Medical doctors call any condition that progress slowly into advanced stages before manifesting itself openly a “silent killer.”  Organizational Contention (OC) is one of the deadly ‘silent killer’s’ rampant in business today.  Organizational contention can be as simple as when employees disagree with each other, or as complicated as when whole departments antagonize, hate, and actively work against each other.

Below are some examples of OC the author has knowledge of:

  1. A senior operations employee instigates a fight with a junior supply chain employee.  The senior employee picks up a metal rod and strikes the junior employee.  The resulting company investigation shows the junior employee at fault.  The junior employee leaves the company.  The contentious response of the senior employee will result in a repeat of this incident again.
  2. A manufacturing company whose labor union is so anathema to change that adding equipment to improve the manufacturing process almost initiates a strike.  A production supervisor added a fully anchored roll table to the output side of a machine.  The table sped up production 25% per part.  The owner averts the labor union’s strike.  The supervisor forced to apologize, the table removed, and the labor union fakes pacification until the next attempt to initiate change.  This animosity cycle to change repeats itself repetitively.
  3. A call center and business unit in one geographic area is despised by the other call centers and business units.  Actions initiated to show the value of the call center at fault is to no avail.  Enough employees at the other call centers and business units run down the other call center causing action by senior management to investigate the call center for possible closure.  The investigation uncovers that the call center is performing above company standard in all aspects measurable, the call center remains open, the dislike and discord continue unabated.
  4. A supervisor, to a fellow supervisor, describes a new employee as “unstable.”  Examples include “slamming papers down,” “scowling,” not making eye contact, and the supervisor invokes those action demanding words, “workplace violence,” to the other supervisor.  The second supervisor conditionally concurs based upon the reputation of the first supervisor; neither supervisor notifies human resources; no corroborating investigation occurs.  The second supervisor makes copies of the employee handbook, takes the offending employee aside, explains the observations, details the employee handbook sections applicable, all in an effort to “raise awareness.”  The employee expresses amazement that the first supervisor is receiving this perception and asks for specific instances, specific guidance, and situational training for the new corporate environment to “make the right first impression.”  No underlying causes, discussed in the meeting receive attention, no further training or guidance was received, and shortly after this incident, the employee was terminated.

Reality check, these are not fictitious examples.  Even in a down economy people remain people, organizational contention continues to cost valuable resources, and without significant change to organizational cultures the contention wins.  Even with massive interdiction changing the organizational culture, contention can still win.  Not all is without hope.  People do change, contention does lose, and the pressures feeding contentious responses mitigated.

At this point, some would argue for tougher business policies against employees on employee violence or human resources taking a more aggressive position regarding labor control and/or calling for more professionalism in the workplace towards other employees, ramping up existing or creating new incentive programs, etc.  The list is as endless as customizable solutions for specific incidents.  Others argue that since each organization is unique, unique solutions are required, that the one-size-fits-all or most approach will not be successful, that allowing people to express themselves is all fine and good within certain limits.

Change has come of age, essential and demanding change in thinking and actuality, for success in current market environments.  These former, unsuccessful arguments fail to address the core issues of individual employee responsibility, accountability, and organizational needs, to address organizational contention and foster safe working conditions.

Correcting organizational contention and fostering safe working environments do have a universal answer:  change the employment paradigm.  Traditional thinking on employees imply they “must be managed, controlled, and persuaded to act in a specific manner.”  Because the concept and reality of changing “employees” to “contractors,” specifically those choosing to affiliate with an organizational brand, prepares people to come fully equipped to work with a proper more prosperous mindset to do the job.  They do not need or want managing, controlling, and persuading.  As a result, organizational trust in people to make good decisions is realized when they have a stake in the organization that demands responsibility and accountability.

            Introduced in the article, “Shifting the Employment Paradigm,” are the support for the need of shifting and the reconstruction plan to shift.  This plan rectifies many of the diseases silently killing today’s business organizations through the process of ‘shifting the employment paradigm’ from traditional thinking to new and innovative levels of employee responsibility and accountability.  Employees are smarter, more engaged, and less needful of the expensive pampering traditional thinking forces upon organizations where employee relations are concerned.  It is time to make the change, shift the thinking, and reconstruct the business environment.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

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