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When norms break down

I'm writing this blog shortly after the riots in London. Some of the areas near where I live were trashed and the scenes of devastation that are appearing in the media are reminisant of a war zone. I hardly recognise my great metropolis at all. 

What has been most difficult to understand is how young men and women make a choice to engage in the criminality and lawlessness that we have seen played out. What is going on in their heads that makes them feel that their choices are ok, what happens at home when they arrive back in the early hours of the morning with stolen goods and how has mob mentality overtaken our cities? The question that keeps coming back to me is what changes in someone's mind to allow them to disregard the usual norms of society?


When the standard norms break down in the workplace the psychological contract is usually at play. The breakdown of the psychological contract can cause devastating effects for organisations and individuals.

The set of unwritten expectations that an individual and organisation have of each other are much more important than some might assume. The contract is there even when individuals are not aware of it. It's built on our expectations, our hopes our dreams of the future. We all build a mental picture of where each job might take us, our plans for promotion exciting assignments and great relationships with colleagues. What happens when dreams are dashed? The role we expected might not materialise, pay increases are not honoured favourite managers leave and expectations change. Employers can quickly find themselves in difficult situations with their staff without seeing the decline develop. The cessation of discretionary effort is often one of the first things to go. The employee who usually goes the extra mile stops exceeding expectations, many employers find that petty theft increases as does sickness absence and good timekeeping is no longer observed. Relationships can fall apart and all of these things have a marked impact on productivity and profitability. So how can an employer identify what's happening with their people? There are a few simple rules for staying in touch with how people are feeling
Ignore the appraisal process as your conduit for feedback, they take place too infrequently and there are other factors at play rather than timely views on organisational health.
Management by walking about or as I prefer hanging about really works as long as you don’t make staff feel they are experiencing a royal visit you can pick up useful information.
Treat PA’s and administrators very well indeed,they are often neglected as a group and they know everything!Taking them out to lunch every now and then and recognising and rewarding their expertise will also give them the space to raise with you issues they are observing in the organisation.
Have fun with your people, one of my clients organises rounder’s and picnics in the park with babies of staff invited, he says that it is the best opportunity for staff to talk about what really matters.
When with staff remember the two ears one mouth principle and shut up!
Give people opportunities for anonymous feedback, particularly if you are going through tricky times and they want to be positive but think honesty could be a tad career limiting.
If you are taking this advice and listening to all this great information from your people  the most important thing is to act on it and tell your people that you are doing this. Nothing is more frustrating than to vent and be ignored.
Think back to the things in your career past that have made you really happy and motivated and equally really fed up and ready to walk, then check yourself and try and catch yourself out doing more of the positive. Replacing great staff is a very expensive business , much better to hang onto your stars by ensuring that their experience every day is a good one even in these tough times.
I don’t have any wisdom to impart on stopping the riots. 
I was brought up in one of the worst hit areas, I have friends and family there and the angry mobs we see on our screens is not an accurate representation of the communities that I know in these areas. There are fantastic people working hard and bringing up their families with honesty and integrity and they will get up tomorrow and the next day and carry on. Supporting them will be the emergency services who don’t have the luxury of worrying about discretionary effort or clock watching. When it all hits that fan as it has in the last few days, the only words I have for the people who are trying to keep us safe are pretty simple. Thank you.    




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