Many years ago, while I was caring for my wife who was dying from cancer, I was prone to try absolutely everything that “worked”. Almost every quack exploited our weakness.
We visited alternative medicine clinics, visited specialists who “rewire mental energy,” and frequented near-magicians. After a few months ,she died anyway. I look back at the days I dragged her around to various quacks and still feel guilty. She was tired and worn down- and we were being fucked over by a ruthless gang of healers who did nothing. But worse than doing nothing, they preyed on our frailty. Much like organizations which “care about” the mental health of their employees.
I believe that organizations create a lot of mental health issues. They set impossible goals, pit people against each other, measure your performance against ambiguous/fake yard sticks, rank and rate you, and force feed slogans the goal of which are to get more for less. Management is very often toxic. Change after change creates tons of anxiety. On top of it, people are asked to be authentic, and punished when they are. So they have no right to then help you with the very stress they have created. That help is very suspect. It is preying.
It is my deep belief that organizations should stay away from helping employees deal with mental health issues. They are suspect; they often exacerbate mental disorders and in some case cause mental disorders. They should provide no in house counselling whatsoever. Wolves should not be allowed in the chicken coop, even if it is guard duty.
I also believe that discretion promised to troubled employees is often violated.
People with mental health and their support group should manage mental health issues outside of the work place if at all possible. Allowing organizations to meddle in employees mental health is akin to falling victim to quackery, or extreme naivete.
Wolf, stay away with your stretch goals, authenticity, play room, coaching-for-stress and toxic management.
Fake information has been around in organizations for more than two decades. It has had a devastating impact on the way that organizations function. In this brief post, I will document frequent manifestations of fake information which I have encountered in my consulting career in North America, the Mid East, Europe and Asia.
- Fake commitments. Company A competes for a tender by promising to deliver non existing product features in an impossible time frame. The tender is won, and the delivery as promised never really happens, or is delivered as a so called “phased delivery” in a long and painful process of de-commitment.
- Fake planning. As a result of the fake commitments, aggressive deadlines are driven down to the troops in Company A in order to deliver the non existent product features on time. The nerds provide feigned agreement to the plans. As due date comes, things start to “slip” and no one is really surprised. New nerds are recruited, only to slow down the development process. Lessons learned passes off the blame left, right and centre, but never to the initial original sin of a fake commitment.
- Fake team work In order to drive costs down, people from all over the world are recruited to work in virtual teams. These teams are negatively impacted by trust issues, language issues and cultural differences. However these difficulties are patched up with fake team work, a series of pyrotechnical activities which sort of, or sort of not, “put us all on the same page”. As a result, the hidden agendas flourish mainly under the surface, where they are harder to observe and treat.
- Fake wellness Caving in to management gurus as well as slick salesmanship and fads, organizations hide their intention of getting “more for less” via “wellness programs” for those nerds caught up in the above scenarios. These programs perfume the pig by better nutrition, gym membership preferably on-site, and perhaps breathing exercises.
- Lies in due diligence No where are there more blatant lies than in the due diligence phase before certain (though not all, obviously) mergers, aka acquisitions. The acquired company misrepresents its product, assets, liabilities, market share and pipeline in often a (desperate) effort to find a perfect “suitor” who can inject cash and put them out of their financial, client-related or technical misery.
- Mergers There are no mergers. Just acquisitions.
Lots has been said about the need to make staff feel safe in organizations. It has been claimed that feeling safe is the critical success factor that make teams successful.
I want to suggest 5 ways that organizations and leaders make people unsafe. As usual, i will focus on the counter-intuitive, since much that has been written and talked about until now about making people safe is common sense.
- Promoting authenticity can and does make many people feel unsafe, especially those who come from cultures where emotions need to be repressed. Encouraging people to be authentic can be akin to asking people to sit in a room naked if the air-conditioning is not working, so that they feel comfortable.
- Delegation of authority can make people very unsafe, especially those people who expect that the privilege of being a boss comes with the price tag of protecting staff from risk and exposure.
- Asking people to express an opinion can make staff tremble if they come from cultures where opinions need to be kept to yourself in fear of being seen as rude or a tall poppy.
- Giving rosy and positive feedback can make people who are highly self critical feel that they are being lied to or deceived.
- Asking men from conservative cultures to report into a woman in general and a younger woman in particular can make men feel very unsafe.
I do know that item five is politically incorrect. But because I prefer being correct to be politically correct, so I feel safe about writing this post. To wrap things up, making staff feel safe has a lot to do with addressing the basic cultural assumptions and needs of a global and diverse nature.