The literal and metaphorical accuracy of the headline for this piece is hopefully not lost on the reader, even though it may be repugnant to some. And who am I to take such aggressive liberties with your sensibilities? I’m just one more voice, not a minted expert in the field. But from my perspective as an aging (experienced) healthcare system consumer, and as the head of HR for a global company, I think I have some basis for my comments.
Case in point: my recent colonoscopy.
For lots of years, organizations who were interested in identifying the next bright stars have used the idea of establishing “hi potential” listings of employees, the people who were thought to be the best, most capable of advancing. This “hi-pot” list translated into experiential opportunities, participation in educational programs not generally available to others and preferential candidacy for openings.
To the people not on such lists, the existence of “hi-pot” groups can be demoralizing.
There is much of value being taught in courses, written in books and advised by consultants regarding the best ways to effect organizational changes. There’s the reminder that people personalize any anticipated change, whether it affects them or not. We need to address the human need for knowing the facts of what’s going on, and what it may or may not mean to us personally. Any change that could affect one’s livelihood raises the threat-awareness and response systems in the human animal. Some more than others, of course.
So it’s good to involve people in the planning and the decisions, insofar as that is possible. It’s good to find a vehicle for them to express their emotions. It’s good to keep them informed. It’s great if everyone feels heard, because then they will more likely accept the necessary changes that they don’t like. (Barring a layoff decision for them, of course. Not many folks hold the objectivity and devotion to the team to accept being fired, for the good of the whole.)
All of these principles are fine and good, as far as they go.
Anyone who has been accountable for others, as a leader, has experienced the queasy feeling when a direct report “goes around” them and has direct communication with their boss. You know what I’m talking about, don’t pretend you don’t. It’s normal. It’s built in to our species. For millenia our ancestors survived intra- and inter-group competition by making alliances, controlling resources and commanding loyalty from those who looked to them for protection, economic reciprocity and preferred treatment.