Attitudes for change
The conversations this week were about the general social problems that afflict any country/community. What was significant was the whole issue of the neglect of agriculture in our society.
One individual’s comment was of great interest, she recalled that on her return to Barbados she purchased a hoe and fork and started working on her garden. One day one of her neighbour’s kids said to her: “Your garden is very pretty, I like your flowers, my mother said that you are from St. Lucy that is why you are so good at using the fork and hoe.”
She was surprised that the attitude of the Barbadian public towards agriculture had remained unchanged after all of these years. So when she hears certain persons in society talking about agriculture she is convinced that they mean other people’s children and not their own.
These people whom she describes as the “light skin” ones still believe that they are entitled to achieve the PhDs and MScs while the ones of the darker skin colour should be in agriculture. Now I am not a historian, a sociologist nor an economist so I will leave that aspect of the conversation them. The article this week is about the forces of change.
Through all the recent problems that we have seen highlighted in the press one cannot help but think of the forces of change that very often managers and employees resist. Most of us do not like change but since this feeling is at the subconscious level we are unaware of its impact on our behaviour.
In addition we resist change because our egos feel threatened by it and at times some employees may even resign from the organisation because of change. According to management specialists all organisations in today’s unstable environment must change and sometimes this change is very radical in nature. The challenge is how well managers and employees will weather the short and long-term changes in the organisation or should we say “change or die” (Robbins & Judge, 2011 pp 591).
In the banking sector we have heard of the expected changes in commerce which will come about because of the LIBOR scandal at Barclays Bank. We in the Caribbean will all have to adjust to changes that will come about because of the CLICO debacle and we have all had to adjust to changes in world travel as a result of 9/11. So the question is: Why is it so hard for employees and managers to adjust to changes in the organisation? The answer is fear, we all fear change because it is the unknown that is threatening. One response to this is the development of programmes that all employees and managers should introduce to enable employees to handle their anxieties.
However, not all change can be managed in this manner some change just happens but managers must be prepared to accept change and assist employees in coping with it.
One way to manage change is through open communication and discussion which provides the change agent (manager/employee consultant) with the opportunity to explain why the change is needed and how the organisation will benefit from the process. Moreover, since resistance is inevitable managers should treat it as another’s view point instead of a threat to their self-esteem and be prepared to modify the change to fit the preferences of some members.
As we all know all change is not necessarily all good, some change is not suited to the culture of the organisation or the people of the country for that matter (Robbins & Judge, 2011).
Now change is not always overt that is to say it does not always result in strike action or complaints. Very often change may result in loss of employees’ motivation, loyalty and trust. Sometimes change may result in covert actions like increased absenteeism or reduction of productivity. This type of action or reaction to change often goes unnoticed sometimes for years and may only surface much later. Then one day, something like insubordination occurs and this may be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back”. An astute manager may recognise this deferred resistance which needed some more open discussion. Sadly, very few of them will recognise it and as such a debacle of a huge magnitude will occur.
At this point you may be asking what has the opening vignette to do with change. Well we all know that we need to return to agriculture in order to reduce our national import bill since our foreign reserves are being slowly depleted.
However, we must first change our attitudes towards this sector and until it is viewed as important enough to encourage our children to pursue it as a career choice, change in this regard will not occur.
Now the space provided for this article does not allow for more discourse on this matter but I will close by adding that organisational change is inevitable and managers must consider the human element before thrusting it upon employees.
They (managers) must consider the various characteristics of the individuals they manage which include perception, personalities and needs. Alas if these are not considered change will result in tremendous resistance and calamitous results. Until next time….