Shut Up and Listen

     As recently as yesterday, 5 August 2014, I had a chance to make an impact on my organization. As I listened intently, I absorbed the words, emotions, and quizzical looks of all the senior managers within my company. They pondered the question about why employees were so unhappy. I raised my hand, sheepishly I might add, considering I have only been with the company for three months, and gave them my opinion. Now, to put this in perspective, I am 33 and the HR Manager confirmed over 65% of our workforce is over the age of 50, therefore I would be what they consider a millennial, and I get a lot of people that talk to me and say a lot of “real” opinions about the company. Therefore, I decided to seize the opportunity, carpe diem, and be not afraid; if they asked a question and were honestly perplexed about what to do, then what else could I say but the truth, or forever kick myself for not taking the chance? “Well, if I can say this from a perspective of a guy who has been here for 3 months, honestly, people don’t think management cares about them anymore”. Crickets. Confusion set in and within seconds I was witnessing senior managers argue the point. But we are honest with them. We tell them everything they want to know in our All-Hands meetings. We let them email the program manager with their concerns. We spend too much time going over what the employees are feeling.

     I was floored. Here they are, the boat sinking, everything is on fire, folks are leaping over the edge, and yet all Management can do is argue “We can’t be sinking. We are an unsinkable ship”! The level of indifference and detachment from reality was unnerving. These are the minds that are steering our organization right into the iceberg field.

     Some of the managers, however, got it. My senior manager, whom I have some smaller bones to pick with, did me a great service though and mentioned how he had noticed that millennial needed manager to employee interaction and face time, not just a brief note from afar. He also stated that his younger employees needed a voice. Well done Sir. Well done. I response to his comment, as well as the statistic given by HR that 65% were over 50, I threw them a life line. “You know, maybe the issue is not that management doesn’t care, but maybe the age demographic is something to visit. Could it be possible that our younger folks aren’t getting the massage you intend because they communicate differently”? Crickets again. Deaf ears, blinded eyes, constantly open mouthed, selling an alternate reality.

     To state this case better, which Nikravan does in an interview, millennials need to be heard. Not only do they need to be heard, but “The most effective, respected managers realize that what they have to say is almost always far less valuable than what their subordinates have to say to them. At best, doing too much of the talking can quash the opportunity to build a trusted bond with a team member. At worst, it can be disastrous” (Nikravan, 2014).

     Hence the title, if you want to communicate with us and want us to contribute, shut up and listens. We don’t all live in the Twitter sphere, so stop pigeonholing us and allow us to have a voice for ourselves.

Nikravan, L. (2014, July 28). Shut Up and Listen. Retrieved August 6, 2014, from talentmgt.com: http://talentmgt.com/articles/6657-shut-up-and-listen

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  1. mbr4355 says:

    It looks like you are experiencing a classic issue within your company’s socio-technical system: “the interaction of people (a social system) with tools and techniques (a technical system). Socio-technical studies approached the organization as a social system focusing wholly on group relations in depth on three levels including, primary work systems, whole organization systems and macrosocial systems” (Aldridge, 2004). In the interview, Wagner explains the importance of managers having one-on-one talks with subordinates, allowing them to voice concerns (Nikravan, 2014). This sentiment was echoed by your manager when he “noticed that millennial needed manager to employee interaction and face time, not just a brief note from afar” (MOL5113, 2014). This ties in with Trist’s definition of a primary work system, where face-to-face collaborations occur between the specialist and his boss, like you and your managers (Aldridge, 2004). You attempted to answer your senior leaders questions of employee dissatisfaction, but they failed to listen.

    These ‘leaders’ are convinced that the current Information Systems that they have in place in order to “accelerate communication, learning and knowledge sharing” (Aldridge, 2004) are doing an effective job of analyzing how employees are feeling and conveying these concerns to their respective managers. But in this day and age, email just doesn’t cut it anymore. Your company would likely benefit from creating some sort of knowledge management system development that allows employees to share their experiences and opinions with one another openly. Oftentimes, individuals are more likely to voice his/her opinion knowing that others share that viewpoint.

    Even though you mentioned that not all millenials can be pigeonholed in the Twitter sphere (MOL5113, 2014), it would be beneficial for others to be able to echo your main point in a way that they are most comfortable. This is where some sort of professional blog may come in handy. “With the advent of the Internet, our work experiences continue to transform from production-oriented to knowledge-centered, from competitive to collaborative, and from mechanistic to organismic. IT [Information Technology] and KM [Knowledge Management] provide the technical framework for knowledge sharing while allowing supervisors to manage the boundary conditions of the workplace environment” (Aldridge, 2004).

    Allowing employees to share information and tacit knowledge via the new technologies available is what a true socio-technological system is about. It allow the employees to be heard while staying focused on the company’s vision, mission, and values. It allows people to connect, often in real-time, to conversations that are pertinent to the question being asked, rather than sifting through several emails. It engages employees on a higher thought level without fear of wasting time on social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. This also addresses Wagner’s concern for ‘Assigning Tasks’ and ‘Responding to Questions’ (Nikravan, 2014) without cutting off an employee’s train of thoughts. Furthermore, it is a solution to the concern you posed about the difference in the way that younger generations communicate versus the managers not actually caring (MOL5113, 2014).

    Aldridge, J. (2004). Encyclopedia of distributed learning. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

    Nikravan, L. (2014, July 28). Shut Up and Listen. Retrieved August 6, 2014, from talentmgt.com: http://talentmgt.com/articles/6657-shut-up-and-listen

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