The existence of systemic people management problems in an organisation often goes unrecognised because the critical symptoms can easily be misinterpreted. If you have one or more of the following symptoms in your organisation, it can be a sign that you need to review your people management strategies and activities:
Failure to meet organisational KPIs.
Your organisation will have a series of business critical KPIs that must be achieved in order to meet client and funding body/share holder expectations. Your organisation will have a range of policies, procedures and guidelines that are intended to ensure employees and managers understand what your organisation expects the outcome to be in relation to the KPI and what they must do individually and as a group to achieve those outcomes. Failure to achieve reasonable and business critical KPIs indicates there is a very high probability that employees and managers are having trouble complying with those documents.
Individual, team and work group conduct concerns are not anomalies
As a general rule, people want to feel respected, appreciated, included and treated fairly. If they don’t feel these things in the workplace there is a very high probability that their behaviour will at times fail to reflect good corporate citizenship and/or the expectations contained within your organisation’s Code of Conduct and respectful workplace behaviour policies and guidelines.
Individual, team and work group performance concerns are not anomalies
As a general rule, people want to feel: competent; as though they have a sense of control over themselves and their work; and, that they are making an important contribution to the work of an organisation. If they don’t feel these things in the workplace there is a very high probability that they will fail to perform their job to the best of their ability (or at least satisfactorily).
What causes a people management problem?
The shelves are groaning with books on the subject of people management and unfortunately there is no single approach that provides all the answers. With this in mind, the following list represents the most common issues we identify during misconduct investigations, grievance interventions and workplace reviews:
- Unclear and inconsistent decision making and application of rules (ie policies, procedures and guidelines). – Productive employees are usually confident that decision making will be fair (ie based on logic and objectivity) and respectful (ie take into account ethical values and demonstrate an understanding people). Failure to do this creates an unsafe or unpredictable workplace and gives permission to each individual to behave according to their own interpretation and assessment of the rules.
- Soft skill deficit – Most people are not well trained to deal with interpersonal conflict or to give immediate, specific and constructive feedback and yet these are two of the most important functions of a good supervisor/manager. These functions: encourage good performance and behaviour; redirect mistaken performance and behaviour; and, they provide appropriate warnings against ongoing poor performance and behaviour.
- Destructive cultural norms – A workplace that has a long standing people management problem will tolerate inappropriate communication and interpersonal behaviours. The persistent use and acceptance of inappropriate behaviours will create a dysfunctional workplace. Examples of these persistent behaviours are blame, defensiveness, defiance, resistance to change, complaints, bullying and manipulation.
- Rewarding the wrong behaviour or performance – The behaviours and performance that are repeated and copied in the workplace are those that are rewarded. Ongoing people management issues will often arise because the organisation and its managers are inadvertently rewarding the wrong thing. Examples of this include: micromanaging people who are meant to function independently; not managing the performance of an individual for fear that they will complain they are being bullied; and, praising the completion of small urgent tasks but not facilitating the completion of longer term strategic tasks.
- Poor recruitment and probation practices – It is very common that when a vacancy exists, those conducting the recruitment process are desperate to fill the position as quickly as possible because there are genuine workload management problems weighing heavily on them and their team. Over time, this can lead to the organisation routinely engaging unsuitable individuals and then taking no action to address performance and/or conduct that falls short of expectations within the specified probation period. This approach to recruitment and probation can quickly develop into poor standards of organisational performance and behaviour.