Difficult Employees

Following up from my post regarding unfair dismissal, there is an interesting thread over at Orgdyne at the moment regarding Diffficult Employees.
List moderator Anil Behal struck a chord with this statement:

I am struck by the notion of “difficult employees” within the organizational setting. I would be very intererested in hearing from you if you have been a so called “difficult employee” yourself, and/or managed such employees in the past. I don’t believe that there is a body of research out there that specifically looks into the psyche of a difficult employee, or from the standpoint of managerial leadership, what gets played out in her inner theatre.

Having been a rather “difficult employee” myself, at least throughout my corporate career, I’d like to see if someone can define the term “difficult.” Difficult and dissenting voices in groups and organizations often hold the systemic anxiety “for” the organization, but also run the risk of being scapegoated by the organization to somehow make the anxiety disappear. I suggest that some “difficult” employees may make wonderful, and extremely compassionate leaders, if they can somehow survive the onslaught of the organization to annihilate them.

Unfair Dismissal

The Australian government has reecently announced changes to our industrial relations system.
A breathtaking agenda that changes everything.
The easiest change to understand is the redifinition of a small business in regard to unfair dismissal laws. Companies with up to 100 employees can now dismiss staff members without regard to unfair dissmissal laws. This been a rallying point from employer groups ever since the labour government introduced the legislation about 15 years ago. The argument goes that employers are reluctant to take on staff because it is now too hard to dismiss incompetent, unethical or lazy workers.
With the new laws, I fear that it is now too easy for unprincipled employers to manipulate staff.
However, the problem really lies with how organisations deal with underperforming employees. All too often the organisation doesn’t want to confront the problem – which is almost always bigger than just the employee concerned. The reticence to face the problem is in fact a problem in itself. It might even be the problem. For as long as problems are not dealt with, the employer can hire and fire all they like but they will still have problem employees.

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It’s quite an amazing journey we set ourselves when we establish our own business. Our current political leaders like John Howard and Peter Costello like to laud those who establish small enterprises but neither of them of had to endure the sleep depriving, blood pressure raising uncertainties that relying on your own wits brings to all of us.

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The ABC’s (or is that ‘The Age’s) woes

Gay Alcorn, writing in The Age this morning, finds (national government broadcaster) ABC local radio station 774 on the slippery slide to fluffiness.
Im not sure what she was so upset about.
The ABC is a cultural institution in Australia. Those of us who love it do so with all our hearts. I have been a diehard listener to 3LO/774 since I got my first car in 1972. I had a 1962 Mini that I paid $300 dollars for and, as an electronics hobbyist, made the radio for it myself. Back in those days i was a new student at Monash University and listened to Terry Lane pioner talk back radio. I’m pretty happy with the station’s continued tradition of trying new ideas over that time.

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New Breast Blog – now live

Finally, earlier entry for a discussion of the rationale for this new blog and its relationship to chriscurnow.com

Bennis on Business Schools

In this month’s Harvard Business Review, Warren Bennis and James O’Toole examine How Business Schools lost their way (Subscription required).

Business schools are on the wrong track. For many years, MBA programs enjoyed rising respectability in academia and growing prestige in the business world. Their admissions were ever more selective, the pay packages of graduates ever more dazzling. Today however, MBA programs face intense criticism for failing to impart usefull skills, failing ro prepare leaders, failing to install norms of ehtical hevaior – and even failing to lead graduates to good corporate jobs.”

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Is Corporate Social Responsibility optional?

Leon Gettler of The Age has just started his own blog.
In this entry he discusses the efforts that several corporations are putting into Corporate Social Responsibility. He singles out the born again approach of GE:

GE chief Jeffrey Immelt unveiled GE’s eco-imagination blueprint
that will see GE more than double its research and development into clean technology for its customers, double its sales of new technologies and products that conserve water, and reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions by 1 per cent over the next seven years. It’s a big shift for GE, you wouldn’t have seen it when Jack Welch was running the show.

On the down side, Gettler refers to some new research from the Australian Graduate School of Management that suggests that consumers don’t particularly care about corporate ethics when making buying decisions. So is CSR really worth the effort?

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New Breast Blog

I’ve been slightlty uncomfortable for a while now about the amount of space that Breasts have been taking up at chriscurnow.com.
My justification for this has been that it is part of the world of work. The way western society has sexualised and objectified breasts is symbolic of male dominance over women. It also drives a wedge between men and women. As men our objectification of breasts often gets in the way of real relationships with women. One of the more minor effects of this is women get sick of us talking to their boobs. A much more serious effect is the power game we play by ranking breasts as though the only quality of value a woman brings with her is her breasts.
Of course, in most work situations (and chriscurnow.com is about the world of worrk), this is not played out very visibly and there a lot of men who treat their female colleagues with respect. But male dominance is a subtle but powerful sub-text to many situations.
So this is all appropriate discussion for a blog about the world of work.
However, I think breasts have come to have too much presence in this blog. I still want to pursue tthis issue as a means to provide greater understanding between men and women but I don’t think here is the right place.
So today I registered breaststories.com.au. I haven’t got confirmation that I can have this domain name (I don’t think there will be any problems) so it’s not visible yet. But expect to see it around in the next few days.
chriscurnow.com will still address issues of sexuality, sexaul equality and the role of sexualitty at work. We just won’t be focussing on breasts so much.

Authentic Leadership

I’ve had a few occasions over the past week to think about authenticity.
Being authentic is one of my most fundamental values. The other day I worked with a colleague who was struggling to find her own authentic response to a difficult situation as well as trying to guide her organisation to find a similar authentic response.
Then along came BOSS magazine last Friday. (I try to set aside every Friday morning for some general reading. BOSS magazine is my regular reading the second Friday of each month.)
BOSS’s cover story was “Authentic Leadership”. Now if you read the article please ignore the sub-heading which sounds like the work of Deputy Editor Catherine Fox. Fox has an unforunate habit of starting every article she writes with “Forget …. [insert second latest fad here].” I find this so annoying. I hate fad surfing. Fox promotes it by suggesting everything she writes about replaces the last thing she wrote about. I mean why bother writing about something if it’s value lasts only until next month’s article. It seems to me an incredible shallow approach to the important things in life.
I take particular issue with it this month because it is the antithesis to the subject of the article.
Authenticity is lasting. It is fundamental. I think Jim Collins would suggest that some things are really fundamental and lasting.
Regarding authenticity, what is it? According to BOSS writer, Mike Hanley, it is “being yourself”. However according to lead thinker for the article, Rob Goffee, “Jay Conger professor of organisational development at the London Business School” it is more than this – “it is an artful authenticity.”
I’ve put Goffee’s book Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? (HBR OnPoint Enhanced Edition) on my Amazon wish list and I’m interested in his thoughts. However, the way BOSS presents it (and I’m willing to suspend judgement), I fear that Goffee is advocating a “manufactured” authenticity.
Sure I think that being authentic will inspire the people who follow you, but that’s not a reason to seek “authenticity”.
Authenticity is just that. Authentic. It is not about being authentic so that you can get more out of the people who work for you. It is about being authentic because it is the right thing to do.
My definition of authentic adds to the one above. I suggest it is “being true to yourself.” Knowing your own values and being true to them. Knowing what you think is right and doing it. Of course you will find circumstances that will challenge your values. Circumstances that will cause you to wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to take a shortcut, rather than face up to a difficult situation. How you or I handle this depends on our own conscience. Being authentic though means at least we get our conscience invvolved adn make that decision with referecne to our values.
Too often leaders do what they think other people demand of them and ignore their moral or ethical qualms. Being authentic means making their own decisions with regard to the circumstances and their own internal compass.
That is the type of leadership I find inspiring.

The function of Breasts

It apparently comes as a complete surprise to some people that the primary function of breasts is feeding:

“In the fall of 1993, one of the undergraduate students in my ‘Women and Culture’ course was totally flabbergasted to discover that the biological function of women’s breasts was for feeding children. With obvious shock and disgust evident in her voice she asked, ‘You mean women’s breasts are like a cow’s udder?’ That a young woman could reach college without ever having even heard of women using their breasts to feed their children is a sad commentary on American culture.”
Katherine Dettwyler as quoted in The Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton (BACE) report about Breastfeeding at Municipal Pools in Canada. From 007b.

chriscurnow.com has consistently argued that breasts belong to the women whose bodies they are part of. We men have no right to regard them as our property. chiscurnow.com believes the way that women have been made to feel about their bodies and their breasts in particular is a great shame on our society and we men who are mostly responsible for it. We believe that all women should be able to feel good about and pround of their bodies and their breasts and be free from stares, whistles, demeaning and belittling comments and demands for them to “show us your tits.”
However, we were challenged we recently came across this site which argues that the sole purpose of breasts is for “breastfeeding our babies” and that breasts have no sexual function whatsoever.

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