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Phantoms in Organisations

Eric Berne used the term phantom to refer to the continuing presence of someone in a group after he or she has left the group. The concept of the phantom is useful in explaining some of the dynamics that are activated when a person leaves an organisation. The way in which an employee exit is handled can lead to different consequences for the remaining group.

Phantoms are what remains (i.e., after a person has been laid off or asked to leave) and are often at greater risk of being formed when (a) the organisation’s procedures are opaque and (b) when the organisations formal, and real aims differ greatly. E.g., Firing someone  can often lead to problems when a decision is not widely accepted, or where there has been lack of transparency around it. These are the circumstances in which a departing worker may leave behind an “active phantom”.

The persistence of these phantoms is proportional to the importance these people played in the group and how much their leaving was traumatic on the group.

The effects of phantoms on the emotional and behavioural climate of the organisation include:

  • Widespread sense of instability if an employee has been fired
  • Overadaptation and agitation
  • Reduced proactive behaviour
  • A loss of trust and business loyalty * especially among self-motivated people

In the majority of organisations phantoms are not useful, so it is better to prevent them from happening.

  • Prepare plans to prevent the formation of phantoms – from deciding not to lay someone off, to identifying effective procedures for doing so.
  • Make people aware when possible of the organisations hidden aims

 

 

With regards to leadership, each new leader needs to be aware of the “phantom” left behind by his/her predecessor in order to deal with habits, communication style, and the group culture implemented by the person, as well as the expectations of leadership.

 

* taken from Marco Mazzetti’s “Phantoms in Organizations”

 

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There Are No One-Size-Fits-All Management Styles

There are forests worth of books espousing their own management styles. There’s probably a copse of books within that management forest telling you that you need to constantly adapt and change your style. However the idea of management styles suggests that management is a top down activity, something that is imposed on workers that they will respond to. The reality of the situation is that each business sector, each business unit and each business activity all need different styles of management. There will be elements that unite management across all those parts of an industry but the only universal element is when it comes to management is “people” and people are unique.

Every employee you deal with will be unique, their own person and have aspects to their personalities individual to them. The universal of managing people is that once you recognize this you can become a far more effective leader.
management styles

There are questions that human resources will ask by default in every job interview, “Are you a team player?” is the number one. Of course some people are not team players, but if they’re looking for a job they’re sure to say they are. Others grow up dreaming of working in a team, be it a sports team or a team of software developers who share their passion for code. Another question asked is “How do you deal with high stress environments?” And again most people will give an answer they believe the business is looking for. That is all part of the interview process. Finding out the true personality of a potential hire is difficult, and unless you have true expertise in hiring processes at every interview you will learn a little, but maybe not enough.

Once someone is in the business and under your purview the real challenge starts. Those questions you asked in during the interview need to be top in your mind as you manage. You need to be asking yourself, “How does he deal with stress?” and “Is she really a team player?” After a few months you will have an idea of the basic capabilities of the person but it is only by really understanding someone that you can bring out their best work.

Despite the answers given in the interview process everyone will approach teamwork differently, and everyone will have a different response to stress. The management styles you need to act on every day are the ones where you come to understand people’s responses to a situation and create an environment that works best for each individual. These questions were important during the hiring stage to see if the person would fit in the business and the different management styles. They are even more important now that you’ve decided the person can be a valuable member by making sure they can bring their best to the team.