Posts Tagged ‘Fairness’

Can an organization’s human resource policies be so designed as to facilitate a bottoms-up approach to leadership? In other words, can it encourage and enable people at the lower rung to automatically assume a leadership role without anyone else egging them on to give their best?

It is well known that leadership is a function of at least two factors. The individual traits of an employee surely play a role. Another is the situation which could be such as to produce a leader. But for all the employees to spontaneously respond to a situation in an empathic manner in the face of an unforeseen crisis goes on to show that a share of the credit must also go to the design and implementation of conscious human resource policies.     

Consider the Mumbai Taj Hotel terror attack on the 26th of November, 2008. Not even a single Taj employee abandoned the hotel and ran away, but stayed right through the attack. They helped the guests escape. In the process, many employees died.

Eventually, this became an important psychology case study at Harvard. The result was a deep insight into the way in which the company’s recruitment policies had been designed. Three of the major factors which stood out have been as follows:

1) Taj did not recruit from big cities; instead, they recruited from smaller cities where traditional culture values still holds strong.

2) They did not recruit toppers; they spoke to school masters to find out who were most respectful of their parents, elders, teachers and others.

3) They taught their employees to be ambassadors of their guests to the organization, not ambassadors of the company to their guests.

For some details of what transpired during the terror attack and the Harvard study, please check out the following:

“The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj Hotel: Rohit Deshpande at TEDxNewEngland.”

The Tata group is well known for the values, integrity, transparency and fairness it practices while dealing with various stakeholders across all its business verticals. The response of its employees to the terror attack is merely one of the many manifestations of its enlightened human resource policies.  

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How does one stem office politics? Ask a manager who has benefited from such politics, and he or she would be loath to even accept it exists. Prod someone who has lost out on that coveted promotion to the corner office and he (or she) would be spouting venom and making out a strong case for the degradation in company values, the way in which nepotism rules the roost and how unfair life in general is.

Smart leaders would nip office politics in the bud. This is how they go about doing it.

Minimizing one-to-one interactions 

When discussing a problem which involves several team members, a smart leader would encourage an open dialogue, with all stakeholders present. He would have a patient ear for the extrovert and aggressive ones who have a view on everything. He would ensure that by gentle persuasion, the less vocal ones also come out with their view on the subject.

Maintaining an open and transparent working culture would enable the team members to be more objective, thereby cracking their targets more effectively. Corner stand-alone meetings would only get tongues wagging all over, diluting the team`s effectiveness.

Prompt and open redressal

Rather than allowing things to keep simmering for long, it makes sense to confront the issue and call the bluff of the mischief mongers. The earlier it is done, the better it is for the eventual fate of the project at hand.

In large bureaucratic organizations, a rumour which keeps circulating for a few months often tends to become a reality. This has two clear disadvantages. First, the surprise element goes missing, thereby impacting the enthusiasm with which the implementation takes place. Second, cliques get formed based on perceived likes and dislikes of the top bosses involved, thereby vitiating the working culture.

Selective use of underground cable connections

Informal structures and groups are invariably more effective than the formal ones. Smart leaders take advantage of such informal groupings and communication channels to clean up the political mess. Team members who try to earn brownie points with the boss by reporting juicy gossips at frequent intervals get discouraged, whereas those who have solid data and clinching evidence to share in an open forum get all the  encouragement they deserve.

Transparent policies help

Organizations which keep tweaking policies to suit specific individuals or groups end up suffering in the long run. Employees loath the absence of a level playing field and eventually seek greener pastures elsewhere. Even after parting company, they tend to become negative ambassadors of the organization, thereby holding back potential employees from showing up at the HR outpost.

Being fair and lovely

A leader who maintains equipoise and is widely perceived to be fair enables a cleaner work culture. He or she does not discriminate between team members based on their race, caste, creed or sex and ends up creating a strong meritocracy based set up. Such attributes and behavioral norms cascade down the hierarchy, thereby improving the overall performance of the organization.

All said and done, only the foolhardy would chase the utopia of creating an organization totally devoid of any kind of politics. A healthy dose of stem cell therapy is therefore necessary to keep the political quotient below tolerable and at healthy levels.

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