Once, in an organisation, the HOD of a logistics team had an issue with his supervisor. He was concerned because the supervisor was so diligent that he would work extra hours in the dispatch section to ensure all the supplies have gone through. He was always very anxious about making mistakes in the delivery and always wanted to get everything right.
So, the HOD, supervisor and the two dispatch staff were invited together to address this issue. The key dialogue was around how the team could possibly self- monitor collectively so that the supervisor could finish his duty within his allotted time.
The supervisor was scared to make mistakes and hence was working more. So, we made a list of fears experienced at all levels of the hierarchy – the HOD, the supervisor and the dispatch staff.
The supervisor was scared of losing his job if there was a mistake. The subordinates were scared of taking responsibility and the supervisor micro-managing did not help them to take initiative anyway! The HOD was scared that something happens to the supervisor then things will come to a stand still, because he’s the only one shouldering all the responsibility.
Normalizing fear as a part of the workplace is something we dialogued towards, and also looked at how the fear can be handled by sharing responsibility. Being a psychotherapist though I am skilled to work at the origin of an individual’s fear, I chose to address this through the organizational system.
Talking about the fear at all hierarchies helped in sharing vulnerability in a competent way. They spoke of how they can self-monitor their work and also monitor each other’s work . This helped the supervisor to let go of little control.
After the coaching session, every morning the 4 of them dialogued on what went well and what needed more attention from all of them. After a month’s practice in shared monitoring the supervisor was seen leaving home on time.
Though the anxiety was one person’s issue, by working on intra-departmental chain the collective change helped the supervisor become a more effective manager.
Recently, after a year, when I visited them I saw the HOD has moved to a higher responsibility of managing more factories, and the supervisor has become the HOD.
When we make a systemic approach to any change it impacts the overall organization. By strengthening the entire chain of responsibility together, every link is strengthened.
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