OFFICE CULTURE POLITICS analysis
There’s no way having escaping office politics; so plan your strategy --In an era of diminishing loyalty and unexpected employee fall-outs, the corporate world is devising tools to measure the satisfaction and engagement levels of their employees --‘Sometimes, the CEOs have actually  mismanaged; sometimes they’re scapegoat’--THE VIRTUAL CORPORATION --

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                                     ANIMAL KINGDOM --

 

If you happen to be a chimpanzee in Uganda, you may have participated in an experiment that is now being applied to the understanding of office politics. The chimps were given the task of pulling that ropes that were connected to a tray of food. Both got a fair share if they pulled at the same pace. 

     Over time, the chimps learnt to avoid alpha males, who pulled their ropes too soon instead of waiting for their partners.Chimpanzees have been observed to share hard won meat with others in exchange for support in fights, and to receive food or sexual favours in exchange for grooming,” says an article in The Telegraph of the UK.Altruistic behaviour can be used as an investment. Its a business strategy”. 

     The technical term for this is reciprocal altruism. In lay language, it can be summed up as:You scratch my back; Ill scratch your back”. Says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh:This is the way office alliances start. But as you rise up the ladder, you have to watch your back”.

     A recent study by academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia says that much of what happens in the office is the result of our tribal instincts.The way male managers dress, their posture and how they exercise power are related to humans evolutionary biology. Prehistoric behaviours, such as male domination, protecting what is perceived as their turf and ostracizing those who do not agree with the group is more commonplace in everyday work situations than many of us care to accept Managers, particularly male ones, play politics, fight turf wars, worry about appearances and constantly try to get the upper hand not because they are being petty Hitlers but because evolution has told them to act in this way”. 

     How do you make headway in this animal kingdom? Singh says that everyone has his own formula. But there cannot be any hard and fast rules because everything depends on the culture of the organization.

    In several multinationals in which I have worked,” he says by way of example,the CEOs secretary was a dispenser of advice and wisdom. You will be successful if you work on her mother complex and get her to take you under her wing. In family-run Indian businesses, on the other hand, the CEOs secretary is normally male. He is more loyal than the king. His main job is to act as gatekeeper for both information and access. Office politics in this environment may mean joining the bosss club and losing to him regularly at tennis”. 

    But it doesnt always work. Purely by accident, you might win one day. Is it necessary at all to involve yourself in office politics? It depends entirely on your ambition. If you have no desire to climb the corporate ladder stepping on your rivals along the way, you can sit back and watch the fun. But you need to make some alliances. If you dont, you will always be the fall guy, the victim everybody blames when something goes wrong.     

    Study the theory,” advises Singh.There are hundreds of books and websites on the subject. Decide your objective. Then and only then should you plan your strategy? Make allies, not friends. Be dispassionate in dumping those who have outlived their utility. And always keep in place a backside protection plan”. 

     If you are reasonably good at implementing these skills – and have the basic intelligence to start with – you should go places.For such people, the journey is the thing,” concludes Singh.At the end, when you ask yourself was it worth it, you will probably get an answer in the negative”.

 

THE SIX GOLDEN RULES

How to win the cubicle wars

1. Teamwork pays. Cultivating alliances allow you to call in favours when they are needed.

2. Be nice, and show it. Getting a round of drinks is worth more than it costs.

3. Sucking up can pay. The law of the jungle is that flattering the boss leads to rewards.

4. Be a good boss. Aggression and bullying may keep people in line, but can be disastrous for morale and output.

5. Kiss and make up. Strategies for repairing working relationships after conflict are vital.

6. Play fair. Dont take undue credit for the work of others.

                       KEEPING AFLOAT

 

In an era of diminishing loyalty and unexpected employee fall-outs, the corporate world is devising tools to measure the satisfaction and engagement levels of their employees. Deepesh Das finds out how these employee engagement tools bring in some amount of predictability about employee behaviour.

IT goes without saying that an employee is the biggest asset for any organization. And to keep them engaged, organizations have come up with various initiatives to help the employees feel productive and affianced. However, in spite of all these efforts, corporate India is unable to figure out what causes these employees to leave. Well, not anymore as India Inc. is trying to figure out the mindset of these employees through various tools, to ensure a certain amount of predictability about employee behaviour.

    Experts say that a satisfied employee is more likely to develop a psychological attachment or commitment to the organization. However, it is not pertinent that all satisfied employees are loyal to the organization or all loyal employees are always satisfied. And it takes more than just a good pay package to keep them satisfied, which organizations now know, thanks to the various engagement tools.

    Virtusa deploy a Global Team Member Survey every year in order to gather specific information needed to improve the levels of productivity and job satisfaction among the employees. This helps us in identifying the root causes of job issues and creates solutions for improvements with an accurate perspective of employees views,” informs Vikram V Kallianpur, Director – HR, Virtusa Corporation.

    Experts say that once the root cause of dissatisfaction is identified, organizations need to work on them to make the employee feel engaged.Cordial work environment, employee friendly policies, a high learning curve, focused leadership and fast paced growth opportunities etc. are essential for an organization to minimize the possibility of conflict and for the employee to feel content at their job,” says Rajeev Gupta, VP – Engineering, Impetus Technologies. 

    However, there are times when employee disgruntlement cannot be avoided completely because everyone cannot be pleased. According to Gupta, companies can take some precautionary measures like setting a clear career path for employees, measuring performance against KRA and building an open communication channel. Also, a proper grievance mechanism and an open door policy enabling a one-on-one relationship between the manager and his subordinates set the tone for a healthy environment. 

    So if an organization senses that an employee is not happy working with them and is planning to leave, they have measures to address the situation and rectify it. They have created special task forces to tackle crucial areas that require immediate attention.In most cases, as soon as attrition is sensed, the organization immediately mobilizes their retention mechanisms. The initial discussions help set the context for the multi-prong efforts. Communication between retention managers and closing loop with the employee defines the success perspectives. The immediate reporting manager, the skip manager, the leadership team all swing into a concerted effort to retain, with the commitment to provide an employee proposition, that is favourable for the employee to stay back,” explains Kallianpur.   

LET’S TALK

1. Virtusa Corporation has initiated Proactive Attrition Warning System (PAWS)’. This method provides with early warning signs and triggers, which are linked to behavioural indicators. It identifies the current defection stage and enables the leaders to work out the retention meetings with the identified team member.

2. Impetus Technologies has a process called Happiness Check wherein a representative from the HR department has a one to one discussion with the employees selected on a random basis, with an aim to find out the general well being of the employee. During this discussion, any potential conflict or dissatisfaction is identified and rectified. The manager / leader also has informal talks about an employee personal commitments, professional aspirations etc."This helps to get a complete understanding about the employee and any dissatisfaction found is rectified immediately," says Gupta.

    We speak to the employee to understand the reasons behind the decision to leave. If there are internal pain points that can be addressed, we try to find a way to alleviate those. Depending on the reasons, we take every measure to get the employee to stay. However, if someone wants to leave us only for money, we would not make a counter offer as we would be better off without that employee,” opines Arundhati Raghavan, Head – Human Resources, The Smart Cube.

    Organizations know that it is not an easy task to gain loyalty. With the help of various tools, they are on their way to figure out why employees choose to leave, which helps to retain them in the long run. So the next time you think that your employee is all set to leave, ask them,why”. You just might be able to make them stay, all for the right reasons. 

 

                              CEOs HAVE SHORT LIVES

It’s time to say goodbye to the age of the imperial CEO.

When the going gets tough, the tough are proverbially supposed to get going. Chief executive officers (CEOs) in these turbulent times are going all right. But, sometimes, it is out of the front door.

      Our study on CEO tenure in turbulent times shows that new managers have about 18 months to deliver,” says Ashish J. Singh, managing director of Bain & Company India. Bain is a global consultancy organization. The Bain study has been brought out in a book titled The Breakthrough Imperative: How the Best Managers Get Outstanding Results. This deals mainly with Western companies.But it is just as applicable to companies in India because there is so much turbulence here,” adds Singh.

      The Bain study has enunciated four laws. These sound very simple. But not every manager seems to be able to grasp his or her implication. The laws are: costs and prices always decline; market position dictates strategy; profit pools dont stand still; and simplicity gets results. Says Mumbai-based HR consultant Shashi Rao,CEOs like to think they are into rocket science. But the real formula is KISS – Keep it Simple, Stupid”.  

      Several other recent studies show that CEOs is finding it increasingly difficult making themselves comfortable in the hot seat. A study released last year by strategy and technology-consulting firm Booze Allen Hamilton says that worldwide nearly one in three CEOs left office involuntarily. 

      Booze Allen looked at nine years of CEO succession data in 2500 of the worlds largest companies and identified two fundamental shifts in the ways corporate boards address CEO selection and oversight. First, boards are becoming less tolerant of poor performance. Second, they are increasingly splitting the roles of CEO and chairman and recruiting chairmen who have not previously served as a companys CEO.Its clearly time to say goodbye to the age of the imperial CEO,” says a Booze Allen release.

      Other key findings include:

·   Boardroom infighting is taking a higher toll on CEOs.

·   Inclusiveness is the new critical CEO survival skill.

·   CEOs are staying in office longer.

·   The hiring of outsider CEOs has peaked.

·   CEOs who deliver below-average investor returns dont remain in office long.

·   A merger-related CEO change brings a big boost to stock price, but CEO succession has a limited impact on stock price outside mergers.

·   Independent chairmen are best.

·   CEOs who have been CEOs in other companies earlier deliver worse returns to investors.

      Its a mixed bag of findings,” comments Rao.And much of it doesnt apply to our family-run businesses. Only in a rare case like the Thapar group do you get a Gautam Thapar replacing his cousin Vikram Thapar”.

      A more recent study by global public relations firm Weber Sand-wick has found that CEO departures at the worlds 500 largest companies jumped 10% from 2006 to 2007.Although many CEOs leave for ordinary reasons such as retirement and succession planning, an increasing number also leave involuntarily,” says Weber Sand-wick.Just as CEOs receive most of the credit when things go right, they are expected to accept the majority of the blame when things go wrong”. And, as every schoolboy knows, things have been going wrong in recent times.

      Incidentally, Asia-Pacific companies experienced the highest turnover in 2007 compared to other regions, losing over one in five of their chief executives.CEO turnover within Asia Pacifics most elite companies climbed 25% from 2006 to 2007,” says the study.

      Some of the other trends were:

·   More CEOs exited for non-traditional reasons; 32% of CEOs left against their will in 2007 against 28% in 2006.

·   North American CEOs are particularly vulnerable.

·   Insider CEOs are still preferred over outsider CEOs.

      Wrapping thing up is a report from executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc that says that in the calendar year so far, CEO turnover has reached the highest nine-month total ever. The CEO may not be a threatened species (you will always need someone to carry the can), but it is sure becoming a short-lived one.

 

 

                       TOUGH TIMES why CEOs go (%)

Reason

2008

2007

Former CEO retired

27

52

Planned succession

11

00

Former CEO stepped down

36

11

Board forced former CEO out

13

00

Permanent CEO replaced interim CEO

11

11

Former CEO resigned

02

26

 

IMAGINE AN EXECUTIVE WHO NEEDS TO pull together an impromptu meeting with a globally dispersed team simply clicking on a link that transforms the side of his office into display screens. He then interacts with clear, 3-D-like images of his counterparts – one in China working from home, one in India traveling in a car, and one in the United Kingdom sitting outside in a park.

   With one click he has effectively eliminated geography as a barrier to collaborative decision-making or standardization of processes. For senior executives, this means that the age-old debate between decentralized and innovative or centralized and efficient will soon dissipate. The future will bring a network of ubiquitous devices, collaborative technologies, and omnipresent and enormous bandwidth that will be so strong and seamless that thousands of geographically decentralized offices and people will actually feel and act like one, dense, centralized entity.

   Corporate headquarters will make way for thousands of independent, empowered, and highly specialized office nodes that will connect to each other in a peer-to-peer network. Top management can then be dispersed globally instead of congregating around the CEO and offices will be able to tap global talent and react to customers and changing environments quickly and more effectively. 

   This new corporate structure will enable a company wide network effect: as more locations are added, the value and capacity of the entire network exponentially increases. And as the network grows, it will be increasingly virtualized – information will no longer be tied to a physical location. Additionally, if an office or person drops out of the network, there is reduced risk of a communication breakdown. Similar to mesh networking of computers, a companys connected peer-offices can simply find another path to communicate with the network. 

   Of course, for this peer-to-peer corporate structure to work, we need seamless, strong, real-time communication. The future of the network promises unlimited bandwidth, abundant collaboration models, strong search capabilities, sophisticated yet easy-to-deploy enterprise software solutions, and the convergence of voice, data, and video on every devise. Corporations that couple these technological advancements with the re-thinking and reorganizing of various internal structures will be able to enjoy the benefits of real-life, in-person collaboration and knowledge-sharing. The challenge going forward for every multinational will be to become global and local, decentralized and centralized, all at the same time. While technology and the network will make this all possible, the adaptation of mindsets, laws, and cultural norms to these new realities will prove to be the true challenge.

   For one, the transformation from a client-server model to peer-to-peer calls for an entirely new way of thinking and doing business. Currently, most multinational R&D teams reside in the same geographic vicinity as the chief executive. Many innovators believe that this kind of physical closeness is necessary for true teamwork and collaboration. While advanced video-conferencing technologies will soon allow far-flung employees to feel as if they are in the same room, the mindset change that must occur simultaneously poses the trickier hurdle. Companies will have to convince R&D executives that their teams can and should be spread around the world.

   A major factor contributing to the dislike of splitting up R&D teams is trust. If the future of innovation is about sharing ideas, not hoarding them, then the reflective corporate mantra will be collaborate or die. For this to actually work, though, individual contributors must trust each other, and trust the system. Similar to how embay has created a model of trust within its ecosystems of participants, corporations will need to develop new ways of rewarding ideas and motivating employees to disclose their works-in progress openly with others. 

   Protecting employees will not be the only difficulty going forward. In a truly networked, collaborative model, corporations open themselves up to various intellectual property protection issues. With work decentralized and people able to switch jobs more easily, corporations and regulators will have to devise ways to safeguard intellectual property. We will see companies around the world initiating advocacy groups and creating new governance standards. 

   Last, multinationals will need to help their employees understand that no matter what; they will still be forced to accept asynchronous synchronization – with the challenge of time. As a companys network of nodes spreads to include an increasing number of locations, each node-office will have to respect cultural differences, time sensitivities, and working norms.

   While companies figure out how to deal with globalizations many hurdles, the winners will embrace forward thinking leaders who fearlessly work to create new business structures, and who quickly utilize all that technology and the network have to offer.  

 

 

 

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