I am preparing a workshop for a company that has an exceptional track record of success and yet has a notable morale problem. In general, good sales, profits and performance generate good morale, so this one presents a new challenge. By interviewing people throughout the company, and in their customer base, it is apparent that the morale issues are generated by a group of 5 people in a company of several hundred. How can this be????

The group is in the center of every transaction, and every activity. They are the support center. They have been in the company a long time, though their ages vary from late 30’s to early 50’s. They have resisted every new technology that has been introduced and every attempt to elevate their performance, and most particularly their attitudes. If you ask them, they will tell you they have grievances from long ago, some so long they can’t even remember the specific circumstances and some involving people who are no longer there.

While employees throughout the company are proud of their company, energetic and enthusiastic about a company that has excelled for over 100 years, this little group can find very little good to say. They go to training with a grudge, they blame everyone and everything else and have become to be kind, a real drag.

My first question to the manager is WHY are they still here, doing the same thing with the same morose perspectives? His answer is that he is not allowed to do anything about it! I asked the president and he said that he doesn’t believe in firing people. I think they have tried a lot of things and this group, which insulates itself behind closed doors, relates only within if at all, and I think of the “hostages” they have made of those who must work through them, around them and over them.

I plan to meet with them alone. I plan to ask them what they get out of working this way. I will try to identify the core problems, and the core beliefs they have adopted that generate this standoff. I will even do my best to introduce solutions and perspectives that will allow them to find joy and purpose in what they do and reaffiliate them with their coworkers. I am optimistic but prepared with plan B to help this company free itself of this unnecessary burden.

So many companies are held hostage by a person or a group with a curmudgeon attitude. Sure, we hate to see it, and we feel badly for those people, but it is a shame that once we offer everything possible to assist them to a better place, they seek the comfort level that is their malaise. Many times, these attitudes have less to do with the work place than with their lives in general and there is only so much we can do.

In these cases, I would like all of those who lead, or who manage (these are not the same by the way) to take hold of the concept that accountability is not a four-letter word. Accountability is a good word and bringing it to every individual builds esteem, morale, health and well being to the companies and all in them.

So many times, we are conflicted about when we can act and when we should be compassionate. The two are not mutually exclusive. Acting by making tough decisions is compassionate. This group of malcontents is not going to be any happier because we overlook their obstructionism and bitterness but only when and if they can find value in what they do, with whom they work and themselves.

In DEVELOPING THE LEADER AROUND YOU, John Maxwell highlights tough leadership decisions Paul made by separating non performers from his people (Acts 15 :38). Maxwell states clearly that not doing so undermines a company’s ability to achieve its purpose, affects morale of high performers, undermines the leader’s credibility and does nothing to elevate the low performer’s self image or effectiveness.

Attitude and responsibility are choices. If you are not leading the charge for accountability, or are not yourself feeling accountable for your role every day, then you could be a bigger part of the problem that you realize. Good jobs in good companies are scarce. Let’s make room for the committed, dedicated, responsible and can we dare hope, enthusiastic and cheerful!

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