Monday, February 20, 2012

Poor Management = Disengaged Staff = Lower Profits

I think it was the 60's folk group, Peter Paul & Mary who sang "When will they ever learn?"

I couldn't help but think of this over the weekend.

I have 2 daughters who are still studying and, like most of their peers, they work part time to generate income as they complete their degrees. One works in a locally owned fashion store and the other in a well known jewellery chain with high quality merchandise but owned by overseas interests. Both enjoy their work - they love the interaction with people and each of their employers recognises them as people who make their targets.

Last Thursday the daughter who works in jewellery mentioned that, on Friday, the regional manager would be visiting the store where she works. She said that her manager appeared a bit concerned because the shop's figures were 8% down on target - a situation that their research showed was somewhat better than most other retailers in their shopping centre and a lot better than the situation with the other members of the same chain in nearby shopping centres.

On Friday evening she came home furious. We learned that the regional manager had shown absolutely no understanding, had not been prepared to listen, and had given all 11 staff members a formal warning of dismissal - this despite the fact both my daughter and her manager were ahead of budget on their individual figures. On Saturday my daughter learned that she was not the only one now looking for another job.

Now I know that retail is a hard business at the best of times and that, right now in Australia, it is especially difficult. But surely the last thing you want to do is to have your good staff looking for other jobs!

The truth is that good people don't work for bad bosses! Once good employees find out that their management is poor to bad, they start looking elsewhere - and, because they're good, its not too hard for them to find alternative employment even when the job market is tough.

Retail trade is very dependent on floor traffic. That is why so many retailers go into large shopping centres where the multiplicity and variety of shops encourages a wide range of people to browse even if they have nothing specific to buy. If floor traffic is down there is very little, if anything, that a small individual shop can do to generate more shoppers. If this low floor traffic is coupled with a reduced spending pattern (such as Australia is now seeing) then meeting targets becomes even more difficult. The evidence of this is seen in the closure of so many retail outlets across the country over the last year or so.

In difficult times organisations need highly committed people who are fully engaged with their employer and their work associates. These fully engaged people will function as effective teams and will search for creative ways of meeting targets. They will engage with potential customers knowing that satisfied customers spend a lot more money than dissatisfied ones. Good management recognises this and seeks to enhance commitment. Poor management destroys commitment by making threats.

My suspicion is that somewhere in an office well away from Australia, is a management team that has looked at the jewellery chain's Australian figures and has put a lot of pressure on the local management to improve results. The local CEO has passed this pressure down and it has reached regional manager level. The regional manager, feeling threatened, has hit out at the managers of individual stores, etc. Its a classic example of PPM ("piss poor management").

Of course, this isn't only found in retail and its not only found in overseas owned operations.

There is significant research showing that the most critical thing in achieving desired results is that people feel physically, emotionally and psychologically safe. Immediately a person is threatened with dismissal this safety factor is triggered. At that time the person becomes more concerned for their own welfare than they do for their employer. A descending spiral commences which results in everyone losing. I can see this starting to emerge with the jewellery chain in question.

All of the data shows that most people want to do a good day's work and achieve results. Good managers understand this so they set clear performance targets in both qualitative and quantitative terms, then through effective feedback and an appropriate balance of control and empowerment, they create an environment in which people are fully engaged and in which they can achieve the desired results. It a pity the senior management where my daughter works doesn't understand this.

I believe its well past time to get rid of PPM practices.

I'd love to hear what you think. Please provide me with some feedback.

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  1. You are so right about the safety issue. Once people perceive threat then it is all over. I think this has to do with psychological contracts and if we have felt safe and then suddenly the rug is pulled out then the breach of the contract creates huge angst.

    1. Thanks Stewart. Its a bit ironic - we place all the stress on the physical aspects of OH&S, then add bullying and psychological issues in general, but we ignore the overall job security and employee engagement issues (which also impact on OH&S) despite the fact that these have such a huge impact on performance.