AS we welcome the New Year, allow me to share my thoughts on how people managers should act in the interest of promoting industrial democracy and employee empowerment. It isn’t easy to manage workers, so if you’re not careful you may find yourself in a situation. Therefore, let’s look at some major approaches on how to minimize workplace conflict and at the same time improve labor productivity.
First, neutralize the group thinkers. Groupthink happens when team members place too much importance on unity that they treat internal dissent as taboo. Some people tend to silence devil’s advocates even in the midst of unlawfulness and irregularities that are often manifested by the group’s lack of transparency to members.
Yale University psychologist Irving Lester Janis (1918-1990) traced the major characteristics of groupthink to the group’s infallibility, the perception that its enemies are weak and self-deception of all members sharing the same illusion. One example of groupthink is the Titanic. The ship’s designers and builders believed that it was unsinkable and they failed to provide enough lifeboats on board for all passengers.
Second, solicit the ideas of introverts. If not, force people to come out with as many ideas as possible and make it part of everyone’s key performance index. Introversion is a major problem in any organization. It happens when people withdraw from active participation in group activities and at times subverts, if not sabotages, action and initiatives.
There’s no other way but to disturb the loner’s inactivity in the workplace. The best approach is to seek the active involvement of all workers, regardless of their rank and employment status. The strategy is to promote the idea of co-ownership and shared obligation. Coupled with this is for management to remove all killer-phrases from their vocabularies and act promptly on all employee ideas.
Third, encourage the whistle-blowers. It’s much better if the company puts up a formal whistle-blower program that allows anonymous reports of irregularities, illegal activities or unethical conduct. To guarantee the protection of employee whistle-blowers, reports may be allowed to come in using only public computers. If not, allow people to send alerts via overnight delivery service.
The idea is for management to walk the talk. Examine your company mission and vision statements and find out how you’re doing to make these happen in real, everyday life. If managers abhor incompetence or irregularities, the more reason for them to regulate their own to establish unbridled integrity. Otherwise, there will come a time when realities mark those motherhood statements as empty platitudes.
Fourth, allow people to establish their own performance targets. In motivational theory, this is called self-determination or the universal need of an individual to gain a complete sense of self-worthiness, freedom and wholeness, while at the same time reconciling them with organizational work standards.
Research done by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan suggests that motivation is increased when a worker not only feels competent by receiving positive feedback from his colleagues but also feels a sense of autonomy or the knowledge that his work performance is self-determined rather than controlled by others, including his boss. One good example is the application of flexitime, when workers can come to the office at any time, provided that he completes a certain number of work hours a week.
Fifth, promote positive employee discipline. Progressive discipline has become obsolete. Although negative discipline (reprimand-suspension-dismissal) can be effective in reducing, if not eliminating, unwanted behavior, it has its own set of drawbacks. For one, the task of giving due process is stressful for both the boss and the concerned employee. The job becomes difficult when the penalty is finally applied.
Therefore, positive discipline takes priority over negative discipline. It can be done in the form of suppressing the issuance of a formal reprimand but goes back once again to double oral admonition. If the case merits suspension without pay, the employee is given the chance to use his vacation leave with pay and use these to reflect on his fate in the organization.
However, take note that positive discipline applies only in the case of minor offenses like tardiness, non-wearing of uniforms and other or similar violations.
All of these recommendations require effective feedback from people, which may not happen unless you encourage two-way communication on a daily basis.
Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing on human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.