By Kent Mulkey

If you follow my writing you may notice that I am passionate about standing up for the people “in the middle” in senior living: department heads, Sales Directors, Executive Directors, as well as burgeoning leaders, like a maintenance assistant who wants to take on more responsibility.

It’s a simple formula for many organizations to believe the people at the top know everything and as positions move toward the bottom rung people know less and less and need to be managed with excessive rules, such as how you format your email signature, what side of your shirt you wear your nametag, or whether you have signed up to bring something to the potluck you want no part of.

Let’s look at what may lie behind this phenomenon.

Organizational leaders often hold on to the myth that they are the ones who have control over how the organization operates. Leaders elevate their own importance, and tell people not to think too much, question much, doubt much, have original ideas, or raise problems. They think of such thinking as subversive.

The single emotion allowed is “excitement” for organizational change, endless new initiatives, a new logo and tagline, naming of new corporate leaders, and expansion of the company, to name a few. Many companies care more about how the organization looks to the outside than what it does, which matters little to those in the middle trying to keep the ship moving forward and working with eager staff members to get real work done. (Idea: gather your team and discuss what the real work is in your department or company.)

At Ford Motor Company, in 1972, one man was charged with running the recall department. His job was to look for patterns that revealed problems in Ford automobiles that might trigger recalls. On one car, a destroyed Ford Pinto, he had to make a judgment whether this might become a dangerous pattern. His colleagues told him not to worry about it and don’t take the issue to executives. Five years later, Ford finally recalled the Pinto after many more people died when their car caught fire.

He accepted the social norm at Ford, which was, “Don’t raise problems and don’t tell people bad news they don’t want to hear.” So, people keep their heads down, don’t speak up, and eventually wither or leave the organization. And the leaders ask what happened to employee loyalty and the rollout of their innovative retention initiative.

Here is a suggested takeaway: Don’t let company leaders, no matter who they are, keep you down. Speak up with kindness and clarity. Ask questions. You are every bit as important to the company as they are.

Illegitimi non Carborundum! *

*Look it up.