Friday, 30 October 2015

Organizational Climate and how it affects us!

Organizations are really microcosms of the larger universe we live in. Hence they can be hot, cold, tropical or temperate. They can also be dry, balmy, Mediterranean or equatorial. The combined energy stemming from the top and flowing through all its elements makes them so.

Organizations are also carbon copies of the people who inhabit these institutions. While a lot of emphasis is given to well-designed buildings, defining looks in terms of the exterior and ergonomic layouts within, what forms the core is the characteristics the organizations imbibe from the organizational denizens. And by this analogy, organizations can be ethical, temperamental, dictatorial, friendly & warm, manipulating & politically charged and so on.

What Shapes Employee Behaviour?

Wikipedia defines organizational climate thus – “Organizational climate (sometimes known as Corporate Climate) is the process of quantifying the “culture” of an organization. It is a set of properties of the work environment, perceived directly or indirectly by the employees, that is assumed to be a major force in influencing employee behaviour.” What must be added is that, the Climate is actually a derivative of the employee bearing and actions intertwined with the Company brand philosophy. On the other hand, well set organizational climate shapes up employee deportment and impacts their efforts. It is, indeed, a complexly circular relationship with one being the causing agent of another and vice versa.

Nationalities do play an important role in defining organizational climate. So, there would be different organizational cultures in America or Europe that would differ from what exists in Africa or Asia. We have heard enough about how Americans or French or Japanese or Chinese or Indians work in their own milieu. And several hand books have been written on how to understand, perform and survive in these varying cultures. But then, with decreased geographical distances by virtue of shorter time spans required to travel around and increased virtual and technology thrusts, organizations have fast become multicultural and multinational bodies that should and have allowed thriving of people from different cultures, have respected the cultural sensibilities while all the time ensuring that it all dovetails back into the common vision and mission of the organization at large.

Organizational Culture as a Product of the Nature of Business

Secondly, nature of business plays a key role in defining the organizational culture. Therefore, government bodies function and feel differently from private companies. Old world professions like hospitals, hotels, banks etc. tend to be more formal than the relatively new businesses such as software firms, advertising agencies, media organisations or FMCG enterprises, where the culture is more informal, less starchy and more yuppy. So, while all-week Friday dressing or addressing the boss by his first name or grabbing a sandwich lunch while at one’s work station or engaging in informal and impromptu discussions in the corridors are all part and parcel of working in such organizations, all this would be simply sacrilege in the formal establishments.

Organizational Culture – a sum of different personality types and people traits

But what is single-handedly most important in defining an organization is the set of soft qualities that the employees and chiefly the top leadership bring into the organization. This, in fact, becomes one of the major rationales for the reputation oscillating between - does the organization manage to attract and retain good talent or is hiring, firing and frequent resigning more the norm at this place. These parameters essentially define whether the organization is known for its best practices and often comes out on top of the most respected organizations’ surveys year after year or is it a place where people may come for short gains and quick trials, where they end up making as swift an exit as their entry.

A few years back, my young para-legal expert and social activist niece came back one evening broken and shattered from her work place that had not only formed the foundation but also helped define her professional identity for the last three years. Her main set of grouses were – there was a huge amount of incongruence between what she was expected to do and was being asked to do; with no clear definition of her roles and no proper direction from a supervising authority she was being made to run around like a headless chicken, that the top boss was whimsical, highly temperamental and given to loud & severe emotional outbursts that would end up sapping a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm, that a lot of colleagues contributed to and festered on malefic grapevine which ended up becoming fodder for the daily news and basis for the existing, rotting climate within the organization. So much so that double promotions in a year and increase in salary structure were not proving to be strong retaining factors as against the severely damaging and driving out forces that lurked within.

It has been a grave Human Resource issue when bad organizational climate leads to absenteeism, increased number of sick leaves, wastage of a multitude of man hours, loss in yield - both individual and collective, and a sharp blow to the bottom line. On the other hand, a good and healthy organizational climate is promoting, nurturing, encouraging and leads to brilliance in work and success in business.

Given how much is invested into making companies function as composite entities and how much is at stake to ensure that they run as successful businesses, it is a matter of utter astonishment to note how the people – at all levels really, from the visionaries and strategists on top to the developers and managers in the middle down to the ones who really make things happen at the shop floor – work at cross purposes to the Organizational Vision and Mission. 

Organizations need to realize and take into account the huge amounts of time, energy and money they lose not only when good, well-trained and high performing employees leave but also when they continue to house under-performing, negative and poorly trained workforce that is more of a drain on the company’s resources as against the miniscule nothings that it ends up bringing to the table.

Organizational climate should feed off Organizational culture which in turn should be laid on the foundation of trust, respect, honesty, pleasantness, growth and excellence.


Note 1 - Picture Courtesy - Google Images
Note 2 - This article has been featured on Hospitality Net -

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

More Business communication bloopers to avoid!

Communication, any form, short or long, has the power to define your Brand and reinforce your Brand Image. Communication helps you seal Sales deals, build up your reputation, break down misconceptions and make strong relationships with your clients. 

Often, emails are the first interface with a potential client or a probable business prospect. So why have we begun cutting detestable corners while communicating – both verbally and via the written word! In trying to save time we end up dispensing more in damage control.

Here follow the remaining five mistakes we continue to make, despite our good intentions - 

6. Skirting around 

Instead of addressing the issue at hand or bringing a closure to the discussion; why do we like to engage in preambles, introductions and corollaried explanations?

A lot of my Communication compatriots (including yours truly) can be easily tried for the offense of being over-the-top in our business writing.

Research shows us that to-the-point text carries more weight and delivers more than the superfluous assemblage of words simply adding weight to the body copy.

Be brief. Brevity is indeed a virtue. It helps you capture the reader’s attention span for just the requisite amount of time and convey your piece with force and conviction.

Also, break your text into paras for an easy breeze-through read. And do adhere to that middle school diktat of Introduction – Body – Conclusion in most of your communication for easy comprehension and takeaways by the recipients. 

7. Not being Grammar-ly Good 

I am of the strong belief that no matter how less time we have with us, how small our gadgets become and in whatever part of the world we work in, Grammar will always be our guardian angel in effective communication.

Grammar sets apart a pro from a tyro, a zealous worker from a careless one, a professional who takes pride in his handiwork from one who is merely passing time.

Usage of proper Grammar uplifts the document making it engaging, easy on the eye and a pleasure to read.

Lack of good Grammar and its improper use can alter the meaning of what you wish to convey, and sometimes in acute cases put your text in the grey zone of libel.   

Grammar is no longer as stringent in dictating terms. The rules that applied, say in the 60s, have been relaxed. It is alright to write in an easier, fluent, conversational style. Yet the basic boundaries that bring shape to your syntax and coherence to your content must be observed.

A fabulous writing/editing web resource, Freestyle Editorial, corroborates the point by stating, “The most engaging, persuasive business writing is also the most conversational. So that means you can, and often should violate some stuffy grammatical rules. Which means; you can end sentences with a proposition, split the occasional infinitive, and begin sentences with a conjunction. After all, that is how we speak. However, breaking other grammatical rules can make you look…well…dumb. They can hurt your organization’s credibility and affect the conscious and unconscious purchasing decisions of your customers. According to a 2009 Survey, 94 percent of business service buyers report that grammar, punctuation, and spelling affect their purchasing decisions to some extent.”

There are a zillion Grammar minefields that you should try and avoid at all costs. It’s vs. Its; There, Their, They’re; Stationary vs. Stationery; Principle vs. Principal; Who vs. Whom; Affect vs. Effect; That vs. Which are some of the most common goof-ups we make.

Communication is a craft; please hone it and practice it well. Many a reputation and businesses have been broken on the wheel of weak Grammar and slip-shod structure. 

8. Using smileys and other emoticons

I am surely one of the biggest culprits of using the smiley face rampantly. To me, no communication is complete until I have sent a smiley back to close the conversation; and close a conversation one must. It is the closest to smiling back at a person; easily the nicest element in our non-verbal personality indicators and body language. 

I get away with it, in my formal dialogue with my editors, publishers and fellow professionals I meet and interact with on the Web. But in a more sacrosanct, corporate workspace I would flinch if I did it more than the rare few times I could indulge myself.

Emoting with the Emojis in your social media exchanges and with a certain set of people is absolutely fine. Go ahead and give that Thumbs up or send that snoozing fat kitten.

But, at large, and in most of your formal communication, please refrain from looking perplexed or agitated or elated or walloped, the last depicted by that copiously weeping round face. Also, even when you are bursting at your seams with mirth, there is no place for a ‘Ha Ha’ in official content.

Emoticons have their place in our messaging systems but a business communication text is not one of them.

9. Over usage of exclamation marks / Under usage of spacing options 

Can you please send it to me ASAP??????

Waiting for the report!!!!!!!!!!

I called your office to discuss the important matter at hand. I have been waiting for a call back?!?!?!?!?

Do these look familiar? I know, there are a gazillion instances that make us feel exasperated, push us to the end of the tether and make us hit our heads against the wall. Our corporate avatars are constantly barraged by issues and situations through the day that try our patience.

But exhibiting that vexation, on the formal platform, through the crutch of excessively used exclamation marks is certainly not a proper outlet. Everything has its place; don’t overuse it. That is why the chair and standing office exercises and 2-minute meditation techniques were invented.

One of my personal peeves is when people do not use the readily available Spacing Options intelligently and allow their text to tumble down their hill of overflowing thoughts.

Please use correct pauses in your clauses. Use indentations and line spacing to divide your copy and demarcate contexts and sub-contexts. This is not an embellishment of text; it is de rigueur in developing your communication.

10. Not being culturally sensitive

In the case of the simple, irritating, highly commonly used LOL, what is Laugh out Loud for the Goose may be Lots of Love for the Gander.

WTF, that ubiquitous, highly appropriate, extremely profane Americanism can stand for World Trade Fair (in business), What the Fish (a polite form of ‘that’ profanity), Walk to Freedom (US Army), Wire Transfer Form (in Money Matters), Weapons Tactics Force (in gaming),  Work Time Fun (PSP game) or Wikileaks Task Force (US CIA). 

In today’s livewire world of Social media and its 24X7 connectivity, people across the world are taking umbrage for just about anything. Now, it is not okay to write ‘He could make a difference to the role.’ To be politically correct, you must write ‘He or she could make a difference to the role,’ lest risk being labelled a sexist.

In the same vein avoid using old-practice generic words such as chairman, businessman, forefather, layman, mankind, manpower, spokesman and the like; switching them with the more unbiased, non-controversial and definitely proper alternatives viz., chairperson, businessperson, ancestor, layperson, humankind or human race, workforce, representative and so on.

It is not just the term ‘Black’ which is off limits. People prefer Asian from Oriental or the more specific Indian, Chinese, Korean, Pakistani (never the offensive Paki), Alaska Native or even Inuit-Yupik over Eskimo, Aboriginal people over Aborigines.

Remember, in a conscious effort to be more sensitive and inclusive, we no longer use crippled and disabled; replacing them with more respectful ‘special,’ or ‘differently abled.’

Do you recall the case of Justine Sacco, the Communications Director (no less) of New York-based internet empire InterActive Corp, who was roasted on slow fire for her tactless and thoughtless holiday tweet, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m White!” The mindless, heartless, insensitive communiqué not only set trolls on her back, discredited any good work she may have done, brought her infamy and made her resign from her enviable position.

Please remember, my COB could be your EOD...............

Finally, one of the dirtiest acts in the case of communications is not keeping your house clean and letting emails gather and collect dust. In spite of CCleaner, digital organizer and other organizing tools we still fail to de-clutter our inbox; inviting more trouble and stress.

I urge you to make your work and life easy by making your communication work for you. Become more effective, save time and heartache by imbibing some of the above-mentioned strategies.

For, after all, Y.O.L.O; err......You Only Live Once!