 2 leave their employer. Ultimately, the business community is faced with a huge challenge to keep employees in the company and to recruit new people Click here.
Work to live
About 30 years ago, ‘happiness at work’ did not yet exist. Working 40 hours was simply the norm and ‘having a good time’ was nonsense. ‘The living before the profit’, and ‘In the sweat of your brow you will earn your bread’ were common proverbs. Even further back in time, in the early 1900s, women returned to their factory work one or two days after giving birth because without that day’s work they had too little money to make ends meet.
Work was not something to get satisfaction from or to prove yourself. It was a necessity for survival. That is why employees in companies and factories complied without complaint with all the rules and circumstances that the employer deemed necessary. You had to swallow everything a supervisor or foreman said to you.
Dangerous or unhealthy working conditions were just part of it. The place where I live used to be the largest leather factory in Europe. People worked there in bizarre conditions such as moisture and stench. But because the employer had good intentions with the workers, a place in the leather factory was a much sought after job. There was some attention to the health of the workers with a real company doctor,
There were workers’ houses close to the factory and for the weaker children there was even a room where they could now and then under the sun. We jump to now. Nothing is like it was 70 years ago. Working conditions have changed enormously, partly thanks to the unions, and things such as the 40-hour working week or a pension system have ensured much better protection for employees.
Customer Service Employees
The way we interact with each other in companies and organizations, and in particular how we behave, has not changed fundamentally. Companies are still set up to allow as many people as possible to be as productive as possible. People are not people but resources or ‘means’. Resources that need to be directed, or managed. To measure progress, we have established Critical Performance Indicators (KPI), among other things. People whose work we can measure, such as customer service employees, have their tasks expressed in seconds.
And if something in the chain has gone wrong, the dork who picked up the phone before work gets the bad review as his personal result. No wonder people leave and don’t come back. The system in which you could replace worn-out people for others, and in which you therefore did not have to take care of well-being, can now be thrown in the trash. The command-and-execute management style is broken. And there are no new parts available anymore. It must be solved in a different way. It’s time to innovate the way we manage people.
Control is good, trust is better
The less trust there is in an organization, the more rules and procedures. But those are just the things with which you get all the speed out of a process. In many organizations, everything is written, recorded and documented, except how we behave. Bullying that the boss laughs at, commaneuvers who stop processes out of frustration, micro sabotage, training, laughing at, discriminating, excluding. It occurs in all companies, at all levels, including boardrooms, and paralyzes every process.How nice would it be if you could trust colleagues to do what they say?
That management sees you and listens to you, that you can ask stupid questions or even make mistakes as long as you can learn from them? That a manager says: “I don’t know, can you help me?” That women who don’t want to stand out and have to go home on time can also be promoted? That we have the feeling that together we can achieve a bigger want to achieve the goal, that pleasant manners are the norm, that we know how to trust others, but above all how we can be reliable ourselves.
Trust is invisible, can always change, but affects every relationship. You can influence trust if you know what to look out for. Especially for anyone in a leadership role, behavior makes the biggest difference. The great thing is that as a leader you don’t have to change anything in your organization, except how behavior influences trust. That is leadership based on trust.
Trust acts as a lubricant in an organization. It makes the difference between a faltering, viscous engine that just won’t get up to speed and one that converts all the energy you put into it into speed, with a nice company thrown in the bargain!