Every organization has one – even yours. Maybe especially yours. Sometimes it lurks in the shadows, while other times it can be noticed slithering through various departments. It’s almost always viewed negatively; this is due, at least in part, to the fact that the undercurrent often contains negativity, or at least content presented in a negative light.
Allow me a quick sidebar here. I’m not necessarily condoning the contents and/or tone of the undercurrent. I know, like you do, that often the undercurrent is a place where whining and complaining thrives; and I’m not a fan of either of those things. Further, I’m not saying that employees ought not be coached toward embracing a positive attitude and eliminating as much negativity as they can. But I am saying this: the undercurrent is a reality in most organizations, so why not use it? Here are a few reasons you should do just that.
1. It’s the “inside scoop.”
Maybe we’re missing something. Maybe we’re overlooking an opportunity here. You see, often the undercurrent is representative of the unpolished, unfiltered feelings and sentiments of the employees in an organization. If that’s the case – if the undercurrent really is the uncut, unedited version of the employees’ perceptions of the organization – than perhaps we’d do well to quit ignoring and start listening.
2. There’s probably some truth in there.
Instead of simply complaining about the undercurrent, if we can sift through the whining and complaining, we just might find that there’s some truth nestled in there somewhere. Perhaps, underneath it all, there’s some validity to some of the complaints. Maybe folks’ managers and/or executives really aren’t doing a good job with this or that.
So here’s what I’m suggesting: Leaders, keep an ear to the ground. Listen. Learn. Sift through the complaints with an eye toward how you might effect positive change within the organization. Search for the kernels of truth – even truth you’d rather not acknowledge about yourself – that can be found beneath the layers of complaining.
3. It forces us as leaders to take a hard look in the mirror.
And then – and this is the hard part for us in leadership positions – take a hard look in the mirror. Are we discounting what they’re saying simply because their critique is couched in a complaint? Are we avoiding taking responsibility for things we need to be improving upon as leaders?
If we can wrap our heads around these things, we can lessen the chances that we’re missing opportunities to not only improve ourselves as leaders, but also to be servant leaders who effect positive change within our teams and organizations.