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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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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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.

Finally – GPRS working on our Powerbook

Time for more celebrations, we’ve just solved a technology bug that has been bothering us for 18 months now.
When chriscurnow.com bought our G4 Powerbook about 2 years ago, we lost IR connectivity to our then Nokia phone. So we thought it was about time to go GPRS anyway. Our phone contract was due for renewal so we upgraded to a GRPS enabled bluetooth Sony Ericsson phone.

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The failed hero must die

Tony Blair pulled off an historic victory last week. Even before the election, he became the first labour leader in British history to complete a second term. Last week he became the first to win a third term. In the process he secured a majority a third larger than Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 victory and three times John Major’s of 1992.
You wouldn’t think so by the reaction of the commentators or his own party.
Like many leaders who taste success, Tony Blair has fallen victim to the vicious retribution of those who will never forgive him for failing to be the hero they fantasised he was. Blair could never be immortal. He could never be infallable. But the great fantasy was that he had these characteristics. In theoretical terms this is a classic example of Wilfred Bion’s basic assumption dependancy which we see in operation almost everywhere we see a leader experiencing success.
It goes like this. The leader leads the group/organisation/corporation/party/country out from the wilderness seemingly taking all before them. The followers then lose all their own competence and become, in their minds and actions, completely dependent on the leader. They fall into fantasy that the leader is immortal and infallable. The leader is now in a no-win situation. They can’t keep producing extraordinary victories forever. Eventually they will do something ordinary rather than spectactular. Think the CEO who presides over 5% company growth after previously producing 10. Think the football team that dominates the competition for a number of years but fails to win every grand final.
The followers turn on the leader and demand his head. The leader has left them to be responsible for their own destiny. They now have to find their own competence. They now have to make their own decisions. No, this will not do. They must destroy this leader who has failed to live up to their fantasy and go in search of the next mythical hero who will save them.
Will we ever learn?

Equality in sexual misconduct?

chriscurnow.com began life with an opinion on the then sexual misconduct scandals in Australia’s two main football codes.
It is sad that as we celebrate our first birthday, another case has taken over the headlines, talback shows and letters to the editor. This time though, the roles are reveresed. Melbourne woman, Karren Ellis, was this week jailed for a minimum of six months after having her earlier 22 month suspended sentence overturned on appeal. Ellis, a physical education teacher had repeated unprotected sex with a fifteen year old male student.

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