Are Employees Really Sick?


Org. Design and Social Networks

Hierarchies rely on job titles to command the attention of others. Social networks thrive on the social ingenuity and influence of the individual people in the network. Intuitive 21st Century organizational designs will allow this inevitable influence to happen and reward those who thrive on it, not punish them. In many organizations, bypassing structures to sell an idea to someone higher up is taboo, and may get the person fired. Designs must intentionally create and support bypasses to structure in a utilitarian approach to the structure. It does not suggest structure is not needed, but rather, that structure is a fluid concept that is constantly evolving. Galbraith (2000) calls this the “reconfigurable organization” and argues that this type of organization involves three capabilities:

(1) The organization is reconfigured by forming teams and networks across organizational departments.
(2) The organization uses internal prices, markets, and marketlike devices to coordinate the complexity of multiple teams.
(3) The organization forms partnerships to secure capabilities it does not have.

Proficient social networkers are perfectly poised to thrive in this reconfigurable organization. The portfolio life has become more and more viable now, because people have an immediate captive audience of friends and friends of friends. This is analogous to a return to the pre-industrial cottage industry life. A person can market him or herself to their immediate network, and those people can then recommend that person when they know someone who might need their services. (credit for sparking this idea in my research goes to Dan Friesen).

Organizations, like marketers, are confronting the reality of the power of social connections. This is not just an Information Technology (IT) issue. It is a complex issue that affects all aspects of an organization.

The explosion of the use of social networking sites has coincided with a need for organizations to recruit and retain avid social networkers in their organizations. Goleman argues that emotional intelligence is a primary indicator of the success of a leader. Adept social networkers will have that needed high emotional intelligence and will thrive in 21st Century organizations. This also means that some employees may be bypassed for promotions and projects because of their inability to navigate the complexities of the fluid and global organization. Adept social networkers have already thrived in complex social networks, and are perfectly poised to thrive just when organizations need them to. I’m just not sure organizations are ready for them yet.

Galbraith, J. (2000). Designing the global corporation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. & McKee, A. (2002). Primal Leadership: Realizing the power of emotional intelligence. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Biggest Reasons Employees Leave Your Company

2012 – My year in Review

It’s funny how a year flies by. I think of how much has happened to me in the past year and am excited for the new year. I finished my Doctorate, published a few articles, wrote a book, hired an agent, and am attempting to publish the book. I interviewed some of the top HR leaders in Canada and have grown more passionate about HR in doing so. I also realized that many of these leaders are pondering the same issues most HR leaders deal with.

I work in HR and a large portion of my job is labour relations. I’m intentionally careful about what I post / share because it’s usually not appropriate to share the really interesting stuff. It’s been an interesting and challenging year at work and I think I’ve grown a lot as well. I’ve experienced things that some HR Professionals may never experience (collective bargaining, union certifications etc.). My team is stronger than ever, and it’s awesome to watch them continue to grow into HR Professionals.

I’ve written lots of articles/posts on this blog, many of which were published on LDRLB. Some were ignored; others were read and shared widely. But it’s fun to flesh out my thoughts on leadership in public forums and hearing different points of view. I feel that the more I study leadership, the less I know. I’m sure many other scholars feel the same way. It’s such a broad field and there is so much I still don’t know. That’s why I love it and why I’ve spent so many years studying it.

To everyone who reads/follows this blog, thanks so much for your comments and emails. I love the debates and look forward to 2013!

In Defense of Violating Policies

“I have seen a lot of things, and have seen a lot of guys die…but I have never seen a Marine cry.” (witness to incident below)

I don’t know any Marines personally, but I suspect that making one cry is a very difficult feat. A story surfaced recently regarding a Marine trying to fly home on Delta Airlines. This young man lost two legs in Afghanistan last year and was trying to fly home for Christmas. The Customer Service people (and I use the term ‘service’ very loosely here) decided this Marine should be boarded last at the back of the plane. It’s a pain for able-bodied people to navigate through a crowded plane, let alone a double-amputee in a wheelchair. So they dragged him through the aisle, bumping into seats along the way despite offers of assistance. A couple First-class passengers even offered to trade seats with him but the Delta employees refused and continued the humiliating journey down the aisle in front of a crowded plane.

Now in defense of Delta Airlines, they acknowledged they mishandled this situation, and issued a statement saying “We failed in this situation”. That takes a lot of guts for an organization to publicly say they made a mistake, and I respect their willingness to do so. (other organizations who mess up should take note of Delta’s response)

Incidents like this happen every day in large organizations (albeit most don’t make the front page of newspapers). An employee gets presented with an opportunity to use their brain, their internal compassionate tendencies, and their discretion…and they hide behind the policy instead. How many times have you heard a variation of, “Thank you sir, but our policy states that…”? Does it ever make you a more engaged customer? In most cases, it enrages you. But I think the issue is not the employee him/herself, but rather the leaders who enforce those policies, and who punish violators irrationally. Policies can’t encompass every conceivable situation, even though they sometimes try to.

Our orientation and training for employees should include a review of policies, but also a review of when to violate said policies. If the employees you hire can’t handle that discretion, then you shouldn’t have hired them. It’s amazing what can happen when you give employees liberty, discretion and opportunities to provide the service you want them to. Policies are needed, but not at the expense of what your organization is there for in the first place.

The quote at the beginning if this article is haunting. So many things could have gone different in this incident had this organization empowered their employees to violate policies when it makes sense to do so, and who backed up their employees when they did. It may very well avoid embarrassing situations like this one.

HR & Christmas Policies

I’m not sure who wrote this, but a colleague emailed this to me today. It made me laugh. Merry Winterval!


Please be advised that all employees planning to dash through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, going over the fields and laughing all the way are required to undergo a Risk Assessment addressing the safety of open sleighs. This assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly where there are multiple passengers. Please note that permission must also be obtained in writing from landowners before their fields may be entered. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance. You should also refrain from the use of the word Christmas as others might find this offensive. Winter festival or simply Winterval has been found to be acceptable as an alternative.

Benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available for collection …by any shepherds planning or required to watch their flocks at night. While provision has also been made for remote monitoring of flocks by CCTV cameras from a centrally heated shepherd observation hut, all facility users are reminded that an emergency response plan must be submitted to account for known risks to the flocks. The angel of the Lord is additionally reminded that prior to shining his/her glory all around s/he must ensure that all shepherds are wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to account for the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory.

Following last year’s well publicised case, everyone is advised that EC legislation prohibits any comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr. R Reindeer from reindeer games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence.

While it is acknowledged that gift-bearing is commonly practised in various parts of the world, particularly the Orient, everyone is reminded that the bearing of gifts is subject to Hospitality Guidelines, as contained within the Companies Honesty and Integrity Policy, and that all gifts must be registered. This applies regardless of the individual, even royal personages. It is particularly noted that direct gifts of currency or gold are specifically precluded under provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Further, caution is advised regarding other common gifts, such as aromatic resins that may initiate allergic reactions.

Finally, in the recent case of the infant found tucked up in a manger without any crib for a bed, Social Services have been advised and will be arriving shortly.

Merry Winterval,
Risk Management Team

Values: Ideal versus Current

Values are an important part of any organization’s core essence. But value is a state of the present, not just a future ideal. I may value punctuality as an ideal core value, but if I am not punctual myself, then is it truly a core value to me? No matter what I want to do, or want my followers to do, a value must be intertwined with our behaviors, to truly be a value.

Greg Marcus, in a response to my previous post on values, wrote, “Values exist in every organization. They are what drive decisions and limit behaviors. In many ways they are the operating system of the organization…But unfortunately they often have little in common with the high minded the words on the paper.” I like that operating system analogy and totally agree with Greg that many organizations have a large disparity between perceived and actual values.

I am writing this post on my Macbook, and no matter how hard I try, I’m not going to magically change my Macbook into a PC. I would have to buy a new computer to change my operating system. With enough knowledge, I might be able to make my own, but that will be a difficult–if not impossible–endeavor.

An authentic state where our actual and perceived values and behaviors harmoniously align is an ideal state of leadership. But that is utopian, not entirely attainable for most of us. That’s not an excuse though, and shouldn’t prevent us for striving for that equilibrium. Hultman (2005) argues that “fostering greater authenticity…requires a culture where people can admit their mistakes and still maintain their self-worth” (p.48). It is important that we are able to learn and grow since none of us are perfect. We need room to grow and make those mistakes. But who we are now (our character) is equally as important as who we want to be. Our values are exhibited now, by what we do now. So quit espousing ideal values, and start living your current values.

Hultman, K. (2005, Fall). Evaluating organizational values. Organizational Development Journal, 23(5), 39-48.