Changing Organizational Fear To Firepower

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Senator Chuck Grassley posted a video of the Acting Director of the ATF sternly warning employees that “if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences.”

But as Senator Grassley has pointed out in the video’s description–“the essence of whistle-blowing is reporting problems outside of an employees chain of command.” In other words, reporting problems to external oversight authorities like Congress is an important and protected action in exposing shortcomings and addressing potentially serious issues.

The Congressional Research Service provides an overview of The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) of 1989–basically, as I understand it, WPA protects federal whistleblowers who report gross agency misconduct (e.g. mismanagement, waste, and abuse) and prohibits threatening or taking retaliatory personnel action.  Moreover, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) was introduced in 2009 to broaden the protections to, I believe, more violations except minor or inadvertent, but this has not yet been passed.  Further, the Office of Special Counsel investigates whistleblower complaints.

Unfortunately, as pointed out in The American Thinker, employees have taken the message as “a warning to keep their mouths shut,” especially after agents exposed the Fast and Furious failed gun-running operation to Congress in 2011.

An agent quoted in The Washington Guardian states: “The message was unmistakable. Keep your head down and the only way you can report wrongdoing is by going to your chain of command. It was chilling, Orwellian and intimidating. What are you supposed to do if your chain of command is the one you think is involved in the wrongdoing? That was why OSC and IGs were created.”

President Obama’s Transition Website states more clearly how whistleblowers should be viewed and treated: “Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance.”

Whether one works in the government or the private sector, actions that are taken as bullying is problematic, not only from the perspective of morale but also in terms of productivity, as pointed out in an article in SelfGrowth called Leadership: Are You a Bully Leader?

“Bully leadership is sharp, authoritative, angry, and feels uncomfortable to those in contact with it…the bully leader bark out orders, threatens consequences and use strong, harsh statements…” as many have clearly come away from with this video.

In a dysfunctional organization where employees are bullied and threatened, the results are devastating to employees and to the vital mission they serve:

Stifling productivity–employees do not give their all–they “do what needs to be done and that is all. They don’t go above and beyond,” so productivity declines precipitously.

Stomping out ideas–since the bully leader “needs to be the one with the great ideas,” employees don’t share their input–they know to keep it to themselves.

Squashing effectiveness–bully leaders want to control everything and “lack trust in other people,” the result is a negative (and perhaps even a hostile) work environment where motivation, quality, and effectiveness are decimated.

It leads me to wonder, can those who lead by fear become more inspiring figures who empower employees and engender communication, trust, and fairness?

Obviously, changing a dysfunctional organizational culture is probably one of the hardest things to do, because the most fundamental everyday norms and “values” that the organization runs on must be overhauled.

However, it can be done, if top leadership on down is sincere and committed to change. The goals should include things like effective collaboration, delegation, empowerment, and recognition and reward.

Fear and intimidation have no place in the workplace, and all employees should be valued and respected, period.
We should encourage employees to speak out sincerely when there are issues that cannot be resolved through normal channels.
In the end, the most positive change will be when we strive to build a workplace where employees can focus on serving the mission rather than worrying about being afraid.

This post shouldn’t be seen as a referendum on any one organization, but rather a way forward for all organizations that seek to raise the bar on performance and morale.

I know that the people of ATF are highly principled and committed, because I worked there (in IT, of course) and am proud to recall their tremendous efforts.
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

 

>Training is a Critical Element of Enterprise Architecture

>CBS News Video: “ATF students learn how to investigate bomb explosions by seeing them firsthand. In training, actual bombs are detonated in vehicles and homes to simulate real scenes.”

http://www.cbs.com/thunder/swf30can10cbsnews/rcpHolderCbs-3-4×3.swf
Watch CBS Videos Online

Training is a critical component of any organization’s enterprise architecture. With the proper training, people are provided the necessary preparation to carry out the organization’s mission.

Training needs to be built in to everything we do–whether it the business processes we perform or the system we operate–the employees have got to be ready and able to execute precisely.

As a proponent for a Human Capital perspective to enterprise architecture, I see training as being a core component of that area. As architects, we need to define what training is currently being provided to our people, what is needed for future capabilities, and how we will get there.

The training component of EA can be a critical link in the line of sight that aligns people, process, and technology into an effective whole.

>MSNBC on the ATF and Enterprise Architecture

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