Most organizations were created and are still managed by people whose cognitive skills and careers have been formed in a pre-digital era. This means people that work in them are measured and managed by people who developed their careers according to the mindset and mechanisms of the pre-digital reality. How can we make sure that valuable employees with a post-digital mindset don’t become frustrated?
By helping them to:
- articulate their fears and desires in order to be proactive and not just disgruntled;
- foster their systemic intelligence (i.e. ability to understand interdependencies and interconnections, their implications and how to deal with them on a practical level);
- develop their ‘intelligent emotions’.
Fear in the workplace – two sides to the same problem
We are all immersed in an ever-increasing network of interdependencies. Contemporary science came to this conclusion several decades ago. Despite the proof of this from the many systemic disasters we have experienced in recent years, the realization on a practical level has not yet filtered through to most managers. Although this is the essence of our contemporary reality, organizations are still struggling with the notion and how to address it on a day-to-day organizational level. For this reason, we still see organizations divided up into functional matrices.
Conventional career patterns and reward and measurement systems fail to acknowledge the intricate nature of today’s work and the radically different leadership style required to manage in a network-like economy. New media and technologies have radically altered cognition patterns in younger generations to the point that even simple conversations between different generations have become an ordeal, not to mention priorities and needs. And yet, fundamental human desires and fears as well as instincts have remained essentially the same. How can we reconnect to these basic elements of human nature and untangle the seemingly inextricable bundle of our feelings?
Where does fear come from?
The issue of fear, especially in the workplace, has two major components:
1. the organizational environment, i.e. the fear connected with hierarchical relations and competition;
2. ongoing conflicts among individuals, and the personal core conflict, i.e. an inner conflict that affects all individuals, but when not addressed, acts as an artificial constraint that prevents an individual from fulfilling their potential.
Fear created by the organizational environment can be addressed, at least partially, by designing an organization where company functions are simply the repository of subject matter knowledge as opposed to being the building blocks of a functional hierarchy.
Fear created due to ongoing interpersonal conflicts as well as the personal core conflict can be tackled by increasing individuals’ systemic intelligence, hence addressing the fundamental conflict “Change Vs. Do not change”, inherent to every human.
One of the greatest contributions to the science of management has come from Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the founding father of the Quality movement. Two fundamental points from Deming’s doctrine are:
• Drive out fear
• Break down barriers
If managers want to implement solutions that bring about effective change, they have to be able to deal with the fear and conflicts which get in the way. There are systemic tools to do just that. (See Thinking Process Tools).
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management and author of the business novel+ website The Human Constraint . This downloadable novel uses narrative to look at how the Deming approach and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder, and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York.