Maugie: Computer says no

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Maugie Lyons, head of commercial operations at the Royal Horticultural Halls and Conference Centre, explains…

Imagine trying to get though a day at work and dealing with a succession of “computer says no” type automatisms. It’s not unusual to hear about problems on public transport, but recently I encountered a woman who left a bag on the tube and made a simple request for help from the platform manager. His unashamed response was “I’m not paid enough to respond to this question!” Maybe it’s just my bad luck, but it seems that wherever I am – be it at the tube station or at the bank – the customary response to any quandary or query seems to be “sorry, it’s not my job”. Companies seem to be full of people who chant this as if it were their own personal mantra. Seemingly, the “can-do” attitude is just not the norm anymore.

I understand that everyone is trying to do more with less. Positions have been eliminated, roles have been poorly married-up and functions have been left unassigned – essentially it all boils down to bad management. Many companies have had to restructure as a consequence of the recession, but initiatives are bound to fail when roles and accountabilities are left unclear or ambiguous. If restructuring is to succeed, it is the job of management to identify and communicate the various roles and responsibilities of all the people required to see your programme through.

Most of the time, it feels as though people immediately assume that you want to turn your problem into their problem. They understandably avoid accepting the burden they perceive you are placing on them. These downbeat feelings point to a lack of unity and shared vision. Some people (and in some cases entire teams or departments) are so concerned with their own accomplishments they fail to see how their success is tied to the success of others and the success of the company. It may be their cynical nature, a societal change in our work ethic, unwillingness to take risks or simply a lack of consideration. Regardless of the reason, it is unlikely you will be able to argue them out of their negative attitude. You need to get them to understand that their prosperity is dependent on the prosperity of others and the company overall.

It may be easier said than done, but perhaps leading by example and breeding out the culture that abides by the “it’s not my job” motto may be the only way to take your business to the next level. Doing that little bit extra really goes a long way, and it’s about time we all went the extra mile!