I played in a regional bridge tournament recently and stopped in my tracks when a man walked by wearing a T-shirt that said: “The flogging will continue until morale improves.” I laughed, but it wasn’t really funny. Flogging employees doesn’t happen anymore, but verbal abuse and unreasonable demands are all too common in many companies. (Unfortunately, punishment by flogging is still prevalent in less civilized societies).
The company shall remain nameless, but I once worked for a CEO who would simply phone senior executives with the command “get over here.” No hi, how are you. Oh, and he once threw an ash tray in a meeting. Don’t think this doesn’t happen anymore. With the bad economy, some companies are getting away with mistreating employees, who need to hold onto their jobs. But things will get better in time, and then employees will flee.
Arrogance Doesn’t Cut it Anymore
In a Business Week in an article entitled “Twelve Signs Arrogance is Running Your Company” leadership expert Alaina Love with Purpose Linked Consulting recounted the story of Joe, who astonished the CEO of his company by resigning because his cautions about the company’s direction fell on deaf ears. Joe was a key player and nobody wanted him to leave so they brought in Love to try to talk him out of it. As Love writes in her bylined article, “The significance of Joe’s impending departure was enormous, I realized. He’d grown up in the company, starting first in sales and eventually working his way up to a leadership position in marketing. Losing him would mean a tough blow for the organization, one from which recovery would be difficult and lengthy, if not impossible. With him would go years of irreplaceable institutional wisdom and history.”
Joe’s Reason for Leaving
He told Love, “We’re not positioning ourselves for ongoing success, and I just don’t think this way of operating is sustainable. I’ve done everything I can to convince leadership we should adopt a different approach, but they’re not listening. They won’t even sit down long enough to learn about the suggestions I have for changing things.”
Employee engagement has become the new mantra for forward-thinking companies, but, alas, too many CEOs take the position of Joe’s. “We don’t need somebody around here who doesn’t embrace our way of doing things,” the CEO said to Love. In other words, it’s my way or the highway.
How shortsighted. As I’ve written before, the economy is bad now so employees are staying put. But in time the job market will improve and those companies that value their employees will be rewarded by their loyalty. Companies like Joe’s will experience an exodus of employees who don’t want any more floggings.