My son goes for cricket coaching to one of the many coaching academies that have sprung up in the locality, thanks to the Indian Premier League. He was selected to the team that was to play a match against another such academy. We were elated! Among so many children, he was in the chosen 12! We went to watch the match with great expectations! My son's team lost the match by a huge margin and the loss streak continued over the next few matches as well. The surprising part was that the coaches in the academy made no attempt to understand what went wrong and how it could be rectified. The kids were losing their motivation to play. When asked why the non-performers were still part of the team, the head of the academy told us that he was under intense pressure from the parents to include their kids in the team.
Some of this happens, though in a slightly different manner, in the corporate world too. We often hear people rue, “We were such a wonderful team….not sure where we lost out!” If one goes one level deeper, one will usually find the following to be some of the threads that may have led to the disenchantment.
- An employee gets promoted not because of performance but because of proximity to someone
- Project allocation happens not based on individual competence but on the basis of the manager’s comfort with the individuals
- Responsibilities are assigned not on the basis of abilities but on “extraneous” considerations (such as regional bias, domain bias, etc.)
- Rewards are given for “managing the boss” and not for true performance
- A new manager will hire a colleague from his previous organization not on merits but for loyalty
- And many more….
The above issues not only diminish the effectiveness of the teams but also systematically destroy the cultural fabric of the organization. Accountabilities diminish as no one feels accountable for the outcomes. Team work drops to low levels, only what is required to stay afloat gets done. The morale is low and there is not trust among the team members.
It is important for the organization leadership to look at where in the organization these pockets of discontent are happening and nip it in the bud. At times, it will require a gentle nudge, sometimes a stern warning and in some cases a surgical treatment as well. There are a number of tools that can help identify these “air pockets”. These can be as simple as a routine meeting with random set of employees (HP used to call it MBWA – Management By Walking Around to be followed by all levels of leadership), a Skip level meeting, a 3600 feedback, deep dive into attrition, and so on.
Having identified the problem, it is equally important to take corrective action and re-establish credibility in the system, else it will only aggravate the situation. It is equally important for the organization to communicate the action taken (while maintaining the respect and dignity of the individuals involved) and re-inforce the value systems of the organization.