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What’s Up with My Employees?? Part 1

A Client Short Story

One of Abudi Consulting Group’s clients, a SVP of Human Resources (HR) in a retail organization of approximately 800 employees, has noticed that employees seem increasingly disinterested in the organization and the work. The SVP of HR, who we’ll call Sarah, shared this story with me during one of our quarterly get-together lunches.

Sarah initially noticed about three (3) months ago that things seemed different. Employees, who were usually collaborative and spent time socializing throughout the day with each other, seemed to be more “heads down,” and focused only on their individual work efforts. Collaboration seemed to have reduced dramatically since then; and Sarah feared it just wasn’t happening at all; it appeared that employees were more silo’ed. She rarely saw employees getting together throughout the organization in open areas to talk and collaborate as she had in the past. And, she shared, “Interestingly, when I do see a few employees chatting, the moment they see me or another member of the leadership team, they scurry off.”

I asked Sarah what changed in the organization three months ago. She mentioned that about four months ago a new COO started in the organization, and she believed that he may be the root of the problem, though she couldn’t say for certain. We’ll call the new COO Tim. When I asked Sarah to share a little about Tim, she shared that Tim…

  • …comes from a larger, hierarchical organization (and has always worked in more hierarchical organizations.)
  • …is goal-focused and regularly asks his managers how they are working toward achieving their goals.
  • …works with an extreme sense of urgency, pushing individuals to do more.
  • …has had some difficulty adopting to the organization’s culture which has been apparent in the way he regularly comments during Executive Leadership Sessions that it appears that employees may not have enough work to do.

Sarah and I talked a bit further about the situation and her perceptions. We decided the following next steps would be helpful in understanding what was really going on with employees, and whether there was any link between the change in employees’ behavior and the new COO.

  1. Get more data. She would talk with staff with whom she had a good relationship, who have been with the organization for a number of years, and who appear to be more influential among their peers, with a goal of learning more about what was going on with staff overall (with a focus on the perceived change in the culture of the organization.)
  2. Talk with Tim about the organization, its culture (definitively less hierarchical than where he has worked in the past), and how he felt he was fitting in. Transitioning from a hierarchical culture to one that is flatter is not easy; Tim may need support in doing so.
  3. Gather perceptions from Tim’s peers, the other senior leaders in the organization, about how Tim is “fitting in” and interacting/engaging with others. (The CEO in particular would be a good starting point for Sarah as he has always encouraged collaboration within the organization.)

Sarah and I would get back together after she accomplished this research in order to plan next steps.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll share Sarah’s findings and our next steps plan.

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