Sometimes ago, I attended as advisor in organization to a working session that brought together managers of a multilateral international organization (as the United Nations or European Commission). Several nationalities were represented around the table as always with this type of organizations which include the United Nations, its agencies, the European Commission…. Each attendant weighed his words with occasional skirmishes although nothing serious.
But behind these smooth faces, I perceived signs of tensions through bodily attitudes and shifty eyes. Beyond the words, I felt the reactions and positrons more than I was analyzing them consciously.
We were discussing salary increases of some people (why some and not others?). Some papers without great informative interest on employee performances were delivered by the Head of human resources. Thereafter the supervisor of the concerned staff members gave his opinion based on the criteria of likeability, loyalty and obedience. A discussion followed and the Director decided unilaterally to give or not the expected increase of salary. The decision was taken between three persons: the Director, the Chief of Human Resources and the manager. Others attendants to the meeting were there only to give a democratic appearance to an upstream decision.
This system of decision is conventional in this type of organizations which although working in the field of human development adopts a hierarchical management style. But personalities should also be taken into account because the system is more or less coercive depending on managers or leaders’ personalities.
If Maslow’s pyramid is used as reference, the need for power and therefore security were shared by our three protagonists to the point that no one dared to ask why only salaries of some employees were increased and not others and why increases differed by employees. Fear is contagious.
If Schwartz‘s theory of values applies, we are between a quest of individual self-affirmation, based on the values of success and Power and a research of continuity on a social and organizational perspective, gathering the values of Safety, Conformity and Tradition.
From a common need of self-assertiveness, the cultures from which these three men were issued, North America, Africa and Europe, have certainly played a role in their attitudes and behaviours. But in my opinion the essential question is related to the issues of conscience and awareness. By creating unequal treatments and using arbitrary power and the lack of transparency as management tools, certainly these three managers demonstrated their authority at the moment, but they also induced a deep demotivation in the medium term, which naturally happened. Do they not realize it? If not, how could I make them realize that playing the individual against the collective, organizational energy becomes depleted and crisis arises according to the mechanical laws of any evolutionary system?
How then become aware of oneself, own behaviours but also aware of how the environment functions?
It seems that this type of international organization dealing with aid and human development are paradoxically very late in terms of thinking about the management of people: awareness can occur only through crises which raises an amazing situation in which people are very well paid and …. unhappy. The classical coaching techniques (NLP…) are useful for understanding the situations but are not of much help in this multicultural environment, e.g. for passing the individuals and the organization from self-assertiveness to the openness to change and from continuity to transcendence. For realizing this objective fear and anxiety must be overcome and confidence built up and thus dedicating time to time is essential to explain and show.