A Challenge of Business Management

November 15, 2013 4 mins read
A Challenge of Business Management

In the management of its staff, a company will often find its business management strategies at odds with the personal development needs of employees, leading to a persistently high staff-turnover rate.

The essential challenge is posed by the increasing “individualization” of employees. That is, in an era where the staff pool has become multicultural and is more diversified, individualized and personalized by the day, those in charge of manpower management must provide personalized, tailor-made approaches to relationship management. In terms of human resources management, how can one appropriately balance the needs of both the organization and of individual employees? While taking into account its own development strategy, the company should also consider the following points:

1. The cultural and social environment of the local market:

This so-called cultural environment can be defined as a function containing the social system’s internal and external cultural variables. These cultural variables include community attitudes, beliefs, faith systems and perceptions. This cultural environment is a hidden, invisible backdrop against which society functions. It’s a type of silent but powerful national influence. Only by fully understanding local beliefs and perceptions can a company make an accurate assessment of an employee’s behavioral style and professional direction—only in this way can a company reduce conflict and promote mutual development.

2. Individualized employees:

The concept of “individualized employees” can be broken down into the following six types:

1) The first type includes those who are extreme in their behavior. They like to push things to the limit—sometimes dangerously.

2) The second type includes eccentric or stubborn employees, and those who are sticklers for absolutely every rule and regulation.

3) The third type of employee is overly unique in their personal behavior and lifestyle (clothing, etc.), they often don’t fit in with the company’s dress culture.

4) The fourth type includes those who just do whatever they please—they understand the rules, they just choose not to follow them. They are often destructive to the company.

5) The fifth type refuses to cooperate with others, often ignoring the existence of other team members. They are overly self-absorbed in their work.

6) The sixth type of employee is fickle in their work, hot one moment and cold the next—sometimes to the point of appearing emotionally unstable.

Even normal employees who are cooperative most of the time can sometimes be driven to act out. This “psychological revolt” is usually sparked by the corporate system, mechanisms or culture. They feel dissatisfied with the company and decide to display their dissatisfaction openly—this is also a type of overly individualized employee.

If we switch perspective and re-evaluate the ways in which employees display individuality, we can categorize them into two types:

1) Habitually individualized employees

No matter at which company they work, this type of employee will continue to display their particular individuality. The individuality traits are a habit. This type of employee may not mesh well at some companies because of conflicts with the corporate system and culture, but at some companies they may be able to adapt. A lot of companies actually place a positive emphasis on these types of individual displays, particularly in intellectual industries like advertising and consulting/planning. These types of companies believe this type of behaviour is a display of creativity—they believe that only those bold enough to think outside the box can innovate effectively. For this reason, they also don’t seek uniformity in employees’ dress and attire.

2) Stress-induced individualized employees:

For this type of employee, individualized behaviour is always activated by factors in the work environment. These include soft factors like the corporate culture, mechanisms and system, as well as hard environmental factors like work conditions. In these types of situations, the employee’s behaviour is relatively easier to diagnose and treat—the symptoms are easy to find because all the company has to do is alter one or two environmental factors and the employee will return to normal.

Why is it important to emphasize the management of individualized employees? Because many of these same workers are also very competent, and the company needs their talents and skills. If an incompetent and untalented employee displays individuality in these ways, then there’s no need to keep him around, let alone cater to him. The fact that there exists value in these individualized employees means there’s value in studying how to best manage them.

An excellent company is like a good school, not only does it cultivate talent; it also changes employees’ bad habits. This means company bosses have to exercise a little patience and attempt to reform individualized employees, not just sweep them out the door. The key word here is ‘reform’—this requires that companies have the tolerance to accept and understand these employees, not discard them after a conflict or two. This is a point all entrepreneurs should take to heart. All excellent teams operate this way—although they have conflicts, the team stays intact. Of course, they still strive for consensus, but they don’t mandate conformity totally. They know this type of ideal state doesn’t exist, and that grasping for perfection can actually lead to destruction.

Marlon Mai's picture
Managing Director, Greater China