Companies are made by men and women who work together for creating value that leads the company to have profit. Blah blah blah. The last leaf in the company is the employee, the worker, that is doing his job. In my experience as a software developer this is usually a developer. Many of them form a team, with management members (usually at least a team leader) and other roles.
They do the job. They create value. They know what they need to make their job be great. They are often not considered in any decision. It is sad but true. The question is: why?
I found that the reasons may be several. I just try to list some of them, the ones I have experienced.
- Managers are despotic
This happens quite often. Either because some leaders, when they feel the power, they use it for satisfying their huge self esteem, but sometimes only because some leaders just thinks their idea should not be proved right by the team. They validate the ideas in the wrong way, by making instant pool face to face, maybe with employee that hardly want to debate the idea of their boss. This situation generate a double lack of trust: on one side the leader loose track of the needs of the team, feels it is right and does not feel the need to check with the team every single idea. On the other employees loose the trust on leadership, on the self esteem needed to propose changes, on the quality of their work. If any idea is ok, they won’t ever debate anything, there is no need. This makes the situation deteriorate, improving the feeling that there is a lack of ability to make decisions
- Employees don’t care about their work, or they care about personal advantages
I remember that once I was working on a team of 14 people. There were 4 projects, so we had 4 sub-teams. Projects were distinct, no point in common. But we still had scrum meetings together. Beside that, we had two people working as support for an old legacy system. Review and demo were painful, because they were not well organised and they were taking lot of time. One person, during the retrospective, asked explicitly to give up agile methodologies and just self manage ourselves. But in my team a guy was hard to manage, and standups and reviews made the micromanagement possible. Moreover it was obvious that no methodology would have brought chaos because one project had one single developer, and nobody would have been aware of what was happening with that component. But the guy who proposed that and the 2 guys on support just wanted to reduce the waste of time that they were facing, not caring about other problems. Having people in contrast with other people because everyone looks only at their advantages bring unfairness (leaders have to choose a side, usually always the same) and difficulties in changing, and definitely in no trust on the employees side
- There is no time for democracy
That happens sometimes when leaders think that taking a fast decision is much better than discussing together for finding a solution. Although some teams are used to make meeting in which they end up taking no decision, taking a decision with no commitment and that makes the trust on the leadership weaker is never a good solution
- Employees are scared by their boss
This happens with consultants or people who can see their contract not be renewed. People in a not safe position are seldom comfortable in discussing problems that are not big enough or decisions that are coming from above. This is sometimes also happening with junior employees. It is also the reason why, at a direct question from a boss, some people don’t give an honest answer but they tend to be accommodating with the idea of their boss. It doesn’t matter how much friendly the boss is
- Theories are estimated more valuable than facts
I find this thing quite weird. Some bosses think that a general rule found in a book, in a procedure, in a theory found wherever, makes more sense than any fact you can bring them. It does not matter if a rule brings drawbacks as big as a disaster in a production environment, the theory is right so we must follow it at any cost. But, just for quoting Saul Kripke, “It really is a nice theory. The only defect I think it has is probably common to all philosophical theories. It’s wrong. You may suspect me of proposing another theory in its place; but I hope not, because I’m sure it’s wrong too if it is a theory”
How to solve this problem? In my opinion there is no universal recipe: workers should be in self-managed teams, so leaders should avoid taking decisions in a despotic way. Employees should think about the quality of the full team, and they should consider that everyone at the end work 8 hours, if you waste a bit more time but several other people work much better, why caring about being resistant to a change? Decision should be made by the team, this is the only way to have commitment and trust, and it is much more valuable a wrong decision and a failure with commitment than a success with a lack of commitment, because in the first case the team will react promptly, in the second the team won’t react anymore, even in following situations not related to the decision. Leaders should be aware that they are the bosses of their subordinates, that their careers depend on them, and this is killing any honest discussion: if there is an idea coming from management, best approach would be to explain reasons, to show benefits and then to leave the team discuss it. Anonymous pools are then a good approach to have a feedback. And no theory can have more value than facts: if a team is failing for consequences related a change, probably that change is wrong, no matter how strong and true is the theory related.
Trust is one of the most difficult thing to be recovered, when it is lost.