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UNITY IN DIVERSITY

Changing attitudes requires courage and leadership

Most disputes going before the CCMA still are unfair dismissals. Not surprisingly, there has been an increase in training providers offering courses on “How to dismiss an employee so he stays fired!”

However dismissals are not only expensive, they are traumatic for the individuals concerned and they damage relationships at the workplace.

If we are to become a winning nation, we need to change attitudes. That starts with our leaders. While leadership training for top management is catered for through the various business schools, not enough attention is given to lower level managers, supervisors and shop stewards. Yes, shop stewards!

Leadership has two major aspects, who you are (your attitudes and beliefs) and what you do (your behaviour). Both of these depend on the assumptions you make.

Managers and supervisors often make the wrong assumptions about the people who work for them. If they are stuck in a ‘control paradigm’, they assume that their subordinates lack a sense of responsibility and given the opportunity, will ‘take a chance’. This usually results in an over reliance on discipline as a substitute for leadership. It in turn, results in the high levels of conflict, dismissals and the low employee commitment often found in our places of work.

Not surprisingly, shop stewards see their role as one of having to ‘fight management’ in order to get justice for their members. Stuck in this ‘confrontation paradigm’, they are likely to support impossible demands without considering the consequences. They are therefore likely to take a radical confrontational approach and in the process, achieve very little for their members. This simply enforces the cycle with workers being the victims and management the oppressors.

The only way to address this in the long run is to change attitudes. Take a more corrective problem solving approach to discipline and make sure you train managers and supervisors to think beyond disciplinary action as the way to manage.

While leadership training should provide skills such as problem solving and communication skills, most importantly, it should encourage people to re-examine their assumptions and to develop appropriate qualities, skills and attitudes for effective leadership.

Unfortunately, contrary to what some training providers claim, this cannot be done in a day or two. It has to be a process with much of the initiative for the learning coming from the learners themselves – if you want to be a leader, you must be prepared to put in the work that is required to attain the necessary knowledge and skills.

Off-the-job training needs to be integrated with practical assignments and follow-up to ensure that a paradigm shift takes place and there is a transfer of knowledge and skills from the classroom to the workplace.

Given our history, special attention needs to be taken to help employees, at all levels, understand the value of diversity. We all need each other and we can all make a contribution – but only if we are allowed to!

For information on our NEW updated course Leveraging Diversity click here.

BRUNO BRUNIQUEL

Bruniquel & Associates (Pty) Ltd

For more information please click here.