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Wednesday, November 29, 2020

Disrespect, Disillusion, and Dysfunctional Management

I am always trying to point out how Hamburger Management—that cult of whatever is quickest, demands least thought, and cuts back most on immediate costs—is no more than a short-term seduction that leads to inevitable disaster. It’s gratifying, therefore, to be able to report some hard evidence to back up my point of view.

A study by the University of Florida has revealed that employees who feel mistreated by their managers usually try to get even. The angrier people became, and the more they saw their supervisor’s behavior as unfair, the more likely they were to misbehave and waste company time on things like surfing the Internet. It seems that, all over the world, bad management leads to bad tempers. Hamburger Management takes callousness towards employes to a whole new level, so it’s not surprising that those who reported that management ignored their feelings and concerns were more likely to repay such ill-treatment by stealing, picking fights with co-workers, calling in sick, or taking time off without permission. An article published in the January 2003 edition of the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that most important work factors associated with psychological ill health and sickness absence in staff are:
. . . long hours worked, work overload and pressure, and the effects of these on personal lives; lack of control over work; lack of participation in decision making; poor social support; and unclear management and work role.
All of these are associated with Hamburger Management.

In Australia, despite low unemployment, more than half of those questioned in an annual survey in 2005 said they were unhappy with their jobs. The major culprit? Managers who fail to live up to standards of openness and honesty.

In September 2005, The Conference Board reported on widespread employee disengagement throughout US industry. Even among the most highly paid, only a quarter said they were motivated by their jobs and a third described themselves as "detached."

British businesses too, according to a survey in November 2005, are being held back by inadequate management, uninspiring bosses, and lack of vision. It seems that pressure from above to meet unrealistic objectives and deadlines is leading to increasingly unethical behavior by lower-level managers.

Younger workers are becoming less likely to invest themselves wholeheartedly in a job, mostly because they have learned the limits on corporate loyalty to employees and become cynical about fine-sounding statements from above, according to this survey.
Younger workers are less likely to channel their passions into a job. They are apt to see work as a means to an end. The work week gets them to the weekend, and that’s when the fun begins. They are wise to the transitional economy. They know that employers will not show them loyalty over the long-term - they have watched their parents pass through an uncertain career. So they see the job as a short-term contract that can be renewed, by both parties, as long as both parties are satisfied. This generation serves as its own free agent.
Bosses may be single-minded in pursuit of financial goals, but still blind to the impact of their behavior on the very employees whose commitment is vital to get them there. Even the present, usually incentive-based systems of compensation are adding to the problem, according to a new book.

With such overwhelming evidence that current, Hamburger Mangement-style approaches are dysfunctional to the point of complete uselessness, you might expect to see a rush towards finding better alternatives. Not a bit of it. Blinded by the imperatives of driving up the share price and meeting continually escalating profit projections (in truth, the same process, linked to massive, short-term rewards for corporate executives), corporations are still clinging to the belief that such “soft” human issues as employee satisfaction count for very little compared with “hard” measures of financial performance.

As my grandmother used to say, “It’s all bound to end in tears.” Organizations are busily teaching their staff some extremely negative lessons for the longer term: that loyalty goes only one way; that people are easily expendable; that you have to look out for yourself; and that self-centeredness and personal advantage are sure routes to success. How these lessons will play out remains to be seen, but they are unlikely to prove helpful as skills become harder to find, and talented employees find themselves in ever greater demand. And that is without factoring in novel elements like Monster.com, which allow people to keep their resumes continually on show to prospective employers. The cost of dysfunctional, obsessive, hard-driving Hamburger Managers may soon become more than even the most profit-oriented organization can bear.


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