Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gaining by Giving

I used to jar some of the department heads in one organization by insisting that when employees file discrimination complaints through the internal complaint process, they should be told about the federal and state agencies where their complaints could also be filed.

"Why should we should tell them that?" groaned some of the executives and managers. "All you are doing is encouraging them to file elsewhere. We'll wind up spending large amounts of time dealing with some outside investigator."

I replied that the main goal of any internal complaint process should be to determine the truth and then take appropriate action. Why hide information from the employees? Let them know their options and then move forward to make sure that the internal investigation is prompt, thorough, and impartial.

After several years of following that approach, we were able to monitor the results. The number of internal and external discrimination complaints had not risen; in fact, they had fallen dramatically.

I recall that development whenever I see executives and managers who are so intent on hanging onto power that they wind up losing power. Their focus is invariably on the wrong thing. They are seeking control when they should be after credibility. That sin isn't confined to operations and folks in the field. Propose giving away information and power and many soft-skilled HR types are just as eager to pull up the drawbridge and station the archers.

The natural tendency may be to hunker down. Our professional commitments, however, should cause us to question whether that is wise.

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