I made the call as requested. Spoke to the HR manager with a brief outline of available dates. I was surprised that it was such a rush job, that wasn’t the impression I’d been given by the senior manager who had initially approached me about the work. That conversation had been broad, inclusive and led by the needs of all levels of staff within the organisation. It also seemed to be a conversation about values and empathy, learning and discovering

Conversely, this conversation seemed to be about process, structure and delivering a tick in a box. I was told that the training needed to be split into managers and staff because they needed wildly different things from the training. This rang my alarm bells so I queried the specification and who in the organisation was commissioning me. I was told that this was solely an HR project. I was also told that managers needed to be trained separately so that they could talk openly about their staff without the fear of any comeback. My heart sank.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are plenty of meetings in numerous organisations up and down the land where staff get talked about, where decisions are taken behind closed doors and where good policies go out the window. I guess I had just hoped that HR weren’t encouraging that behaviour.

You see it seems to me that if you invite people on a training course, setting the expectation that they can gossip, engage in making derogatory comments and generally pass the buck then that sort of behaviour filters out in to the wider organisation. By colluding with poor managers you allow that sort of thing to become the norm – thereby creating work for your already overstretched HR team, maybe even condoning the idea that it’s somehow acceptable. We all talk about operations not being prepared to have the difficult conversations but charity starts at home……….

In my studies I’ve come across the idea that you often can’t solve a problem with the same level of action that caused it. So, a problem in behaviour must be approached at the level of capability or perhaps values / beliefs, and if it worked for Gregory Bateson then I for one am not going to argue. I also tend to believe that you get the organisational culture you deserve – a point made beautifully by Gemma Reucroft this week.

So what have I done? I’ve asked what the capability gap is, asked what they value and what they believe to be true within the organisation. It’s not an easy or comfortable conversation right now, which is as it should be when you’re dealing with such precious resources – your people.


About Jon Bartlett

I'm a coach, blogging on things that occur to me, that I want to share and any other fun stuff I find lying around in the real world.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Work and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Collusion

  1. broc.edwards says:

    Sigh…Maybe you should offer a “check-the-box” level of service. Cheaper and who cares about the outcomes, but you’ll give everyone a nice certificate of participation. 😉

    Kidding aside, it’s interesting on how often people insist on creating artificial distinctions that interfere with communication, learning, creativity, and innovation. The caste system lives on.

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