A systemic origin
Companies are living organisms that face communication problems because they were structured as if humans were machines. The industrialization saw the rise of hierarchical system to enable mass production. Educated white collar had decision power over the blue-collar workers that just had to obey and/or follow. This system was even reinforced in many school systems where the teacher is placed as omniscient and the students as ignorant that must subdue. Those hierarchical relationship create power conflicts and reduce the expression of human potential.
People have been placed in boxes at a very young age. The one belonging to blue collar families have a 70% “chance” to remain blue collar. Not because they are less able than white collars children but because they are unconsciously labeled as unable to scholarly learn. They are then living in conditions that always remind them: “Obey because you have no clue”. Teachers, as all human, are biased and treat children differently based on their “origin”. We are conditioned to believe that we cannot take decision alone. The reinforcement of such hierarchical system also exists in sports where there is always someone that tell athletes what to do without them having a say. The Talent code from Daniel Coyle explains very well that talent isn’t born but grown. Even the theory of Maslow was disfigured in a pyramid when Maslow just recognized the existence of basic human needs but this is another subject.
A dual reality
There are several realities to take into account. Even “well-educated” white collar do not know everything. No one can learn everything in school. Employees at all level need to experience things: to try, fail and learn in order to be able to make wiser decisions. White collars learned to impose decisions by using their power. They are the decision-maker on giving a raise, a good or bad project, to fire employees, give negative feedback, humiliate employees, abuse their power in some kind of ways. Not all white collar act like this for sure but it is a tendency you can observe. Some white collars act as tyrannic bosses. It is a bit weird to see a hierarchical system survive in countries where “democracy” prevail.
Blue collars on the other side experience work differently because they are the one executing and producing. They know from direct experience what works and what does not. Nowadays, blue collars are not listened to because they are seen as not “educated”. In fact, most school systems were not made to educate us so that we can think for ourselves. They were instead created to tame the future workers and make them accept that they cannot know it all. They need someone else to make decisions for them. As a society, we created the illusion that someone with “higher” power can make better decisions for us than ourselves. Is it true?we created the illusion that someone with “higher” power can make better decisions for us than… Click To Tweet
Communication as a power tool
The consequences of such separation between the doers and the deciders is better seen in the way information is shared. We can also make the following analogy. The doers are the body parts while the deciders are the brain. Information is then the link between those parts. How can the body and the brain correctly function if there is just one-way communication?
The duality created by hierarchy pushes all employees to adopt protective behavior. In consequence, Information is seen as power which must be protected. It is understandable that information is not shared in hierarchical systems. The non-transparency of information in companies has dramatic consequences. The Volkswagen diesel scandal is a very famous one. The lack of transparency is widely spread because it brings secondary gains to companies:
- unlawful actions are difficult to discover and prove
- unclear responsibilities makes lawsuite difficult
- discussion on responsibilities give time for covering other mistakes
- Information is used against others
This is not sustainable in the long run. Nowadays, a shift in mindsets and in business management is taking place. More and more white collar are opening up to the possibility of a two-way communication because as every human being they are looking for meaning in their life. Those who are not shifting their mindset remain blocked in their head and lose the contact with their body on a figurative and realistic way. They get physically ill and organizations too. Employee burn-out, high turnover, scandals, high stress levels, disengagement, suicides, systemic fraud are some examples of ill organizations and. There are some of the negative consequences of an absence of information flow. Here are few ways information is not shared.
- Employees do not know why they are working together, so they fight against each other.
- Not me: Employee do not have clear responsibilities, so they accuse others for failure
- To dos: Employees are not made aware of priorities, they just go with the flow and resist to change
- On for Procrastination: Employees do not know what has to be done and when, they spend time doing something else (coffee breaks, Facebook…)
- Me first: Coworker play it solo in order to be seen by their boss with the hope of recognition, increase…
- Be quiet: Vital Information is not shared and negative impact may be a consequence
Leaders can initiate the change
You may be discouraged now, because the task of creating more clarity, sharing information and building a more trustworthy workplace is daunting. What can we do about it? As a business leader, team leader or an entrepreneur you can put the following actions in place in your workplace right now. You do not need to wait to rethink the way you work.
- Be aware of your biases toward others
- Define the best communication you could ever imagine
- Define what you do not like in the current communication
- Compare what is and what could be
- Create the bridge
- One thing at a time
In fact, you are the one with the power right now. You have the power to change things up. You can make the decision to transform your workplace in a more communicative and more human-friendly place. You can create a workplace that recognizes the intelligence of all your employees. You can tap into the collective intelligence but reframing your business.
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