I’ve been feeling a little bit disregarded and disrespected recently in ways that I won’t address directly. This experience, however has led me to be quite keen on detecting when others are also being disregarded or disrespected. I teach, I consult, and I provide corporate training… I get to encounter a lot of businesses in any given month, so I see a lot of dirty secrets in business. Now, I know that it isn’t considered appropriate to publicly suggest that such things happen within the walls of my generally up-standing clients, partners, and employers, but my first obligation is to my students who need to see the ins-and-outs of all things business. Today, I bring you some ugly truth in two forms as previously stated: disregard and disrespect.
Let me lay the situation out in company-by-company scenarios for your understanding and potential commiserating.
Masters of Disregard
For some time, I’ve worked with an organization, Company A, that prides itself on openness, innovation, and for possessing a really disruptive and creative streak. After spending quite a bit of time getting to know the inner workings of Company A, I’ve come to realize that most of their culture is fabricated and superficial. It’s a mere story used to consolidate power into a dozen or so sets of hands in an organization of thousands.
The basic motivation is this: tell everyone how open you are and how new ideas are what build careers. Tell employees that everyone has the autonomy to innovate, but then require that every meaningful initiative come from central management. This is the ultimate way to tell your employees that they don’t matter… that you disregard the most valuable commodity that they are offering you in exchange for compensation.
“Thanks Jim in Accounting… that idea is now mine, don’t tell anyone I stole it from you, or you’ll be shunned.“
When any innovation has the opportunity to really impact the organization, the quiet and limited hierarchy rears its ugly head as if transformed into a mighty beast. Managers who are fueled by their own ego and tiny grasp on authority scoop in to re-appropriate initiatives with potential.
Managers and leaders at Company A see something with potential or momentum and they near-immediately work to shut it down. Then, after some short period of time, here comes the very same initiative repackaged and treated as all shiny and brand new. Except this time, the author’s name has been updated to reflect the manager, not the real originator. The real creator has been disregarded simply so the ego of another person―who already receives more compensation and benefits!―can be stroked.
Disrespect as a Service
Company B is a bit more straightforward and easy to understand. They have severely limited budgets due to external forces. This means they staff highly technical jobs with employees willing to settle for maybe two-thirds of what they could earn by applying similar skills elsewhere.
Some of these employees are wonderful, competent, hard working people who have made a choice to be with Company B for one reason or another. Others, well… they’re the weaker players in the industry that have to downgrade to a lower paying job in order to stay within their field.
Inevitably, the weaker players within a company cause a problem that the other more talented and conscientious employees have to solve for.
While this particular scenario can go a nearly infinite number of directions from this point, my most immediate exposure to this type of company has been with an incompetent over-compensator using aggression to hide their (incorrect grammar intentional to hide gender) utter lack of competency.
Moral of the Story
So, what then is the moral of the story? Our job as business people is to make the connection in people’s minds that we’re all human, and that business isn’t some thing that you compartmentalize out of the rest of your life. Because, sadly, I could have picked from tens of stories from my past―or present―to serve as parables for disregard and disrespect. The above two stories were chosen at random from my past.
Too many business people compartmentalize their lives. They pretend that their family life doesn’t impact their business life, and vice versa. That’s just utter bullshit. Sorry, but there’s no way to state that truth any more politely and still have the desired gravity.
This compartmentalization is how we get predatory business practices, sleazy customer service, and price gouging. It is how we end up with high employee churn rates, low customer approval, and missed opportunities.
It is the job of any self-respecting business to minimize the use of disregard and disrespect resulting from their operations. You’d be flabbergasted how much kickback I get for making this assertion, too! Commonly, the kickback comes in the form of a pithy statement such as, “That isn’t the job of HR or any other department!” Either way, the it remains quantifiable that there are clear and measurable costs associated with these all-too-common behaviors.
As for any of you who may be subjected to these behaviors in a way that they directly impact you, my advice is to keep doing what you do, don’t take it personally, and set a course into the future responsibly. If mangers at your company take your ideas repeatedly, look for somewhere else to utilize your skill set. If you’re belittled or berated, the advice is the same. Yes, most of us have to work for a living, but the good news is that for every company out there that wants you but still wants to treat you horribly, there are others out there that will treat you like a rock star, so long as you are.