I will give 5 examples of behaviours which managers exhibit that constitute micro aggressions towards their teams and/or organizations. I define micro-aggression in an organizational context as indirect, subtle and manipulative discrimination against members of a less powerful (groups of) employees.
I will discuss in brief examples of interventions in such situations.
1) Give an identical task to more than once person, each person being unaware of the other’s involvement.
2) Oversimplify the difficultly of tasks and then question why progress is so slow.
3) Set a certain goal to please a client which is totally undoable, and then apply immense pressure to get it done, finally putting the blame on one of the subordinates whose political skills are nil.
4) Evade problems by just another reorganization, postponing the real problems until the reorg stabilizes.
5) Obfuscating of issues with flowery words such as “complex issue” or “challenging few months”, when complex means that the product does not work and challenging means poor cash flow so no bonuses.
Skilled consultants should have several arrows in their quiver in such situations. These arrows include making the subtext explicit, constant questioning, paradoxical intervention and pointing out the secondary benefit to the manager of using such manipulations.
Example: CEO Jim initiated reorganization because of siloism which Jim himself promotes. I asked Jim if he thinks the reorg will include brain transplants to teach his teams how to coordinate among themselves just to spite him.
Example: CEO Howard asked 3 different engineers to re-write the product life cycle. I questioned the CEO why he didn’t just pay $50000 to a consultant, and dictate the process that he wants.
Example: CEO John appoints Gregory as his CFO. John himself was the CFO and was promoted to CEO; Gregory was his deputy CFO. John constantly tells Gregory that Sales Recognition is very inaccurate and “I had no problem with that when I was CFO”. John fails to point out that Sales were sky high in his time as CFO, but not so as present. I questioned John why he had not maintained the Sales Recognition portfolio for himself, as “you managed to make the best of bad situation so skillfully.”
Example: CEO Yuri told Support Manager Hana that the next few months would be a challenge. (The challenge is that the new product is dead on arrival). I told Yuri that the challenge could be easily rectified if the clients were replaced. And yes, he was very angry.
But then again, if you don’t like the heat in consulting, get out of the kitchen.