The changing workplace environment

I quitA few months ago I attended a conference themed The Elephant in The Room, in Terrigal NSW. One of the other key note speakers was Avril Henry, who is a widely acclaimed keynote speaker, consultant, business and career coach, mentor and author, and who is passionate about generational, gender and cultural diversity, developing collaborative leaders and positive workplaces. Her consulting business has worked with organisations in the private and public sector, to change their culture and build their leadership capability.

Avril is the author and co-author of several books on leadership and the different generations at work, and her last book, Leadership Revelations II How Australians Lead In Crises, was one of the Australian Financial Review BOSS magazine’s best brain food books of 2012. She talked a lot about why people simply quit their jobs, in spite of the fact the CEO’s and managers believe they are good employers.

Although I did not buy her latest book at this event (I will get to it), she talked a lot about the changing workplace environment, and how owners, CEO’s and managers need to make significant changes in their own thinking and practice to keep good staff. Baby boomers do things very differently to the generations that preceded them, and so on… her presentation was actually very funny especially on the various generational differences, and if you see her name on an event program, do go along. You’ll also learn a lot.

At this event I met up with a friend of mine who I had not expected to see at a dementia conference, a lawyer in practice on the Central Coast, who talked to me (before Avril’s presentation) of how he has been wanting to retire from his legal practice, and has been ‘working hard with young lawyers’ in the hope they will buy his practice, and how he could not understand why they ‘just up an leave’ after all of his hard work ‘training’ them. Of course, with some encouragement he bought Avril’s book, but I suspect remained confused why his more old fashioned management style and operation was not acceptable to younger people.

As Chair of a peak global organisation for people with dementia, it is now imperative for me to learn how to manage a company or a team, with younger people who have been brought up within the realms of democracy, rather than the autocratic way I was brought up, and the autocratic way of my hospital nurses raining, where the Matron followed up on us with white gloves to make sure we had cleaned the wards properly. No wonder I ended up slightly OCD with housework for so long!!!

Some personal friends of mine in SA have owned and operated a health care sales business for a  number of years, which they are managing with an old fashioned management style. They have just had to employ their seventh secretary in less than twelve months, and their staff turnover in all areas is consistently high, but they simply cannot see it might be their management style, and not the fault of the ‘younger generation’.

Always, it is imperative we look in the mirror to see what we are doing, that might be turning people away from us. For me, that is, I think, the hardest thing to do in the world, but perhaps, the most important place to start. It is hard to get caught up with the things that need doing when you run an organisation, many of which make little difference to the lives of the people your organisation claims to support, yet need to be done to run an organisation.

The trick, I think, is to keep everyone engaged and on the same page, in ways they really feel like they are an integral part of ‘your team’. I am currently struggling with this a little, as there is so much work behind the scenes to do every single day!

On LinkedIn last week, I came an interesting article by Peter Diamond on titled Don’t Be The reason People Leave your Company, and I quote:

Rarely does someone leave a job because of the expense report policy, the location of his or her workstation or the wall color. Most people quit a job because they can no longer tolerate their boss or they have lost faith in senior management…. Conversely, people will stay at a company or in a job during thick and thin if they respect and believe in their boss.

His article reinforces my thinking about managers and CEO’s, and if they don’t get it right, how much damage they can do to a company. He talked about managers having a vision, stating:

It needs to convey optimism, enthusiasm and aspiration. This is personified by what you communicate (verbally and in writing) and your daily actions. People want to understand what they are working toward and how to measure success. They will work hard if they know you have a game plan.

I also believe people will work hard, for their managers and CEO’s if they believe in them, and their vision, especially if they feel they have been a part of creating the vision. Managers and CEO’s also themselves are willing to walk their own talk. Actions must match words, in everything we say and do. I also believe in this day and age, staff need to feel like they are being listened to,  rather than being told what to do and how to do it. Everyone needs to feel like their contribution counts.

Listening may be one of the keys, but actions based on this listening, must follow. And we must get to know the differences in thinking and working, between the many generations now working together. The baby boomers are nothing like Gen Y, X, Z or beyond… and nor do many ever they wish to be. I look around me at many of the managers and CEO’s today, and if I was employed by them, I very much suspect I too would quit.

Adding a late addendum…  the very worst thing CEO’s and managers can do is lie to their staff, as the world is a very small place these days, and just like politicians who lie, they do get found out.

10 thoughts on “The changing workplace environment

  1. Hi Kate.
    I haven’t been on the internet for nearly a week now.
    I haven’t been well.
    Lots going on.
    I have decided to remove myself from viewing any dementia blogs or dementia Facebook groups at all.
    The more I read the more I truly understand that I don’t belong in these groups anymore.
    I can’t relate to almost all of the posts that I read at various places.
    So now I will not participate and will leave.
    I QUIT…..
    This is not just a quick decision, in fact alot of thought and soul searching has gone into this.
    I thought I’d take one more look at some blogs and things on the internet before signing off.
    I read your blog here which I thought was very good.
    This blog while talking about management styles and about needing to change in the workplace environment, and how management need to adapt, and listen, and to understand what is turning people away from us I think applies to the dementia journey to.
    I applaud, respect, admire all those who can speak up for those of us who can’t speak……
    You all do a fantastic job and have many people who will agree with the direction that dementia awareness, the language of dementia, and living well with dementia are going.
    But if I can use the office/management analogy, I am just one little typist, sitting in the corner, watching an organization forge ahead wanting the best for itself and raising awareness of the business. Yet I feel left alone with no support, so after struggling for some time, I choose to quit this job.
    I don’t feel listened to.
    I don’t feel valued.
    If I just turn up and do my job as a typist and type a little here and a little there nobody notices me or others like me cause the focus of the management team is looking in a totally different direction.
    New staff members are encouraged to see the good and positive side of the business as that’s the focus the business and management team wants.
    Kate, I have the utmost respect for you and all the others out there doing such a great job of bringing to light the issues of people with dementia.
    But my life doesn’t consist of actually being part of the community.
    I can’t do these things.
    My life is so different.
    A trip to my local shops 5 minutes away is a struggle for me.
    Thankyou so much Kate for all you do.
    You are a great mentor and advocate for dementia awareness.
    I have enjoyed reading your blogs.
    It’s time for this typist to move on.
    Wishing you all the best.
    Take care.


    • Hi Steve… I cried when I read this, and so wish we were all closer and able to support you. I know Mick wishes he was too. Please know we will always be here, or on the end of the phone for you and Sonya. hugs always xox


  2. Kate & Mick, I was a senior manager for 10+ years, through many stressful organizational changes. I learnt how to create & recreate flat structures (teams) inside of hierarchy & chaos. That was our survival. We shared common views about equity and access and pushed them through, regardless.
    I’m still friends with some of “my” team 10 years later. One of them says I was a great “leader”. I’m not so sure about that – I was determined & fearless, sure, but the vision was not mine, it was collective.
    I think sharing an agreed direction is the secret of flexible and sustainable organizations. Individual power potentially corrupts.


    • I totally agree… a “collective” vision works… and “sharing an agreed direction is the secret of flexible and sustainable organizations. Individual power potentially corrupts.”


  3. Hi Kate, I haven’t been around for a while – sorry busy! Are we all?

    My solution to the problem was to get out of a corporate environment, start my own one-woman consultancy and be my own boss. I am the worst “order taker” in the world. I was so much better off on my own with the freedom and independence to do what I wanted.

    Of course I understand that not everybody can do that. Then again, not everyone wants to, and not everyone likes that kind of responsibility either. But it worked for me.

    Thanks once again for your thoughtful posts.


  4. I agree with you Kate. In 2004 I left a job because I had “lost faith in senior management”. The last thing my boss said to me was that he would make changes. That hasn’t happened. Respect is so important in all aspects of our lives. I had lost respect for the person I had worked for so I made the very difficult decision to resign. I don’t regret it. Bron xo


  5. Well said Kate. I firmly believe that a boss should never ask an employee to do any task that they have not done themselves. Respect has to be earned and trust is a two way street. Staff should be asked what they think and no boss should go behind your back or talk about you in the third person in your presence. Staff enjoy making the decisions in collaboration with other staff. It then becomes there idea and ownweship creates stability and trust.


    • Indeed Mick. If you can’t trust the boss, and you know for a fact they are lying, then the company is doomed, as no-body will ever support them and the staff ultimately will not stay on either. Contempt breeds contempt, exclusion breeds exclusion, and so on…


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