The Psychology of Engagement

The Psychology of Engagement

Do you love and hate your job?

It's a simple question. Not either/or. Both/and.

If you answer the latter, you are ambivalent. Not indifferent. Ambivalent. No, it's not the same thing.

Ambi = both. Valent = strength. You have contradictory strong feelings and/or thoughts about work.

Why am I asking this question? Because employee engagement is about how we manage these contradictory feelings. The more love we feel, the more we engage with work. The more hate we feel, the more we disengage. The fundamental claims of the engagement movement.

Somehow, we've becomes stuck in a belief system that sees us as being either/or. Not both/and. Despite nearly all of us identifying with the latter.

How and why did we get to this state of affairs? Develop a system of measurement for feelings and thoughts that doesn't relate to how we actually feel and think. And does this mismatch result in unnecessary emotional and psychological stress?

It's a complex story. It's dramatic. Full of blind ambition. Ethically dodgy practices. Backstabbing politics. Sex and violence. And death.

With all good stories, the best place to start is the beginning.

Continue reading
93 Hits
0 Comments

Culture eats strategy for breakfast! Doesn't it?

Culture eats strategy for breakfast! Doesn't it?

Peter Drucker once said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast". Or maybe it was lunch? Perhaps even dinner?

It is, or course, apocryphal. Ducker never said it. It has been repeatedly misattributed to him for years. The only person we know for sure that wrote it was Mark Fields, of the Ford Motor Company, in 2006. Because he stuck it on his office wall and people saw it there. 

But what does it mean? Was it relevant when Drucker supposedly said it? And is it still relevant now?

Answering these questions is important. To explain why it's important, I'd like to turn to Jeffrey Rothfeder's incisive article on the Volkswagon scandal. In it, while paraphrased slightly, he writes:

For decades, Volkswagen has practiced a management style that imposes rigid goals and punishes middle- and lower-level employees who are unable to keep up with the pace. Executives formulate bold strategic objectives and timelines, with little input from others. Rank-and-file employees, pressured by the expectations placed on them, try to deliver at all costs. Intimidation at every level, which creates a borderline, or sometimes over the borderline, unethical culture.

Continue reading
120 Hits
0 Comments

The Difference between Irony and Sarcasm

The Difference between Irony and Sarcasm

One of the great ironies of irony is when people think they are being sarcastic they are being ironic. Given the amount of irony and sarcasm generated in modern culture and its institutions, it is vitally important to understand the difference between the two. One can really help leaders and managers develop novel solutions to complex problems. The other just makes people look like idiots. 

Irony

What irony means has been debated for millennia and is hotly contested. Let's ignore all the confusing complexities and look at it via three categorisations:

  • The ironic perspective: perceiving the gap between expectations and reality
  • The ironic performance: transmitting that perception by saying one thing and meaning another
  • The ironic personality: being comfortable living with such gaps
Continue reading
547 Hits

Your Identity is Fluid

Your Identity is Fluid

When discussing the misconceptions of identity currently littering much of the organisational tracts on the subject, Kevin Sinclair, an Organisational Coach based in Newcastle, New South Wales, and I recently had a brief online conversation about this article written by the philosopher, Julian Baggini. We agreed that (a) the literature fails dismally to capture the idea of the self being fluid and (b) comically (and perhaps tragically) regards fluidity of self as being emotionally stressful and psychologically harmful rather than a necessary and core element of what it means to be human. 

I've written stuff on the idea of a fluid self previously, but have failed to articulate it with any clarity. I always get caught up in socio-psychological jargon that hinders rather than helps the reader. I think it is an important, perhaps vital, topic for those experiencing the pressures of contemporary organisational life. So, not being able to explain it clearly is hugely frustrating. So what to do? 

Obviously, like any good son, I ask my mother for help!

Continue reading
584 Hits

Emotionally Intelligent Decision-Making in an Ambivalent Society

Emotionally Intelligent Decision-Making in an Ambivalent Society

We are inundated with literature and advice on how to be emotionally intelligent leaders, happy at work, show our authentic passions and generally be positive contributors to society. It's an increasingly powerful force in the world of leadership, management and organisations. As is my wont, I find the degree to which this literature entreats us to follow its path (and no other) suspicious, feeling it is trying to blind us from contemplating Hegel's "unhappy consciousness" and pushing towards being "happy robots".

We seem to be fleeing from something, some amorphous fear lurking at the back of our minds that we can't possible let out into the open, a zombie worm of doubt and fear that feeds our anxieties. By telling us we must be this type of person, emotionally and intelligently, or emotionally intelligently (hah!), assured of making clear and rational decisions that push forward our personal and corporate agendas in the pursuit of our happyness [sic] and purpose, are we not, as we have always tended to do, pushing the complexities of human existence into the naughty corner, out of sight and out of mind. Why are we doing this? 

Continue reading
465 Hits

Why Change Fails: 3 Things to Think About

Why Change Fails: 3 Things to Think About

Jon Kotter, Ken Blanchard and McKinsey & Company say 70% of change or transformational programmes fail. IBM are more optimistic, suggesting about 60% fail. Harvard Business Review notes that this rate of failure has been consistent for 45 years. Reviewing this, they note:

The content of change management is reasonably correct, but the managerial capacity to implement it has been woefully underdeveloped.

This, of course, places the blame squarely on the leaders, managers and organizations that fail to change. The change agent gets off scott free, having delivered a working model and only been let down by entrenched and resistant attitudes. Is this a fair summary? Let's hope so. What would be terrible would be an industry worth billions of dollars per annum promising one thing (evidence-based, professionally managed successful change) and delivering something else (chaotic, ambiguous uncertainty that requires mental fortitude, wittily innovative thinking and, possibly, blind luck to struggle through).

They say it is a sign of insanity to continue doing the same thing and expecting different results. Is the change management industry insane or is it right to criticise poor leadership and management for its continuous failure to successfully deliver change?

Continue reading
770 Hits
0 Comments

Everything You Know About Change Is Wrong

Everything You Know About Change Is Wrong

Everything you know about change is wrong. And I mean everything. A recently published essay written by Todd Bridgman, Stephen Cummings and Kenneth Brown uncovers the following. 

  1. There is no theory underpinning the foundational model of change management
  2. Further elaborations of the theory by academics and consultancy firms, therefore, have no underlying foundation on which to rest
  3. Contemporary conditions of constant change make this non-existent foundational theory obsolete, but it’s still pretty much all we’ve got.
  4. Given the above, it’s not very surprising that research into the successful implementation of change suggests two-thirds of change initiatives fail. As change models are built on smoke and mirrors, perhaps we should be applauding the great success rate!

Now, if I were a leader who’d just sanctioned another $100 million change program and just discovered this, I’d be angry. Very angry. Livid even.

Continue reading
1306 Hits
0 Comments

Handling Organisational Ambiguity and Fluidity

Handling Organisational Ambiguity and Fluidity

That ambiguous and fluid organisational environments are commonplace and challenging is no secret. It's pretty much expected that, to be successful, employees must illustrate how well they can cope with and thrive in such conditions. There is, however, something somewhat paradoxical about how employees are expected to cope. Much current thinking suggests that the successful organisational member should have some core, internal, stable self to draw upon so that the constant external ambiguity doesn't induce harm. Flexibility and agility, despite being metaphors of the human body, are seen as organisational factors, not personal ones. The human at work needs to be consistent, reliable, static, unchanging. Indeed, we seem to have gone so far that we seem to expect that only experienced industry specialists who've spent countless years perfecting a single skillset could be capable of thriving in such fluid conditions. Is this really the case?

Continue reading
587 Hits
0 Comments

© 2017 The Ironic Manager. All Rights Reserved.

The Ironic Manager website is owned and managed by Richard Claydon and Richard Badham.