Organizations: What You Put Out There Matters — So Keep it Real

 

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We all have a vision in our mind’s eye of how we are perceived by the world. But, as humans we can serve as notoriously poor judges. I find that organizations can suffer from the same biases — leadership may envision the organization as “caring” or “innovative” — yet their behavior throws a fly in the ointment.  As an entity, we have to own up and consider that what we’d like to be, and what we really put out there — may not jibe.

Where organizational culture is concerned, this reality gap can become quite critical — affecting many elements that contribute to success. (Think of attracting talent, etc.) Ultimately, the same criteria that we apply to exceptional leaders, works for the larger, collective organization as well. (Consider the attributes of trust, integrity and character.)

Displaying what we are truly “made of”, is established through small, yet meaningful exchanges with our employees and customers. These actions are critical in cementing (and communicating) a healthy organization culture. Often organizations profess to being one thing — but when you peel away the layers of PR and slogans — they are in fact, another. Grandstanding rarely works, as actual behaviors often tell the story with far greater power.

Where employees are concerned, discrepancies of “talk vs. actions”, can create a wide rift as they move through their tenure within the organization. This is exactly how we lose our most valued employees, as  we make implicit promises that we just cannot keep.

A few ideas for that:

  • Recruit with integrity. The old adage of “don’t make a promise you cannot keep” holds here. Respect the talent, that may walk through your doors. If you cannot deliver what they are seeking, don’t spin the story in your favor. Utilize realistic job previews (RJPs) whenever possible — you’ll avoid numerous issues later on.
  • Treat others as you would a customer. I can’t think of anything I hate more, than an organization that puts on one face to make a sale, yet treats those that have contributed to that opportunity as “less than”. Enough said — it’s reprehensible. Eventually top talent will cycle out of your organization for this very reason.
  • Get the real story. Ensure that you really know how your organization is perceived from all vantage points — minus the “spin”. Get real in a hurry, and pay attention to the signs of a misaligned culture, before a myopic view hurts your long-term goals.

Have you ever experiences an organization that seemed to have a “split” personality? Share your story.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors, Toronto. She is also serves as an Influencer at LinkedIn.

Career Transparency and Women at Work

As women, we all have a personal story concerning the road we have taken to achieve work life balance. I have a career saga to tell – as you have your own unique story. All of the challenges and frustrations that we have experienced, are certainly ours to own and share. Of late, I am optimistic that we are moving to a new stage in the evolution of work for women, supported by the changing tide of culture and transparency. As organizations become increasingly open about who they really are and what they have to offer us, we might finally become more comfortable expressing who we really are and what we can realistically offer them.

Transparency, a force which has swept the workplace off its proverbial feet, is on course to set the stage for real communication in the employee-organization realm – and I am glad for it. Hopefully, this developing transparency will have a positive impact upon the unique set of challenges and stereotypes women face in the workplace. It remains, that many women would like to spend time at home at key points in their work lives. They should be able to freely to admit this, and have this need met without fear of reprisal or career suicide.

If you have had the opportunity to read the Atlantic article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, by Anne-Marie Slaughter, you’d know exactly where I am going with this. With a healthy dose of  work life transparency, there is an opportunity for women to know what they are really up against when entering the world of work. We all should discuss the realities openly – because the essence of being happy at work, might lie just as much in being honest about what we cannot do –  as much as what we can do.

In the early days of my career, I saw manifestations of the “super woman” myth on a regular basis. As a research manager at a large telecom company, I recall the story of one of our vendors placing  business related calls from her hospital bed, shortly after giving birth. Everyone seemed impressed and remotely amused by the story – but I found the behavior perplexing. I thought to myself; Why did she feel the need to do such a thing? But, the answer was really quite obvious – she had to prove to everyone that she was committed to her career, even though she chose to have a family. I am hoping that we won’t hear such stories in the future – and that there are less heroic displays of career loyalty required.

As Slaughter goes on to discuss, young women today are becoming more open about what their role will look like, in comparison to their spouse or male co-workers. I believe that subtle, yet real differences will remain, and it is wise to validate that difference. Offering women accurate information about combining work and family won’t necessarily predispose them to take on a less challenging career – it simply offers them the option to realistically plan for it.

In today’s world, young men and women have similar expectations concerning holding roles with increased responsibility, and opinions concerning the division of labor within the home are also evolving. Men appear to be developing a stronger  role within the home – a trend which will certainly augment honest work life planning  going forward. But, other issues need to fall into place as well. This includes the help of organizations to wipe out stereotypes in the workplace – a much-needed, deep-seeded cultural shift. Slaughter describes that problem perfectly, and open discussions concerning gender parity are in order. (In this regard, I am anxious to see how the career of Melissa Meyer develops as she embarks upon her journey.)

In the past it seems that the question posed to women as they embarked upon a career was, “what are you willing to give up to be a great success”. Going forward, I am hoping this becomes a thoughtful and honest discussion, with advantages to be reaped by both organizations and employees alike. Possibly a dose of transparency concerning the roles ahead, provided by those of us who speak from experience, can lead to more effective outcomes.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist and coach. Connect with her on Twitter and Linkedin.

Recruitment Transparency: Another Look at Realistic Job Previews

Organizations have a multitude of priorities to balance. However, the effort to strategically recruit and retain the best and the brightest remains a top concern. A business cannot move forward without the right people – and being sure the right people find the organization is a major step.

Transparency and talent
When considering workforce goals, any organization can positively impact recruitment efforts by embracing the concept of transparency. Transparency can affect the way your organization is perceived – by your employees  – and the surrounding external environment. Not unlike other key brand issues, an organization’s reputation in this arena is built through accepted behaviors and business practices. The process can help you attract and retain needed talent.

Transparency as the new normal
A by-product of the social media revolution and an over-riding emphasis upon sharing, transparency is evolving into the new normal. A clear marker concerning organizational culture, transparency is a “here to stay”, need to have corporate attribute. Bridging the transparency gap can help organizations attract future leaders and drive innovation forward. Businesses can begin addressing the issue with the very first contact points they have with candidates during recruitment.

Realistic Job Previews
Realistic Job Previews are not a particularly new concept (Premack & Wanous, 1985). However, RJPs have been well researched and fit perfectly into the evolving trend of transparency in the world of work.  They serve as a vehicle to accurately portray your organization and the job in question. RJPs exist in a number of forms, including printed materials or brochures, video, or in-person format. Whatever the form, RJPs should offer a snapshot of required tasks, responsibilities and potential cultural demands of the position in question. (See two excellent video RJP examples here and here.) In most cases, RJPs are utilized early in the recruitment process – but can be utilized at any stage of the process.

The benefits are there
Transparency can bring meaningful rewards on both sides of the recruitment equation. To begin, an RJP puts an applicant in a better position to make an informed decision about the job in question. Organizations share the potential benefits, including an opportunity to hire better suited applicants and the possibility of impacting early turnover.

The best RJPs offer enough useful information for applicants to appropriately self-select out of the recruitment process. This includes information on topics such as skills required for success, and “day in the life” issues such typical schedules. Other topics helpful in an RJP might include, ambient work environment, physical requirements and information about the culture of the organization.

What to consider when building an RJP:

  • Always portray jobs accurately. Discuss both the positives and the potential negatives of any position. This becomes even more crucial if a job attribute appears to be related to early turnover.
  • Discuss career paths.  No one should have to guess where their role might take them in the future. Be open concerning the possibilities and limitations related to potential career paths.
  • Touch upon unusual job characteristics. Include information on tasks or working conditions which may cause applicants to reconsider the role. Unusual physical or schedule requirements should be reviewed early in the process.
  • Reveal any possibility of relocation. If the natural progression of a role is to relocate frequently or during the first years of employment, share this with applicants.
  • Reveal travel requirements. Applicants need to be able to assess the real impact of travel on their lives. Never hold back information or adjust the estimate unrealistically.

Don’t sabotage your recruitment efforts before they start – begin your employee relationships with a healthy dose of honesty.


Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can find her on Twitter and Linkedin.