During our recent long drawn out election I heard one phrase more than others to describe the enthusiasm of voters about the ongoing show. That phrase was “What’s the point in voting, nothing ever changes anyway?". In Australia we have compulsory voting so at least we are made to make a decision whether informed or not.
In countries around the world that don’t have compulsory voting, this mindset can mean individuals don’t turn up to have their say and disasters happen. Brexit and the rise of Trump are great examples of the "many" thinking that the "other" will take care of it.
Although we can feel that way in any part of our lives, believing there is no point and failing to have our say or express an opinion can build an ever decreasing spiral of silence. For individuals and a society this creates an imbalance that is hard to recover from.
The same applies to the workplace. I have often heard this phrase when facilitating meetings at all levels of organisations. The feeling of helplessness, real or perceived, emerges from many different factors and can come from inexperienced managers to divisive leaders. It can come from lack of process, lack of respect or a myriad of other symptoms that work forces succumb to. Ultimately it can create a stagnant organisation.
Sometimes we use the excuse that “there is not enough time”, “I know best” or "its easier if I just do it myself”. It can also be a simple “I know I won’t get the answer I need” when consulting others about projects or plans.
The effect on business is multidimensional. Once managers feel that they don’t need to listen to other opinions, employee and stakeholder engagement stops. Once engagement stops new ideas, valid opinions, innovation and growth halts. When engagement, innovation and growth cease, client satisfaction plummets leading to poor sales, high staff turnover and a toxic organisation.
I have seen organisations implode from here, wondering why market share is declining, clients are leaving and good employees are jumping ship. When revenue falls, marketing, client services and training stops while they bunker down for the hard times.
Most companies underestimate the impact of good engagement on their organisational health and ultimate success. Organisations that are more collaborative at all levels of the organisation also have higher customer engagement that flows from the ability for all employees to make decisions and be consulted when needed.
Poor skills development, perceived lack of time and elitism are some of the biggest causes.