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Positive Influence Requires Positive Interactions: Part 3

Interpersonal Skills Training

A question that looms large is whether leaders, managers, and supervisors can be trained to be interpersonally effective.  Interpersonal skills training has been implemented by enlightened human resource and training departments for many decades.
Although an abundance of training has been delivered, the trained skills were perceived to be elective rather than mandatory. Few companies have codified interpersonal effectiveness as a condition of employment. It is seldom measured, tracked, and used as a basis for decisions about pay raises, promotion, and employment or used in recruiting and hiring practices.

Society and People Value

America was founded by individuals who sought to escape the unfair practices of those in power. Today's culture views oppression of the powerless by the powerful as an evil.  We seek to correct abuses of power, prejudice, and disrespect. Organizations are becoming increasingly mindful of their social responsibilities and their public image. They are taking pains to advertise the benefits and perks they provide to their employees - recognizing that the public is aware of a financial relationship between employee welfare and treatment and sustaining organizational profitability.
 
Yet an awareness of the public's disapproval of employee mistreatment has not become the foundation for influencing  management's behavior with subordinates. In most organizations, there is no accountability system in place to monitor respectful and emotionally mature treatment of employees.
 
The public  finds out about employee dissatisfaction by informal communication channels - at the super market and at back yard barbecues. There are now websites that collect and present rating systems for companies as employers. These websites allow direct quotes from employees about working conditions and supervisory behavior. How an organization treats its employees, is now quite visible.

The Solution

Establishing People Value as a corporate value requires a few simple steps.

  1. Including language that describes the importance of individual respect and dignity on all   documents that define the organization,  its core principles and practices.
  2. Provide a workshop event that reviews many of the issues mentioned here and the systems that will monitor and maintain management and organizational practices and align them with the value of people.
  3. Align all Performance Management systems with behavior and practices as defined in #1.  Align performance evaluations, promotions, bonuses, hiring, recruiting and performance metrics with People Value.
  4. Create a leadership agenda around establishing and supporting People Value in their conversations, presentations, and performance discussions. The things leaders talk about the most are the things people attend to the most.

There are many organizational performance factors that can be linked to the state's of mind created by abusive and bullying manager behavior. Safety is one of the most obvious. Employees who are emotional because of unfair or disrespectful treatment are distractible and have a diminished ability to maintain  focus and vigilance - making them vulnerable to hazards and risky behavior.

Employees who are angry and resentful because they have been talked to disrespectfully are much less likely to exhibit discretionary. More importantly, even average levels of performance are likely to move below historical levels. Employees who interface with customers are less likely to behave in sensitive and mature ways while handling the sale process or responding to product issues and complaints.

Having a People Value system in place does not mean that you change your disciplinary practices or that you ignore poor performance. It means that when these issues are addressed they are handled in a mature, respectful manner. Politeness and consideration are important when providing negative feedback and when disciplining or severing an employee.

Conclusion

In spite of the progress we have made in recognizing the importance of employees as valuable assets, there is still a culture of bullying and disrespect evident in business and industry. A recent article in USA Today,  entitled "Bullying doctors endanger patients by distracting colleagues from work," underscores the existence of dysfunctional management styles at every level in our organizations. Until our senior leaders are prepared to promote People as a Value, they will continue to reap the performance deficiencies created by the absence of that value.