We all know how immensely crucial our immediate managers are in day-to-day working life. They are the persons who guide us, steer us, motivate us, coach us, keep us in check, define targets, create the team’s working environment, keep nagging corporate execs from disturbing us from our daily proceedings, take the flack, praise us, understand us and so on. Without them we would be steerless. Like a ship at sail without its captain. We probably also know how it is to work for somebody who does not meet up to a lot of these expectations and how difficult it can be to work for somebody like that.
When taken to extremes, corporate culture can either be a joy to spend most of your waking life in, or a dread to wake up for. It’s been on the news the world over when their 25th suicide (!!) in not even two years time happened last week – while another one was talked into not commiting. France Telecom says their process of restructuring the company is to blame and in all likelihood this restructuring may indeed have been the final drop in the bucket. It is equally likely that things have gone awry far before, since people do not commit suicide because of an reorganization alone. With so many companies going through that process, and so little employees taking their lives because of it, something else needs to be the deeper cause. While I am not going to try and find out all of the reasons leading to it (bad company culture, persons not valued for their work, people not doing what they like… these and more?), I do want to point to the responsibilities managers have here.
If these 25 would have been completely happy in their jobs prior to reorganization, they would not have taken their lives because of the latter. Apparently they were not, and I blame their managers, not because of their individual being – they can be very good guys in their own, but because of their individuality in the role of manager, a people manager. From what I can deduct, France Telecom made the mistake of hiring persons into their middle management roles who really are not fit for the job. Persons who undoubtedly have many strengths, but not these required to keep a team greased up and ready to tackle future challenges – even if that future is riddled with drastic change. As a manager, the first thing you need to understand is that you are working with very unique individuals. Lose that simple fact from sight and you start treating your workforce as a collective – an unpersonal and nameless bunch of workers who are just there to help your company. Your employees will feel unvalued and disposable. The individual thus loses his self-esteem and becomes unable to handle hardships, both in his professional as well as in his personal life.
Taking the responsibility back away from management; the company should make sure that all their people managers have the correct talent set to work with people. If they are not good with people, give them another job!