In an August 2008 article, noted organizational change consultant and author Margaret Wheatley called upon organizations to act fearlessly and to embrace employee engagement instead of practicing authoritarian, top-down tactics:
If leaders took the time to engage people instead of clamping down on them, not only would employees perform better, they’d also be more innovative and focused. It would lead to less stress, less illness, and more productivity. All the actions right now are pushing the workforce toward increasing levels of disengagement. People show up to work to collect a pay check. The Gallup Organisation did a survey in the USA that indicated how people are feeling about their workplace. Last year, more than 70 percent of the American workforce felt disengaged, up from around 33 per cent in 2000. That’s what happens if you squeeze fewer people to do more work, give them shorter deadlines, measure their work using meaningless reports, and, to top it off, treat them with profound levels of disrespect.
This piece appeared right before the recession went into high gear. If anything, the experience of work has become worse since that time, with more layoffs, stress, and bad management responses. Wheatley’s advice is needed now more than ever to help us reverse course and build sustainable organizations.
For a link to “Fearlessness: the last organisational change strategy,” in Business Executive: http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/Fearlessness-BEXaug08.pdf