For the first time, I’ve started writing a blog post without really having a clear idea about what I want to say or what point I want to get across. Given the growing tide of bad news battering our lives at the moment, it felt like a good idea to write something about … well … feelings. I’ve no idea where this is going, but here goes …
Sustainability has become such a buzzword these days that it’s become almost meaningless … but, there is a dimension to sustainability that seems to get little attention – personal sustainability … in other words not the external, macro-level sustainability talked about all the time, but an inner dimension that is personal to each of us and that fuels and energises us each day … a sustainability that offers periodic renewal so that we can embrace life and work with new enthusiasm and through fresh eyes.
Over the last few weeks in BT we’ve had a series of much publicised announcements that have made people feel uneasy … nervous … frightened even. We’ve had announcements about poor business performance in our global services division; the need to cut costs and jobs; possible changes to our pension scheme which will make it less attractive to members going forward; … to name but a few!
Don’t get me wrong … all these announcements have been handled VERY professionally … employees have been, or are being, consulted and we get very thorough and timely communications. And, frankly, these changes have been a long time coming and are absolutely essential for BT to be a sustainable (… that word again!) and profitable business going forward. However, while deep down I know that these changes are necessary and far from a surprise, it doesn’t make me feel great to hear them.
So, I hear you say, what the hell have my feelings got to do with my employer?? Quite a lot actually … if I’m not happy and fulfilled I’m certainly not going to be loyal, motivated and probably won’t give a damn about my work. If I don’t give a damn about my work, I certainly won’t be engaged and probably won’t give a damn about the customers annoying me all day. If I feel isolated and disconnected from my colleagues, I’m going to suffer more deeply and internalise or depress these feelings, making them even worse. If I don’t have an outlet to express my feelings and if I don’t feel heard, I’m going to get frustrated and angry.
Wow … lots of touchy feely stuff there … I can feel the suits getting anxious :-)
While I’m not supporting the notion of nanny-plc, I do think companies have a responsibility to provide ways for employees to become connected, to express how they feel, and to engage in conversation. Companies also have a responsibility to support an environment of trust and openness in which employees feel safe to participate in these activities without fear of retribution.
And, when a company does provides these tools and creates the right atmosphere, employees have a responsibility to use them … to express how they feel … both good and bad … to engage openly and honestly however hard that might be to do. Employees also need to learn to help themselves … to get connected, build relationships … make their presence felt so that when bad times do come, they are as well equipped as possible to get through them.
A healthy relationship is an open relationship and all those in that relationship have responsibilities to make it work.
So, I guess what I’m saying in a very roundabout kind of way, is that creating the kind of company that will be successful and that people will want to work for requires tough choices and great leadership … from both management AND employees. Getting social technology working successfully inside the enterprise is more than just another technology implementation project … it’s about understanding people and how they think, behave and FEEL … a lot of the old rules won’t apply … the question is, when our backs are against the wall and when every penny counts, who will be brave enough to acknowledge this?