“Why haven’t you finished this report yet? Don’t you get the importance of this report??”
“I’m almost ready, but I had difficulty understanding the definitions and asked for a clarification. Just so I know for sure I will fill the report with the right data.”
“Really? No one else seems to have had problems understanding the definitions!”
“Actually, several of them asked how I did it because they didn’t dare ask themselves…”
“You are being defensive! Now I will have to tell my manager that you are the only one who didn’t deliver!”
It doesn’t matter whether the poor employee at the receiving end of this conversation is really not good at her job, or whether she has raised legitimate concerns. But what is clear, is that the one demanding the report, is also imprinting the following loud-and-clear messages:
- I am not at all interested in the problems you encounter. Please stop bothering me and muddle on. On your own, because I am not willing to help or assist.
- If you say something is not possible, my interpretation will be that you are incapable, unwilling or just plain stupid.
- If you keep doing this, your next appraisal won’t be so positive which will have a negative impact on your career.
- I don’t have the guts to take your issues a level upwards myself. But if you do, and make me look bad towards my bosses, I will make sure you pay.
Many companies want an open and diverse culture. We all know from the extensive research that these are necessary elements for a thriving company. But with the increasing need for control, organizations want people to deliver what the (corporate) manager wants, when he wants it and in the way he wants it. The pressure is often high, and people don’t take time to truly listen to their employees anymore. Just meeting one’s own deadlines, even when they don’t make sense, prevails over mutual understanding and cooperatively working towards common goals. Which inevitably results in a paternalistic blame game culture.
Be aware! When fostering this ‘deliver-now-or-die’ behavior in managers or corporate staff, you create a zombie work force.
Next time you walk around on the work floor, listen closely. It is not the air-conditioning you hear humming softly in the background. It’s the employees, murmuring “Must comply… Must comply… Should not object, or ask, or bring up problems. Must… Only… Comply…”