Looking for ways to increase profits, or decrease losses, corporations have taken on the mantra of "more from less." What exactly does this mean? It means downsizing the number of employees and having the remaining do their work by increasing their workloads. This mantra is used as a battle cry and justification for "trimming waste and fat," and "downsizing" -- people. Yes, there is "fat" that could be trimmed, which includes unnecessary programs, duplication, and expenditures. All of these are symptoms of poor planning, lack of oversight, and poor leadership but are blamed on the workforce.
The justification is only sound if one accepts the premise that the work force is not producing as well as it could because it is lazy, not due to lack of leadership. The mantra was developed out of economic fear. Fear based decisions are always myopic and tend to cause damage equal to, or greater than their benefits. They are also self-serving, and rarely look at the decrier's culpability. Leadership skills include foresight, guidance, and decision-making skills. The mantra covers poor leadership skills by appearing like the culprit has been identified and something is being done about the situation. And of course since the lie comes from "high up," it must be correct. "Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," was a lie, as was "I didn't inhale."
Through proper management, training and weeding, any employee side issues can be corrected. Of course, proper leadership skills must be taught to managers. I have seen first-hand under-skilled managers. The formerly sacrosanct employee is now not only fair game, they are scapegoats in this era of fear, and near depression level unemployment where anything goes and corporations can get away with almost anything. People are afraid of losing their job and will put up with almost anything to keep them, and corporations are fully aware of this. In fact, they are taking full advantage of this. This harms the employees and will cost the corporation plenty.
I have witnessed, working in a large corporation, employees who have found ways to hide and not do their fair share of the workload. However, most absolutely did. The few that didn't skated by, but nothing was done, and all the staff knew who the slackers were, including management. They are still working for this major company, and their peers resent it, as they have to pickup for the slackers. They also know these added controls implemented where created to handle these slackers. Then everyone became overloaded and stressed. Subsequently, many mistakes were made that cost the company money. Then, there occurred something previously unheard at this company -- three suicides within the last year.
Management has hushed it up and offered the smoke screen of "there were personal factors involved." Did the overload and stress of the mantra push them over the edge? Of course it did, but by washing their hands, management followed Pontius Pilate's example. And there have been costly acts of sabotage. Resentment shows its ugly face.
One of the factors that management has rushed headlong to embrace is intrusive controls and unworkable dictates. These were being implemented during the last year. The long-term staffers (15 plus years) told me they used to love working for the company. Now, if they could find another job they would leave. This was all because of the "1984 Big Brother-like" controls, dictates and obvious change in attitude toward them. The employees had felt a-part-of and loved-by the company, and they loved it. No longer, now they are just assets to be used and abused — "More From Less." These elements, when combined with workloads that can't be accomplished properly, and with integrity, became the hated new workflows of the company.
Integrity is something not thought of by management and seemingly no longer used by them. But how does it apply to the employees? The vast majority of the company cared about the company and its customers. As this was a major insurance carrier, it required a proper investigation of the claim, which takes time. Then the company is protected and the clients paid what is due them. With unreasonable time demands that is no longer possible. The staff told me the new impetuous was closing claim quickly. "Don't worry about be thorough, just make a decision and close it." No one felt right with this, and everyone's decisions varied. Clients were not paid correctly and staff knew it and resented it. This is what integrity is about or in this case the lack of it. It is far more important to people than ever imagined. And when you are told it doesn't matter, just make decisions, you feel nothing matter, the company and yourself included. That is human psychology. How you are treated, you treat others. Look at families, treat your family with love and respect, which includes proper discipline, and they develop and treat others the same. Treat them as disposable assets and you will get the same behaviors from them. Companies are families and the same applies.
Naturally, the ingenious family members find ways to circumvent the intrusive controls and dictates placed on them and reflect ill treatment. Has service to the customer improved, no, it has declined, but management continues on its disastrous path, forgetting their employees who deal directly with the customers. Brilliant — not!
What seems to me to be elementary is that the employee be treated well, in order for customer service to be extraordinary. Heaping more and more on the employees' overworked and overstressed shoulders, is now the norm. Yet management still deludes itself by believing great customer service can be created. I can guarantee, and have seen the evidence, that the opposite will be true. "More From Less" is a delusion of the worst kind.
David Eigen is a psychologist who works with corporations in developing leadership skills and correcting management mistakes. He has published several books. For more information, visit www.davideigen.com.