From The Economist: Bosses think their firms are caring. Their minions disagree.
Tragicomically, the study found that bosses often believe their own guff, even if their underlings do not. Bosses are eight times more likely than the average to believe that their organisation is self-governing. (The cheery folk in human resources are also much more optimistic than other employees.) Some 27% of bosses believe their employees are inspired by their firm. Alas, only 4% of employees agree. Likewise, 41% of bosses say their firm rewards performance based on values rather than merely on financial results. Only 14% of employees swallow this.
It’s like the aristocracy prior to the French revolution or the 1% sipping champagne while the 99% occupy Wall Street. This kind of disconnect is not good. Common language and metaphors are essential for understanding. When one group sees the glass half full while the other has no glass, how can there be meaningful dialogue? “Leadership by walking around” or getting executives off their butts and out of their offices and board rooms would be a good start. The business world is changing and nobody is going to understand what’s happening from inside the walls and filters of the C-suites.
As soon as you create a reporting chain, you add information filters. Too many filters and reality gets distorted. As Tim Harford wrote in his book, Adapt: Why success always starts with failure:
There is a limit to how much honest feedback most leaders really want to hear; and because we know this, most of us sugar-coat our opinions whenever we speak to a powerful person. In a deep hierarchy, that process is repeated many times, until the truth is utterly concealed inside a thick layer of sweet-talk.
I hope organizational leaders wake up soon, for their sake and ours.