We are living in a CORONA world. We are the generation who has witnessed both pre corona and corona world. No other time was ripe enough to practice empowerment than the current one. Corona virus is changing the definition of corporate culture and so it is a perfect time to redefine the corporate culture.
I came across a social media post, where employees of a large IT organization were allowed to work from home. Good on you! I felt happy to read this news as I have seen many organizations perceive work from home as a big crime. I am a big advocate of work from home as I am more productive when I work from home. The second part of that social media post made me a little nervous. Employees who were allowed to work from home were expected to stay in front of the webcam during office hours. That sounded little inhuman.
There is a famous Zen story.
There was a famous Zen master by the name Hakuju. A new disciple named Bakuju joined his monastery and expressed his wish to become the great Zen master like Hakuju. He asked Hakuju how did he become the great Zen master. Hakuju replied, “By breaking the mechanical habits”. Bakuju requested to elaborate. Zen master explained- “Society plays a major role in instilling mechanical habits. Since the time you wake up in the morning, till you hit the bed, You follow all the rules as defined by society. That is called a mechanical habit. When you break the mechanical habit, it opens the door for you to achieve what you want in your life”
In a corporate world, managers are responsible for instilling the mechanical habits. It starts with the time an employee enters the office and covers all activities that an employee does within the four walls called office. When employees get into those mechanical habits, they do everything unconsciously. That gives less flexibility. A mechanical habit can produce the same result just like a machine.
Empowerment is all about not forcing employees to develop any mechanical habit. Mechanical habit is doing things unconsciously, while empowerment is helping employees to do things consciously.
“A delivery boy in a retail store, while delivering orders, took some additional basic grocery with him. After delivering the grocery to the customer he enquired if there were any other needy people like old/ single mum etc around who might need the grocery. And he handed over those additional goods without charging any delivery charges. ” The decision of helping proactively to needy people on the delivery route was supported by the store manager at the store level.
“An old lady panicked because of Corona virus, called insurance company enquiring if she was covered for corona. When Susan -the call centre agent, heard the query, she checked the customer details and realized the lady lives alone. Instead of going by the script, she asked a few basic questions like her travel history in the last one month, her visit to crowded places, any symptoms, etc. Based on the answers given by the old lady, Susan realized that there is no possibility that she has got Corona. Susan explained that to the lady and mentioned that she need not panic and She was covered for the Corona.” Susan’s answer made the old lady happy. Susan was empowered to handle the situation. This conversation made Susan and the old lady happy.
Empowering employees man not give an organization any immediate dollar benefit, but it will make the whole society a better place to live.
—- Written by Ravindra Puri.