Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the noted Harvard Business School professor, speaks about the steps that are needed to “turn a culture of decline into one of success.” A bigger task than most realize, she simply says “…you have to restore employees’ confidence in the system.”
|She Looks Harmless|
“Learned helplessness” is the term that psychologists use to talk about school-aged childrens’ resignation. In that context, the internal dialogue is something like…”I’m stupid…I can’t do this…” It is the opposite of their other term: “Self efficacy.”
In the workpalce, the learned helplessness addresses the sentiment that sounds something like: “We can’t do this….we tried this before…we’re stuck and…that’s the way it’s going to stay….” It’s more than the feeling of an underdog because an underdog thinks s/he can move up, win a few.
“….as communication and the willingness to face problems openly deteriorate, infighting and finger pointing increase. Employees in different unit lose respect for one another and…for themselves. Groups start withholding information from one another. They look to maximize their own results but not to contribute to the performance of the organization as a whole.”
So, turnarounds in any organiztion, says Kanter, are special situations. And, of course, they require special skills. The first “cornerstone of confidence” is accountability. It comes from open dialogue and mutual respect. Quite a contrast to the “finger pointing” and provides the opportunity for people to step out and re-commit to the promises they previously made.