BA’s latest attempt to tackle its long running relationship with its front line staff is mind boggling. Sue the buggers! For all its macho posturing, the BA management have shown little understanding of what it takes to run a company where staff feel valued, involved, developed and inspired (VIDI).

Instead, BA’s top team seem determined to continue presenting the dispute as a purely economic one, namely that the cuts the company wants to make are essential to its survival. Unless the staff are entirely suicidal in their attempts to adjust the airline’s stance, they too want the organisation to survive, but clearly not at any cost.

If the issue at stake was simply perks, then naturally the whole imbroglio could be resolved in a couple of late night, face-to-face negotiations. [more…click on the title]

But it is not as simple as that.

With a significant proportion of staff relying on being able to fly to work almost free, what does BA expect to happen by trying to remove these basic rights? How will it cope if, for example, those staff that need this “perk” for a viable job simply go elsewhere? And sooner or later they will do, even if temporarily they are constrained by lack of alternative employment opportunities.

Based on the handling of the dispute so far, BA’s management has little or no chance of winning the short term, let alone the long term trust of the majority of its front line staff. Yet these are the people whose engagement the company needs to be able to rely on to run a quality service. If your front line staff are disaffected then you can be sure the customer care will fully reflect this.

So the future prospects for BA look bleak no matter how soon the dispute is settled. The company faces an uphill battle to fully engage its people which all the evidence suggests, is the critical factor in achieving outstanding performance expressed in a variety of ways but particularly financially.

In the 1970s a beleaguered prime minister went to the polls asking “who rules Britain?” The voters gave an unequivocal answer “not you mate.” One cannot help feeling that if the present BA management could put the question to its stakeholders “who runs BA?” the answer would come back sharply as “not you mate!”

That of course is part of the BA management’s case for continuing its macho style of managing its people. It is determined to regain what it sees as control over how it runs the airline. Yet this is to ignore the very nature of the enterprise itself. This is not a sweat shop in which the employees have few skills and little choice about the work.

This is a complex, sophisticated, and highly technical operation, dependant on the know-how, commitment and above all knowledge of its people. Such enterprises can no longer be run by leaders who see command and control as a viable style. Instead they require an approach best described as engaging, one that sees employees as partners not enemies.

A few weeks ago this blog carried a piece entitled: Can BA survive? Shortly afterwards the airline announced an intended merger with another airline as its way forward in an increasingly consolidated industry. Whether putting two weak companies together will produce a stronger one has yet to be seen.

In seeking a title for this latest blog I came up with "Who Runs BA?" On screen though, it somehow  emerged as "Who Ruins BA?" Maybe I should have stuck with it!

Whatever emerges you can be sure that an inevitable shift in management style towards one of engagement will be the only viable way forward for the new airline.

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