Dec 11

How to Care after Downsizing II

Stephan Polomski
Stephan Polomski is director human resources, coach and trainer

Two weeks ago, I said in part one of this blog, before establishing a new balance within a downsized organization or healing it a change of attitude of both, managers and employees, is necessary. This attitude should welcome a structural framework shaped by ambiguity and temporariness.

How to achieve a change in attitude?

We have to convey the idea to our people to define themselves not in terms of organizational affiliation but in terms of what is important for them and what they want to accomplish for themselves when they work with us as employers.

Basically, this is offering a lot of freedom, at least for those, who are able and willing to perceive it like this. People owe us as employer good work, but not their self-definition. At the same time, employers have to understand to offer an employment platform, which goes along with the definition employees already have of themselves or to foster these definitions, which means, getting them ready for change.

More than ever, we have to teach people to develop their marketable skills and we have to support them – within our business strategy – to pursue a work which is also in line with their definition of self-realization and their individual human spirit. By doing so we together discover the uniqueness of each individual and its potential. And hence unlash the potential of the whole system.

This is the best case.

Consequently, especially employees who are security focused have – at a point – to take responsibility for themselves. All employees: employed managers or team leaders as well. And this is the lesson to be learned. And this is an attitude which employers should foster.

I admit this is still quite different from what organizations normally are doing at the moment.

And consequently, there is an impact for management and leadership as well.

For management and leadership it means to loosen up rigid control and bureaucracy and to grant a wider range of freedom – a wider range of freedom which gives room for self-realization and responsibility. And this comes with clear task or project orientation down to the point of a mere project based organization. It entails, once again, a responsible empowerment for people who know what self-responsibility is, who know why they are doing what they are doing because of their inner self-established purpose.

And this approach is also quite different from integrated mechanisms like salary systems linked to long term career paths and promotions, benefits, services and social systems which in the past had bred needy, dependent employees requiring total security (which in all times has been an illusion). And by the way, future salary systems should consequently reflect more the temporariness and reward immediately a project success or an excellently accomplished task!

So, leaders and employees have to change the perception of their understanding what working means in order to realize this new approach to work. This will develop a new attitude and a new spirit.

“Personal freedom, personal empowerment and personal self- definition open the gate to finally build a new culture which develops innovation, creativity, productivity through self awareness and self esteem. This could be, in my eyes, the big opportunity of this “offer”.”

Personal freedom, personal empowerment and personal self- definition open the gate to finally build a new culture which develops innovation, creativity, productivity through self awareness and self esteem. This could be, in my eyes, the big opportunity of this “offer”.

For this kind of – let´s say: caring – leadership, we need managers and leaders who do not longer control with more or less pressure but who focus on helping with empathy, who support what I may call a new freedom and a genuine empowerment. I do not say: give up follow up and follow though, what I say is: shift the focus, enhance self-responsibility.

And this means further that – what I mentioned above in a setting which concentrates on task and project orientation – managers should be less concerned on leading employees how to behave within the corporate framework expressing corporate loyalty, but to drive customer focus in terms of tasks and services by self-responsibility.

For employees these thoughts imply to define themselves more in terms of what they do – and less where they do what they do. This approach helps them to find purpose (and therefore motivation) in the relevance of their own work and profession, even if the job is threatened. And this is because by doing so their self-esteem remains intact.

The consequences of such thoughts for employer branding, leadership, corporate behavior and our whole understanding of working and employing are quite vast and need further reflection.

It is the process, in which I am in right now, to find a way to blend together the new requirements of the market and the economical situation with our company´s identity and our employees´ needs and longings, to find a way to care for both sides after downsizing and still preparing ourselves for the future.

And as process, it is to be continued…

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 11th, 2009 at 19:46 and is filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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  1. You are talking about a “mere project based organization” and a new salary system. From my perspective the best example for this has been demonstrated be the Danish company Oticon – a supplier of hearing aids. Its former CEO Lars Kolind has written an excellent book about this new form of organization: The Second Cycle. Winning the War against Bureaucracy. Wharton School Publishing.

  2. Yes, you are absolutely right – thank you for the hint. Those, who want a German executive summary, may find a case study of OTICON by H.H.Larsen “Think the Unthinkable: Radical and Successful Organisational Change.” in the publication of Prof. Dr. Martin Hilb from the University of St. Gallen: “Transnationales Management der Human-Resourcen.” on page 103.