Sunday, November 25, 2007

Finding Jobs that fit employees

Right and wrong are perhaps the two most vigilant sentries in our lives. Yet, they are dubious in their existence and situational in their implications. They are two words that the wise use with dread, and the na├»ve with liberty. This combination of right and wrong becomes more interesting when played against the backdrop of today’s corporate world. These are the words that decide where someone stands as an employee, as a manager and ultimately, an organization. Tactful use of right and wrong signals can influence an employee’s motivation, performance graph attachment to the organization and most importantly, his/her self image as a worker.

It’s interesting to note how perceptions of right and wrong are influenced by personal considerations. Even more interesting is the fact that based on these personal perceptions, an employee is branded, and point fingers at his/her personality, instead of re-evaluating what he or she could have done differently and how the organization could have drawn the best out of the employee.

Corporate perceptions of what is acceptable and unacceptable are contextual, relative and in clash with the personal sensitivity of employees. This is known as hurried branding. There’s always a hurry to brand an employee be he good or bad. Tasks are given to subordinates based on whether he has done it or not. This quickly builds up an opinion about that person. If a particular task done is not liked, instead if saying it needs more improvement it brands the person a failure. The same example could be looked at from a wholly different perspective. When a particular work done is appreciated by the supervisor or the manager, the worker is immediately put on a pedestal. In other words, depending on individual perception, the worker is branded Mr. Right or Mr. Wrong.

It is important to gauge what someone is right or wrong in relation to personal values or a set of agreements. In the context of an organization, it is very important to stick to unwritten corporate agreements, plans or codes of conduct. If a task is done as per the agreement, it is right. So, wrong here basically involves the issue of violation of that corporate agreement or company core vales.

Instead, most of the time, what happens is, it is said that something is wrong from the standpoint of a personal value premise, and expect others to follow.

Added to this external perception, experts feel, employees themselves tend to attach a negative perception to their competencies. During assessment they would want to know more about their weaknesses linking this to an employee’s cultural mindset. This happens because though it is not right for an employee to be wrong. Also the nature of work itself has changed it’s more team-oriented and less individualistic, making it tougher to evaluate individual performance.

This ambiguity in perception brings in mindset where we think that being wrong is harmful. Hence, organizations constantly drive elimination rather then enablement.

The urge to escape wrongdoing also makes managers constantly raise quality standards. In the process of raising the bar, they get into a mindset wherein they decide not minding losing out on 10 good people, but they always want to ensure that not even one wrong person gets in. What is interesting to note here, is the fear of a wrong people entering into the organization, as a consequence of which managers only look for faults in people. And that’s where elimination begins. As a result, they lose out on lot of good people.

Even more interesting is the way the equation changes once a candidate enters an organization. Because he has to fight a number of eliminations to get in, there’s always an element of vengeance. The moment he’s in, he starts looking for faults in his managers. Unfortunately ads are also portraying a negative aspect of the manager team member relation.

So instead of looking at a wrong proof system, managers must look at embracing best practice and enabling people excellence rather than banking upon fault elimination mechanisms.

The effort has to start with changing individual mindsets. Culturally, Indians steer clear of appreciating good work, and are quick at finding faults instead. This has to change.

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