Volume 9 | Issue 1Putting it in context
A message from CDC Integrated Services, LLC
What We Think We Know, Part I
The new work environments will not eliminate the actions and behaviors that drive conflict. While conflicts in this new environment may have a different look and feel, they have many of the same drivers.
One of the more immediate concerns is the need to recognize that the old norms are gone. But unfortunately, companies didn’t suspend them temporarily with the idea that these prior norms would, at some point, be dusted off and brought back into the mainstream workplace.
At the risk of repeating what many others stated, a new world is here for the American worker. The workplace is not what it once was and will never be again. In America and worldwide, many changes unfolded in dramatic fashion and will continue to do so. Some of these changes started before the pandemic, and events accelerated them at almost a NASCAR speed.
Other changes, not on anyone’s radar, suddenly became necessary, and the disruptions and dislocations are enormous and consequential in ways not yet fully understood. We know that our culture has not yet assimilated many of these changes, and the impact has been jarring and sometimes painful to watch.
Within these new environments, familiar types of conflicts will re-appear, along with conflicts that reflect the volatile environments many companies are working through with differing levels of success. Regrettably, many environments have become more discordant than is necessary because company leaders are failing to focus on what made their companies successful in the first place.
Company leaders who ignore this jarring dissonance, or see them as a helpful prop to find favor with the flavor of the day that runs through the American mainstream, run the risk of alienating their employees and their customer base – and aggravating long-standing internal disputes. Unfortunately, this leadership-induced discord is leading some companies to implement policies that find favor with politicians or activists of one kind or another in the hope of achieving some poorly defined goal without first getting “buy-in” from the rank and file employees.
A number of conflicts my company assisted in resolving over the past year originate from conflicts over ill-defined goals and objectives. Some of these disputes escalated quickly, catching many management teams by surprise. Managers, pulled in two or more directions and seeing grief from above and below, do not always take the high road.
Do I exaggerate?
Look around your industry, and you will see that employees packed their bags and quit, and they continue to do so in numbers that are causing senior managers significant headaches. They are calling it the Great Resignation.
It brings home sharply the considerable chasm between senior management and the employees. In some ways, this gap between management and employee is easy to understand.
When companies forget that their principal purpose is to deliver a product that meets the customer’s needs and do so in a cost-effective, safe, and reliable manner, the employees feel these failures most directly. Moreover, it is increasingly evident that these companies are seeing the impact on the bottom line from this loss of focus.
Add to this the profoundly misguided idea that a company can order an employee to submit to training programs founded on assumed guilt/assumed responsibility violates a cardinal rule – no one can be deemed guilty without due process. Trespassing even further, many of these same companies demanded these same employees submit their person to medical experiments as a condition of employment. It should be no surprise that employees will not participate in such compulsory demands without significant pushback.
More important than any specific dispute is that many arguments find one group inside a company pitted against another. While not unknown in the pre-pandemic era, group conflicts did not occur that often. Unfortunately, that is not the case now.
When added to the traditional workplace stresses that drive conflict, the new drivers of conflict alluded to above are among the many reasons driving the Great Resignation. I am convinced that the events during the pandemic acted as a catalyst (a term I’ve used before). Based on my studies, I believe many companies sowed the seeds for the Great Resignation and set the stage for this mass migration away from old jobs to something else before the pandemic did its damage. The pandemic simply harvested the bitter fruit of corporate neglect.
Now companies also face an immutable reality.
According to the Department of Labor, more than 11 million job vacancies remain unfilled. As a result, companies of all sizes struggle to find employees. In their efforts to fill vacancies, they are also facing demands by potential employees that companies never had to consider in the past.
Data from research companies such as Gensler Research, ESRI, Korn-Ferry, Harvard Business Journal, and others clearly shows that Companies are no longer in the driver’s seat.
One such piece of data is striking…” Power has shifted.
From organizations to people. From profit to mutual prosperity. From “me” to “we
.” Employees are now starting to ask human questions about the work they perform – why am I doing this? What is it for? How can we do it better? Many are choosing to leave their jobs.”
“The competition to attract new talent is growing fiercer than ever. This poses an existential threat to businesses everywhere. An organization is only as good as the people it employs; those organizations that want to survive and thrive in 2022 will need to respond to the new power dynamic in kind. Look beyond financial goals to consider the needs of all their people. Treat employees as human beings, not parts of a machine.”
“Break down silos and overcome remote working challenges to ensure people feel connected to the company’s purpose and vision and each other. Embrace the possibilities of the future and make it work, work for everyone…” (Korn Ferry)
Also, two other factors come into play. One is the vast gap between the need of companies for skilled, competent employees and the number of available people capable of filling those vacancies. As stated, some 11 to 11 and ½ million vacancies exist, yet, an estimated six million people remain unemployed (official numbers), of which only an estimated five million have marketable skills.
Outside these official statistics lies a largely ignored story – those who left the workforce and are making no effort to return to work. These labor constraints are just one factor in the Law of Constraints, and, as my grandfather used to say, it’s a humdinger.
What does any of the above matter as it relates to conflict in the workplace? With fewer people to perform the available work, the demand for these employees’ time is increasing dramatically. Many employees feel the impact of long hours even when working from home, and stress levels among many working remotely create conflict-rich environments. In the past, managers and supervisors paid little attention to potential warning signs signaling a pending conflict; they must now quickly learn how to spot those warning signs and react constructively to prevent further departures from the workforce.
Food for Thought: “All this was new to me. Life takes us by surprise and orders us to move towards the unknown – even when we don’t want to and we think we don’t need to.” (Paul Coelho)
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