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Why Is Dignity the Essential Role for Leaders in Highly Charged Emotional Events?

The most common and consistent leadership failure I have observed in the workplace is when executives dismiss a negative reaction to a policy decision by subordinates as “just emotional.”

The implication is that there is no rational basis for their discontent; therefore there is no reason to re-think the policy.   One leader once said to me about a group of disgruntled employees, “If only they could stick to the “facts” behind our decision, they would see that it makes perfect business sense.”  The lack of awareness of the reasons for the discontent and emotional charge that it carries has serious consequences.

My research has shown that what underlies these emotional outcries are violations of employees’ dignity.  While a policy decision may make good business sense, what about the consequences it has on the people who have to carry it out?  What if it feels unfair to them?  What if they feel that the policy doesn’t acknowledge and recognize the negative impact on them?  What if it sends a repeated message to employees that you don’t care what affect it has on them?

From their perspective, the message you are signaling is:  they don’t matter.  

Human beings need to be seen, heard, valued and treated well if you expect loyalty and hard work from them.  Honoring their dignity is the most cost-effective way of running a business.  I have successfully coached many leaders in a variety of roles on how to create policies that both honor the dignity of their employees and make sound business decisions at the same time.  There may even be times when a business decision needs to be made that might negatively impact employees.

The key, from a dignity perspective, is in the way that the decision is being presented and explained.  Dignity skills are not just about telling people what they want to hear.  They are also about telling people what they don’t want to hear but in a way that protects their dignity.

It is undeniably true that companies need leaders with state of the art business savvy, but if you do not have leaders who understand the art of what makes human beings feel valued, your company will be plagued with employee relations’ problems that will never go away.
Leadership Development
Leadership Development
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