Studies say that one of the most difficult problems of executives in business organizations relates to people management. However, it can be said that one does not need to resort to surveys and studies to realize that people management is indeed difficult, if not the most difficult issue to handle. 

We can just, perhaps, look back in time since our childhood, and try to remember what caused stressful experiences in our lives. Even before we first enter the workplace, we can be sure that we have already shed a lot of tears in dealing with other people – be it because of our parents who scolded us, our siblings who always took away our toys, our friends who gossiped behind our back, our special friends who broke up with us, and a lot more. It is a given that dealing with other people is challenging simply because we are different from one another. Unlike machineries in factories that can be uniform in all specs, no two persons are identical.

Considering that dealing with people is very complicated, how, then, can people management be improved in an organization?  What is the right formula? Or is there even such a right formula?

I don’t think that there is a specific formula to be used; but I believe that certain ideas can be worth pondering about.  Perhaps, you might have already been doing some of these in your own organization.

Employees are our business partners. On legal paper, yes, they are employees; but in substance, they are actually our business partners in achieving the organization’s goals. Once this mindset is adopted, employers might be able to see their personnel differently. In an organization, yes, there are security guards, janitors, receptionists, staff assistants, supervisors, managers, and executives, among other positions; but I believe, that no one can claim that he or she is superior than the others. No one should claim that he or she should be treated with more respect than the others. Employees are all valuable business partners with equal dignity; it just so happened that different roles have been entrusted to them to contribute to the organization.

Listening to feedback is not enough. Different companies have different mechanisms in obtaining feedback from its employees – coaching, mentoring, group meetings, and townhall discussions, among others. And as we know, feedback is a very powerful tool in an organization. It keeps everyone on track, it allows people to analyze a situation to be able to perform better in the future, and it helps create a friendly work environment. However, issues arise when feedback is obtained but not acted upon. While employers have the best of intentions in knowing the problems and getting suggestions from their personnel, the former should also not forget that gathering information is just half the process. Prompt actions on feedback and making these actions known to employees are very essential in maintaining the trust of employees by letting them know that their concerns have not fallen on deaf ears.

Humility is definitely not an obsolete virtue. While managers and various leaders in an organization should exhibit confidence in what they do, they should also recognize that there are instances when they really need the help of others. Nobody has the monopoly of knowledge, and leaders should give ample opportunities to their subordinates to express their views and thoughts about a problem. For all we know, the best solution to a problem may come from a junior staff level, he or she being at the forefront of the problem. And to achieve this, psychological safety is essential in the workplace. This means that the personnel can believe that he or she won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up about their ideas, suggestions, or concerns. Managers and various leaders may consider “talking with”, rather than “talking down to”, their subordinates. This respectful approach could better encourage others to express their ideas to contribute to a solution.

Spiritual lessons could find their way in our dealings with people in the workplace. While we have different religions and beliefs, there are common teachings that promote mutual respect, diligence, and ability to help one another. The application of these teachings is very welcome in the workplace. There is also this golden rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

Well, I guess, the above pointers are just few notions, among many others, that may be worth
considering; and perhaps, there are those who may find it challenging to apply these in their own organization. For some, these pointers may be right, while for others, these may be wide of the mark. Indeed, there are different styles and approaches on different circumstances and situations. The tricky part of it is that, there is no “single rule book” when it comes to people management.

Hence, on people management, it could all boil down to just really showing how to genuinely care for the people in an organization, where employers would be able to say to their employees -- “Do not work for us. Work with us”.


As published in The Manila Times, dated 08 February 2023