Anxiety is built into organizations.
The anxiety stems from peoples dependence on one another.
- If I build something but you do not sell it, I may get blamed.
- If I cook a feast but the person who designs the menu makes it appear unattractive, then fingers may be pointed at me.
- If I teach a course but the room is too hot, people may walk out on me.
- If I answer the clients’ queries but the IT system is too slow, then the level of service provided gets knocked.
This inherent anxiety happens both within organizations and well as between organizations. Lawyers are used to lessen the anxiety between organizations. Sometime SLA’s (service level agreements) are used, with very partial success, to mitigate anxiety between people and functions within one organization.
Nothing whatsoever can eliminate this anxiety. It is a built in feature. The only way to mitigate the anxiety is to talk about it, acknowledge overlapping responsibilities, maintain realistic goals, reward cooperation and hire-for-both-attitude and competence.
In the framework of the supervision I constantly hammer my young flock to avoid jumping to wow-wowism and sloganeering to paper over the basic anxiety all organizational members carry on their backs or in their gut.
It’s there, and we need to learn to live with it. It cannot be otherwise, nor should it be. Depending on others is no mean feat.
Blame shifting, buck passing and turd-on-the-table avoidance are rampant in many organizations.
There are very good reasons why this happens: lack of long term mutual commitment between employee and work place, the gig worker/external vendors upon whom blame is easily shifted, goals which are overly aggressive and “a victim must be found”, the shocking lack of solidarity between what was once “the working class”, and the use of digital communication which make shirking of ownership so easy.
Many organizations play lip service to enhance the level of ownership. These organizations PREACH ownership, put the word ownership in job descriptions and mission statements and T shirts. However, this is what Israelis call “hasbara”, or (mindless) propaganda.
Other organizations want to enhance ownership but do not know how. This is my advice:
- If the goals that are set are too aggressive, forget about enhancing ownership. If you set up your employees to fail, they will not tolerate it. They will not agreed to be screwed. They will avoid being hanged at all costs.
- If risk assessment is shared, then ownership can be enhanced. This sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t. The sharing of risks provides the context in which people can assume ownership yet feel safe. Force clarity of language. “Challenging”, “obstacles”, “threats”, “probable.”…these are words which hide more than they reveal.
- Use shared KPIs so that team members help one another to succeed. Do NOT rely on goodwill or teamwork. No one should be able to look good if they don’t help their peers succeed.