Decisions about restructuring usually depend on models that show how different approaches might affect the enterprise, by projecting the values of organizational attributes such as net income, market share, or shareholder value. Although these projections rarely include attributes like employee anxiety or fear, such factors are truly important. They help to determine productivity, voluntary turnover, the workload of the people in Human Resources, and many of the attributes that the experts do model, albeit indirectly.
Most important, restructuring-induced fear can create a need for future restructuring, through a variety of paths, some of which are subtle and rarely identified. Here's Part I of an exploration of some of the less obvious mechanisms by which restructuring-induced fear creates a need for future restructuring.
- Degraded and disrupted relationships
- When we relocate people, eliminate positions, or merely change reporting structures, we disrupt relationships between people. Those who formerly relied on each other for advice, instruction, or services must sometimes find new contacts. Even the relationships that aren't totally eliminated can be degraded by restructuring-induced fear, in the form of competitive attitudes that can take hold when people come to believe that further restructuring is possible, and that everyone is in competition for a declining number of jobs.
- Although relationships between and among employees are valuable organizational assets, the value of these assets doesn't appear on financial statements. Unaware of the amount of these assets lost to restructuring, the depressive effects on results seem surprising to planners. The unexpectedly disappointing results can sometimes lead to further restructuring.
- Risk aversion
- When people believe that their When people believe that
their jobs are at risk,
their appetite for risk
in general declinesjobs are at risk, their appetite for risk in general declines. In effect, some people have difficulty keeping separate their own personal risk profile and the risk profile associated with their job responsibilities. This can affect the necessarily subjective judgments people make as part of their responsibilities, which creates a risk aversive approach to operating the enterprise.
- After experiencing several serial restructuring events, people in organizations that formerly had a healthy approach to risk can find themselves being overly conservative in their strategies and tactics, because they have begun to confuse their own personal risk experience with the risk experience of the organization. In this way, the organization can become so risk averse that it is no longer capable of accepting the levels of well-managed risk that are so necessary in today's market environments. These organizations then find that they can innovate only by acquiring innovative organizations, which is an expensive method for attaining market leadership. The resulting high costs and low yields sometimes lead to further need for restructuring.
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- Are You Micromanaging Yourself?
- Feeling distrusted and undervalued, we often attribute the problem to the behavior of others —
to the micromanager who might be mistreating us. We tend not to examine our own contributions to the
difficulty. Are you micromanaging yourself?
- When Somebody Throws a Nutty
- To "throw a nutty" — at work, that is — can include anything from extreme verbal
over-reaction to violent physical abuse of others. When someone exhibits behavior at the milder end
of this spectrum, what responses are appropriate?
- Compulsive Talkers at Work: Peers I
- Our exploration of approaches for dealing with compulsive talkers now continues, with Part I of a set
of suggestions for what to do when a peer interferes with your work by talking compulsively.
- Compulsive Talkers at Work: Peers II
- Our exploration of approaches for dealing with compulsive talkers now concludes, with Part II of a set
of suggestions for what to do when peers who talk compulsively interfere with your work.
- Directed Attention Fatigue
- Humans have a limited capacity to concentrate attention on thought-intensive tasks. After a time, we
must rest and renew. Most brainwork jobs aren't designed with this in mind.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 22: Disjoint Awareness: Bias
- Some cognitive biases can cause people in collaborations to have inaccurate understandings of what each other is doing. Confirmation bias and self-serving bias are two examples of cognitive biases that can contribute to disjoint awareness in some situations. Available here and by RSS on January 22.
- And on January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
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Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.