Creating Teamwork in the Midst of Organizational Chaos
Organizational chaos can best be defined as a historical moment in
which workers and organizations loose a sense of mutual commitment, and
opportunities for both worker and organization are ambiguous. This radical
transformation in the idea of work, offers both worker and organization a new
opportunity for recreating a social contract with each other.
The quality of stress and strain that many of today's workers are
experiencing is not only the result of being overworked, underpaid, and uncertain
about job security; it is the result of rapidly shifting ground in which work and
working has become unreliable. Organizations are in the midst of chaos. As
companies flatten their organizational structure, and downsize their workforce,
managers and workers have found themselves in work environments that have
redefined the meaning of worker, work, and corporate culture. These
fundamental changes in the workplace have left many of us in a state of mental paralysis.
We are not sure what to do with the skills and knowledge that we have
acquired during our work life. Many of us are living each day with the threat of
being forced to leave our workplace before we are ready.
We are faced with the difficult task of reinventing ourselves in the
midst of chaos, for it breaks the covenant that we all have had with society
and workplaces. Organizations must create a new sense of community and
teamwork within the workplace. Creating teamwork in the midst of
organizational chaos is to create a work environment where all workers are made
to feel as if they are an integral part of the organization's daily business
as opposed to being a means to an end.
Developing Adaptive Capacity
Drucker (1995) suggests that it is up to the worker to develop the
capacity to adapt in these economic times of uncertainty. According to Drucker,
"being an educated person is no longer adequate, not even educated in management."
Workers are going to have to take responsibility for their professional and
personal development within their organization and will need to develop the
insight for when is the appropriate time to move to the next job for
additional training, education, and development. Organizations will also have to adapt
to organizational chaos by creating work environments in which workers
have opportunities to respond appropriately to the on-going workplace
transformations. The climate of corporate America is unpredictable; therefore, it is
becoming increasingly difficult for workers to be committed to an
organization that is constantly stripping away elements of support that promote
teamwork and community.
The relationship between an organization and its workers that many of
us are familiar with should be reciprocal. This has been the historical
orientation of the development of worker-workplace relations. The organization has a
social responsibility to provide its workers with socioeconomic securities
(health care benefits, social security plan, retirement, and pension benefits), and
workers have the social obligation of working effectively and efficiently to meet
the organization's productivity goal. Within a working environment many of
us have experienced a sense of belonging, a shared mission and community,
and these attributes have always been essential ingredients to managing chaos
within the workplace.
According to Drucker (1995), organizations are designed as
specialized tools in which teams put knowledge into work, products, and processes.
However, this notion of teamwork is far too limiting; it does not express the
character of the transformations in the workplace today. The bonding between
workers which progressively occurs within the workplace has been eroding as
a result of increased layoffs, temporary work assignments, work
displacement, minimal benefits (full-time and part-time workers), and the disappearance
of organizations all together. With most workers working in environments that
do not cultivate team spirit or community, it may become necessary to
redefine teamwork and corporate community.
A New Social Contract
The basis for this new social contract will be in the paradoxical views of
the organization, the organization as a "destabilizing agent" and the
organization as "community." Some organizational theorists, such as Drucker (1995),
claim that an organization is designed to be a destabilizing agent that responds
quickly to change. Organizations are unlike communities, societies, or families, in
that they do not function as a mechanism to assist workers in the adaptation to change.
Alternatively, Caggins (1995) suggests that organizations are social
structures, and "the key to creating community versus chaos is in the attraction,
commitment, normative integration and interdependence of the members of a
community." Caggins' notion that work environments are like any other social
organization implies that management (leadership) must cultivate these factors.
People make relationships and have the capacity to develop communities and add
meaning to work. An organization should not destroy the work spirit and
community, which are necessary for adult development. While both Drucker
and Caggins appear to have opposing claims, both provide useful ways of
understanding today's organizational environment. Organizations are both
destabilizing and community seeking. Organizations change by renewing
themselves while workers seek continuity in work and in work environments.
Organizations and workers are experiencing chaos because the rules of
the partnerships in the workplace have become too fluid. Workers must
become self-contained, expecting to be utilized in a variety of workplaces.
have to become more generalized as well as specialized. This new worker
will be more responsive to the shifting needs of workplaces. A new social
function of an organization must include not only its responsibility as a social
organization, but must perceive itself as an extension of the community in which it is
a participant. Because of their fluid need for workers, organizations must
establish themselves as hosts, or as repositories of knowledge from which any
worker can avail herself/himself. As a repository, the new organization will have
to become reliant on institutions of learning to create the necessary support
for workers. The relationship of work and workplace might become more like
a library whereby both the borrower and the lender benefits. The whole
society benefits from a prepared workforce. An organization borrows from
workers their knowledge and their capacity to work and an organization must
establish itself as a social context for a broadly skilled or capacitated worker. The
trick will be for both the worker and the organization to manage chaos by
becoming fluid themselves, mutually evolving themselves in a turbulent world.
Caggins, R. 1995. "Toward community versus chaos when studying the concept
of professional cohesiveness." Community-Chaos: Proceedings of the Eleventh Scientific
Meeting of the A. K. Rice Institute.
Drucker, P. F. 1995. Managing in a time of great
change. Truman Talley Books/Plume New York.
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