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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

April - 2010 - issue > People Manager

Managing Employees’ Sense of Insecurity

C Mahalingam (Mali)
Friday, April 2, 2010
C Mahalingam (Mali)
Engaging employees has two sides to it. One has to do with cultivating the positive sense of belonging and contribution. The other has to do with removing the sense of insecurity that may come to permeate in the organization for variety of reasons. Before an organization can do wonders in the former, it has to ensure the latter. Recent layoffs, pay-cuts and restructuring have made the need for paying attention to the latter even more critical. However, even in normal circumstances where there has been steady growth and expansion, there are factors that can generate insecurity in the minds of employees and not paying attention to these in time can cause irreparable damage to the morale of people. Larger issues of demoralization and insecurity relating to downsizing and shrinking pay packages are easy to notice and so receive some attention. But there are often many other factors that are less readily noticeable but create enormous insecurity in the minds of people which often go unnoticed.

This article highlights some of these insecurity-causing factors that need decisive attention by the leaders. Not doing so will lead to departure of valuable talent.

Oversmart Bullies: These are long-serving, smart and highly productive employees who enjoy a lot of equity in the system and therefore enjoy a lot of influence. Some of them turn out to be sophisticated bullies and cause a lot of pain to colleagues. They need not necessarily be team leaders or managers. They are often individual contributors, but with a lot of their manager’s ears. They behave like top dogs and exercise extra-constitutional/organizational authority. They dictate things to their peers and colleagues and ask for unreasonable things – to take extra load, to refuse cooperation or to stay out of a discussion and such others things. Not toeing their line will mean becoming unpopular with the managers who do not have a mind of their own, but who are every ready to be influenced by these smart bullies. Self-respecting and capable employees do not stand this bully behavior and tend to leave when they find their managers not improving the situation and not reigning in these bullies

Knowledge-hoarding mafia: Another factor often prevalent in pockets is a group of employees leaguing together to ensure that all the knowledge about the work they do is kept within them and not shared with any new joiner coming into the team. A large multinational and well known office productivity software product company with substantial presence in Hyderabad loses people steadily to lesser known companies just on this count. A couple of employees in many of their groups/units have formed into a mafia like closed cliques ensuring that no new comer gets any knowledge on the product line. Engineers who get attracted to cutting edge products and competitive salary offered by this Company go through this painful experience and feeling frustrated and helpless keep leaving the company all the time. And this can happen in any company if their leaders do not watch out and pay attention to the subtle cues to indicate such mafia-like behaviour in pockets of their organization.

Training as a No-No: For knowledge workers, there is nothing more worrisome than fear of obsolescence. Again, we are talking about pockets within organization where this may be happening. Despite good training function and company-wide statistics on training man days and such other metrics, there are teams and programs where employees rarely to get to attend any training. This may be because the leader in charge of the team or program may be a disbeliever in training. Or excessive focus on “delivering today” as against “building capability for tomorrow” as a watchword and culture could be the reason. A culture within a team or program that does not enable updating and upgrading of skills and competencies tend to generate a lot of insecurity in the minds of the employees and the inevitable increase in resignation ensues. Health-checks of project teams are often excessively focused on project milestones and customer sat scores, but employee development as a milestone is ignored leading to widespread insecurity and eventual turnover of talented people.


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