ITB is the Information Technology branch of a large state government department.
ITB was formed in July 2009 by the merging of four distinctly different business areas, from two different state government departments. At the time of the merger, a new CIO was appointed, who was promoted from within the branch. The CIO had no previous strategic management experience, having been promoted from a purely operations role with no staff management. In the 2009/10 financial year, there were 1250 individuals (employees and full time contractors) working within ITB, servicing over 800,000 users.
There were three instances of Human Resource Management being run throughout the branch with
ITB Human Resources (covers 750 staff)
eLearning Human Resources (covers 300 staff)
OneSchool Human Resources (covers 200 staff)
These three instances were not co-located and report to different senior managers, however they did receive some guidance from the Corporate Human Resource Branch, though this was at a department wide level and included policies such as Code of Conduct, recruitment, job sizing etc. The high level organisational chart is in Appendix 1.
ITB has just undergone a restructure which mandates each area of the branch to run their own Human Resources team, which mean that there is now four separate areas of the business responsible for Human Resource Management within ITB. There will be no overarching HR management of these groups within the branch.
Operations Human Resources (covers 450 staff)
Service Support Human Resources (covers 300 staff)
eLearning Human Resources (covers 300 staff)
OneSchool Human Resources (covers 200 staff)
There is an administrative linkage only between Strategic Planning and Human Resource Management. There is no strategy management and processes in place for ITB and the Human Resource areas are focused purely on administrative functions.
A major issue which has become apparent since the formation of ITB in July 2009 is the dysfunctional behaviours presented by managers, and the effect that these behaviours have on staff, processes and outcomes across the branch.
The two state government departments which merged into one had different management styles, processes and cultures and though the smaller department was more advanced in all areas of human resource management, they had to fit into the style of the larger department was forward.
The CIO was new to the strategic level of management required to manage and run such a large department and he lacked the skill to bring the four merged areas together and lead the new business. He continued to operate in a hands-on operational manner, without thought for managing the business as one new integrated organisation.
16 months on from the merger and subsequent formation of ITB, there is no strategy for the future of the branch, there are no clear rules on what the core business is, and there are no “single branch” policies or processes in place for Human Resources or Finance. There is a department wide technology strategy however this is at a very high level, not targeted for IT branch and is centred on the user’s experience.
Because the CIO has failed to provide strategy and leadership to the branch for the past 16 months, strong personalities amongst management have been allowed to display dysfunctional behaviours which have not been corrected, and have had detrimental effects on staff, processes and delivery outcomes across the branch. The behaviour has been disruptive and counterproductive and has resulted in destroying morale, and it has affected operational delivery performance.
These dysfunctional behaviours include the obvious ones such as being:
There are also the not-so-obvious dysfunctional behaviours such as:
Avoidance of accountability
Exclude others from situations
Lack of trust
Lack of commitment
Question others’ judgment
Checking and sending email in iPhone in meetings
Belittle others’ ideas
Interrupt others when speaking
Arriving 20 minute late to scheduled meetings
Make derogatory comments
Taking credit for subordinate’s ideas
The outcome is that these disrespectful and uncouth behaviours have diverted the energy and focus from the real work of the business; they have destroyed morale, distorted the culture, increased turnover and interfered with the information sharing mechanisms that ITB relies on.
Theory behind Dysfunctional Behaviour
Dysfunctional behaviours often come about due to The Peter Principle. The Peter Principle is the principle that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.”
The Peter Principle was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their book The Peter Principle (1969). The principle implies that in a hierarchy, members are promoted as long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions. This principle was modelled by Pluchino, Rapisarda and Garofalo in 2009 and appears to have theoretical validity.
Not all dysfunctional behaviours stem from The Peter Principle. Dysfunctional behaviour can also be learned behaviours with manifestations of deeper, cognitive evaluations and judgements.
Why do changes need to be made?
Managers and supervisors are responsible for setting appropriate and expected levels of behaviour by ensuring that dysfunctional and unethical behaviour in the work area is identified and promptly addressed. All staff are responsible building the work culture by considering their own behaviour and professional impact on others.
When dysfunctional and unethical behaviour starts to appear within an organisation, or when it’s used by management and other key people, it can quickly become part of the organisation’s culture. These dysfunctional and unethical behaviour can quickly be absorbed into the culture and become the norm, especially if no one stands up and corrects these behaviours.
What needs to be changed?
The CIO must recognise the criticality of the dysfunctional behaviour and its impact on business outcomes. The CIO, Senior Management Team and HR mangers must commit to change, be the leading champions and must be focused on changing the entire environment. This requires the leadership to be intimately involved, claim full responsibility for the current state of the workplace, and make a public commitment to the staff to do what it takes to create a thriving, functional place of work.
The only way to stop this dysfunctional behaviour is for the managers to change their behaviour and this will only happen when they realise how destructive their current behaviour is – the manager has to firstly admit that the problem lies with them.
The HR teams must collaborate and work together to make sure that ITB is free of dysfunctional behaviour. This will require two strategies:
Define the new culture
Drive out unacceptable behaviours
Define the New Culture
Together with CIO and Senior Management Team, the HR mangers need to focus on the problem behaviours and create a list of acceptable and expected behaviours for the IT Branch. This would include such things as:
Communication expectations – style, tone, manner, language
Email, intranet and telephone
What is appropriate to wear to work and when meeting with clients
Expectations and etiquette for meetings
Use of supplies and equipment
The CIO, Senior Management Team and the HR mangers need to demonstrate all of the appropriate behaviours in their own actions. The most effective means of reinforcing the acceptable and expected behaviours is to act as a role model.
Until the new culture is bedded down, these acceptable and expected behaviours should be on the agenda of regular team meetings to reinforce training and to emphasize and entrench the importance of the changes.
Make a point of rewarding people for demonstrating the new acceptable and expected behaviours. As it is a government department, a monetary reward is out of the picture, but could be as simple as thanking people for turning off their phones during a meeting.
A manners/model behaviour category could be added to the performance review process, to assist in embedding the change.
Driving Out Unacceptable Behaviours
Encouraging the new culture is only just one part of the issue. A major part of the new culture is the development of a number of mechanisms and strategies to eliminate unacceptable behaviours from the work environment. When the unacceptable behaviours begin to slip in again, it can be hard to stop the slide back to the old culture.
There needs to be open and honest communication in the workplace. This will enable staff to feel comfortable voicing their concerns and they will know that there are processes in place for resolving conflicts. The staff must believe that management will follow the new processes and that something will actually be done to address the concerns and grievances about the unacceptable behaviours and that management is just as concerned about the unacceptable behaviours as they are.
The staff must also take responsibility for their actions. They must think about the impact of their actions on other people. It must come to a point that staff have a high level of respect and concern for others.
How can Human Resource Management help?
There are a number of ways in which the HR teams can help to define the new culture and drive out unacceptable behaviours.
Development of Policy
HR, along with the CIO and Senior Management must clearly define what is not acceptable in terms of appropriate workplace behaviour. This should refer to the acceptable and expected behaviours that define the new culture.
Develop a branch wide protocol for preventing, assessing and treating unacceptable behaviours in the workplace
Create a conflict resolution process that can provide external support and assistance if solutions can’t be achieved.
Develop and apply a fair and consistent discipline procedure.
Review grievance, mediation and discipline policies to ensure they support the new processes.
Identify problem staff and develop a plan for management of those staff, which may include moving to another position, career coaching, mentoring or bringing in an external management consultant/leadership coach to work with them.
Rollout of the Policy
Provide emotional intelligence training for leadership and managers to improve relationship management
Create an environment of open-door collaborative empowerment, combined with training to identify and treat dysfunctional behaviour to achieve continuous companywide improvement. This minimises personal risk and has a “no-stigma” guarantee
Create a context of trust, mutual responsibility, and mutual accountability
Conduct branch-wide team building workshops, educate teams on the new culture, the new acceptable and expected behaviours and professional ethics along with training the staff in areas of, communication, conflict resolution, people skills and negotiation.
Encouraging staff to ask themselves, “How would I like to be treated in this situation?”
Zero tolerance policy. We should honour managers by holding them to the new boundaries. Staff cannot be afraid of saying ‘no’ or just ‘calling’ it when something they do is out of line. Staff can often be too fearful of speaking the truth – hoping that others will ‘just change’ themselves. The result is the people get away with it this time and it propagates the unacceptable and dysfunctional behaviour
The CIO and Senior Management Team must meet with all staff and be honest and direct about the unacceptable behaviours and they should make it clear that all staff who exhibit unacceptable and dysfunctional behaviour will face disciplinary action. It is important to reinforce that there will be consequences for those who continue to show unacceptable behaviours.
The CIO and Senior Management Team must model to new culture. Gandhi once said “Be the change you want to see.” If the CIO and Senior Management Team show unacceptable behaviours, no amount of training or coaching will bring the rest of the branch back inline.
Measurement of Effectiveness
Develop a staff feedback system.
Develop a staff climate survey to de conducted every three months to monitor how changes are being made.
Implement 360 degree feedback for senior management. This will provide early detection of interpersonal problems and dysfunctional behaviour. This is for the CIO, Senior Management Team and the next level of management down.
What benefits will be gained from the change?
Extensive studies have concluded that people will imitate the behaviour that appears to be socially acceptable, even if it is not their normal behaviour, and it becomes self-perpetuating. If you allow some staff to get away with dysfunctional behaviours, then other people will follow.
I found it difficult to choose a specific HRM issue within my organisation, as there were are many issues which effect the organisation.
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