As consultants we see many levels of dysfunction in business, and also a huge spread of successes. That’s one of the reasons I love doing what I do. However, we have noticed a trend that I just can’t keep quiet about any longer.
So often we go into organisations and people who work in the delivery or profit centres of the business continually undermine and devalue the work that the cost centre departments do – particularly Human Resources. People make casual comments under the breath, snickering and dismissive eye rolls. The old ‘Bloody HR!’, or people sharing stories about how to get away with not complying with directives or processes. This is present somewhere in almost all of the businesses we have worked with. And I have to note the more pervasive this behaviour, generally the poorer the business performance.
I have a theory about why – and I admit it’s anecdotal only. This behaviour is a symptom of something much nastier in your culture, and is likely to interfere with your business profitability, sustainability and ultimately viability. It speaks volumes about the immaturity of the culture, like a group of kids at high school picking on anyone different to themselves. It also implies a lack of conformance to processes.
Now, I understand the benefits of flattened hierarchy, creative teams and fostering participation from all levels of experience. However, sometimes the implementation of this results in a culture of disrespect and disregard flourishing. This is dangerous, and presents real risk to Officers of those companies. These businesses will never be reliably profitable, because they are actually operating in a state of anarchy – which I believe to leave almost everything to chance. Processes are entirely necessary in business. They mitigate risk, control quality and allow for quick problem and solution identification. Enforcing adherence does not always make one popular, however it makes the business more stable – which benefits everyone. Businesses where the people enforcing process are being ridiculed, undermined and disregarded likely have poor quality control, little standardisation of output and unreliable business performance.
When we speak to businesses about this aspect of their culture often times they will dismiss the concern with a ‘That’s just how they are’ or ‘There’s always a bit of argy bargy between admin and the others’. Other than being completely unethical, this is so dangerous to a business to tolerate this behaviour. Any business that has a sense of us and them, or the dreaded ‘other’, internally is likely to be experiencing discordant action and sporadic workflows. Subsequently, the businesses overhead will be larger than necessary, resulting in the business being less competitive. The business will be less agile, less sustainable and much higher risk.
Instead of making HR (or anyone) the enemy here’s an idea. Why don’t we all align on our values and purpose, and recognise each other for the contribution we each make? Why don’t we unite as a whole business and form a super-productivity machine, so the businesses we work for are profitable and can continue to employ us? Why don’t we just be respectful of each other, and look for ways that we as teams and groups can excel? Why don’t we have an appreciation for the whole context of business, and not just the profit centres. So, my challenge to everyone – find someone in your organisation who is under-appreciated and complement them on their contribution to the business, or to your experience of your workplace. It will make them feel better, and start to build a more profitable business model.