Workforce Woes

Why do we see managers so disconnected with workers? Many CEOs proclaimed they understand their workers. Yet, most don’t! In fact, one reason organizations do not reach peak performance is because managers do not understand their employees’ motivation. Since the industrial age, researchers have recognized that both technical and social factors impact organizational performance.

Daniel Wren, author of The Evolution of Management Thought, concludes that analyzing a social system gives management an avenue to measure conflict between the “logic of efficiency” demanded by the formal organization and the “logic by sentiments” by the informal organization.

 Workers are frustrated with the status quo.  According to a American Psychological Association study, four in 10 employees say a heavy workload, unrealistic job expectations, and long hours have created stress. With fierce global competition, I found it surprising that managers move toward the quick fixes like downsizing for short-term gain without analyzing the organization over the long term. This process isn’t easy. Yet, understanding workers need to be a priority. 

The current financial meltdown has forever changed our confident in traditional institutions. The private and public sectors are no exceptions. However, many organizations gain comfort in knowing that most employees will not leave due to this economic crisis. Yet, employee loyalty is at a three year low. According to MetLife’s 9th Annual study of Employee Benefit Trends, frustrated workers are secretly undertaking job searches in hopes of new opportunities when the market recovers.

In high-performance organizations, an environment is created where managers and workers coexist. In profit hunting, many businesses lose focus of the importance of socio-technical systems. Given precepts, it becomes evident that there is an increasing disconnect between leaders and followers in today’s organizations. To some managers, the problem with today’s workforce is simple a physical problem which is lack of motivated workers. Yet, the reality of the matter is that the workforce pressures are affecting workers holistically.  

What can be done to connect senior executives with the plight of today’s workers so that they can learn how to effectively motivate the workforce?

© 2011 by Daryl D. Green

[1] The Evolution of Management Thought by Daniel Wren

[2] “Workers eager to job hunt as morale plunges” by Laura Petrecca

[3] “Workers eager to job hunt as morale plunges” by Laura Petrecca

17 thoughts on “Workforce Woes

  1. Ideally, senior executives would work their way to the top by doing every job in between top and lower level positions. Typically this does not happen though because most companies use a form of chain networking. This means that workers communicate in a predetermined sequence, like an assembly line (Jones & George, 2009). In order to better understand employees, senior executives need to implement employee engagement. “Employee engagement refers to the connection and commitment employees exhibit toward an organization, leading to higher levels of productive work behaviors” (“Developing and Sustaining,” 2010). Upper management needs to effectively engage employees with open communication. Effective management needs to execute:
    -clear and complete messages
    -include feedback mechanisms
    -pay attention and listen
    -be aware of linguistic styles

    By incorporating these basic practices, top level executives will have a better understanding of their employees and improve employee relations.

    Jones, G.R., & George, J.M. (2009). Contemporary management (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

    Society for Human Resource Management. (2010, December 30). Developing and sustaining employee engagement. Retrieved April 4, 2011, from

  2. I believe there are several simple ways managers can connect to their workforce. From my own experience, I’ve noticed how a few negative actions or rumors from management can poison an otherwise healthy work environment. Rumors of a displeased upper management will trickle down the ranks and cause workers to stress. When employees witness their peers being chewed-out or fired, a hostile environment is created. Eventually workers adopt an us versus them mentality which kills motivation and performance.

    Dr. McNamara, cited below, suggests having one-on-one meetings periodically with employees in order to better understand their motivations and to further foster personal relationships. This can be difficult in large organizations, but upper management could at least make an effort to know workers first names. When I toured Vanderbilt, a mortgage company with 1,500 employees, I was told everyone from the CEO to the interns had an identical cubicle. I thought this was an interesting tactic to create a more open corporate culture.


    McNamara, C. Basics About Employee Motivation. Retrieved April 07, 2011, from

  3. Disentangling a cynical and disillusioned workforce is no easy task. With mindsets such as these, employees will knowingly or even willingly allow organizational endeavors to fail. Or in the best case scenerio, during day-to-day operations, their mediocre efforts will be display. Consequently, the question becomes, what percipitates such a culture? A succinct response would incorporate two key elements: (1) failed communications and (2) deteriorating organizational ties.

    Insomuch, organizational leaders should act decisively to bridge these gaps. A qualified method for doing so is one commonly referred to as ownership. Researchers Linn Dyne and Jon Pierce clearly demonstrate the relevance and potential implications of this concept. They purport that the inherent sense of loyalty and the inevitable emotional affects of such a workplace theoretical perspective can cause employees to adopt a more favorable position concerning their place of employement (2004).

    This, in turn, will facilitate an open and progressive level of communication. Executives will then have an avenue to counter their organization’s poor display of employee relations.

    Dyne, L. and Pierce, J. (2004, June). Psychological ownership and feelings of possession: Three field studies predicting employee attitudes and organizational citizenship behavior, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 439-459.

  4. Back in the day managers had to know how to manage people, be organized and have leadership qualities. Now a day managers and executives have to connect with their workers if they want the performance they are use to from the previuse generations. As Drew McLellan, CEO of McLellan Marketing Group in Des Moines, Iowa says “You’re going into the job already struggling with how you’re going to rally your team to do the job, but now must connect with them emotionally because of what we’re all going through.” I think personally that senior executives have to walk in their workers shoes even for a day. If they actually go down and work or even walk around their workers for few hours once every few months they can discover a lot about their workers and connect with them in a way no other executives ever connected. Executives have to gain the respect of the workers, being the boss is not good enough these days. Ask and listen for their problems. Their social problems is actually your concern and if you don’t deal with it or at least relay to it you well lose their respect.

    Bruzzese, Anita. New managers must connect with workers in these tough times. January 19, 2009, retrieved from

  5. In order for top executives to better connect with employees we must first put down our traditional views of leadership. Traditionally senior executives have been viewed as the “Do It All” leaders. In an article in Harvard Business Review entitled. “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader” the author’s call for the end of complete leaders. Throughout the article the writers explain the complexities created when leaders try to be all things to all people. In fact the articles call for leaders to embrace the “incomplete leader” they note that these type of leaders know when to let go: when to let those who know the local market do the advertising planning to let the engineering team run with its idea of what the customer needs. In essence they are empowering their employees and allowing them to perform without interfering. I believe mangers who adopt this type of leadership will be better equipped to motivate their employees.

    Ancona, D, Malone, T, Orlikowski, W, & Senge, P. (February, 01 2007). In praise of the incomplete leader. Guest Edition, Retrieved from

  6. A Gallup poll estimates that “actively disengaged” employees cost U.S. Companies up to $355 billion per year. How can this disengagement be reversed? A Leadership Excellence article reports that having a close friendship at work can increase job satisfaction by 50% and with satisfaction comes motivation. How can management encourage engaged connection at work?

    Four steps are discussed on how to encourage employee engagement at work:

    1. Acknowledge the obvious- that you haven’t been good at connecting your team.

    2. Be patient – don’t expect instant bonds to form. Management needs to make a daily effort to engage and connect with the work group.

    3. Make it safe and fun-celebrate personal and professional milestones such as birthdays, holidays or work milestones giving people the opportunity to mix and mingle in a non work related manner.

    4. Create an internal network by helping employees to create a more recognizable identity in the company. My company encourages employees to volunteer as team captains for charity events to recruit volunteers for our company’s team.

    Harper, S. (2010). Who cares?. Leadership Excellence, 27(3),16-17. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

  7. There can be a significant disconnect between senior management of an organization and its employees. Since senior executives are not regularly on the front line and seemingly have more control and power (and financial rewards), it is easy to see how this disconnect can occur. Unfortunately, when this happens, this can lead to an increase in worker dissatisfaction. In order to have a successful organization with productive employees, it is imperative, as David Kester also affirms, to have open communication in the workplace, even with senior management.

    The optimal management style is team management, where managers believe that there is a strong link between people and productivity ( 2010). In team management, managers understand the importance of taking their employees’ input into consideration. Examples of how managers can open lines of communication include:
    • Town Hall style meetings
    • Effectively communicating the organization’s purpose to employees
    • Gain trust by leading by example
    These examples will also create control in the organization, which as David Kester states, can reduce the fear factor in employees. More open communication can ultimately increase employee’s motivation because of a better relationship with management.

    “Improving Management /Employee Communication.” American Jewish University. 2010.

  8. In most companies, upper management has very little interaction in the day to day responsibility therefore not able to comprehend what happens behind the scenes. The majority of the work force wants some type of recognition that the job they are doing is important and/or appreciated. By truly standing by the mission statement of the company and having all inter-departments working together for the better good instead of working against each other the senior executives will be able to motivate the workers by simply appreciation. Most of the problems within companies are due to too much delegation and not enough responsibility taken from all levels within any given company.

    • I agree with you Robert and just like Douglas (2006) explains that conflict which leads to disconnect between employees and managers is common in many organizations. He proposes several strategies which should be used by managers to end conflict and disconnect between them and employees. The first strategy should be to use the three legged model which emphasizes satisfaction between employees, customers and business results. The second strategy is to use employee feedback to understand any disconnect or conflict between managers and employees. The third is to improve employee motivation levels. Open communication between the management and employees is also important in reducing disconnect between the stakeholders. Finally, managers should set examples through actions for employees to follow and achieve organizational objectives. This improves the manager-employee relationship and helps reduce disconnect between employees and managers.

      Douglas, J. (2006). Manager and employee conflict. Retrieved in July 25, 2011 from

  9. It’s hard to manage what you can’t measure . senior executives should focus more on leadership which in general includes the art of getting to make people do what they love or love what they do.
    if information is shared at the same from top to bottom , workers will feel more involved.( equal value).
    communication at all time so workers can know whats really going or where the vision is, or where they are going.
    set examples that workers want to follow.
    structure must enable alignment of values.
    set accomplishment in enjoyment ; hire the right people, train them right to keep them focus . keep them involved.
    Create education opportunities (people like to learn when given chances ).
    hold senior executives accountable for their values .

  10. Researches carried by Spherion shows that the past decade has witnessed an increase in disconnect between managers and employees (Maris, 2009). This has been blamed to poor communication between employees and the management. She explains that lack of communication leads to creation of insecurity and distrust in organizations. When the management withholds information from employees, then they become insecure and this effects loyalty and moral which in turn creates disconnect between employees and managers. The weaknesses and strengths of managers directly affect the levels of disconnect in an organization according to the author. Other causes of disconnect between employees and managers include different priorities between the two, incoherent strategies and poor management climate.

    Maria, C. S. (2009). The great divide: Studies reveals a growing disconnect between employers and employees. Retrieved on July 25, 2011 from

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