This video was circulated on the internet of an employee throwing boxes into her truck:
This video, put together by the SVP of HR at Fedex, is a perfect example of the way we, in society, treat people as objects:
Instead of looking at the organizational and team environments that create this employee’s behavior, the company fires her because she was caught doing something that makes Fedex look bad. The company behaved in a “swift” manner to “solve the problem.” Classical masculine and reactive behavior and decision making that doesn’t solve the problem.
We must wonder if the employee was asked:
– What made you behave this way?
– Are the metrics used to measure your performance making you rush and work very quickly, resulting in sloppy work?
– How do you feel at work? Respected? Supported? Encouraged? or disrespected, treated like a machine without needs or feelings that needs to perform at any cost?
– Do you know the values our company stands behind? Do you have the support to live them every day?
These questions would allow the company to understand the behavior, so they can modify the company’s systems or structures that are inadvertently creating the behavior. It’s never the people, it’s always the systems or structure.
When we treat people as objects, two main outcomes surface: one, we dehumanize organizational life, which eliminates the possibility of creative thinking. In this instance with Fedex, it goes against what the CEO, Fred Smith, has claimed to say about employee contribution. He claims that Fedex pursues employees’ “discretionary effort” by designing a healthy, open work environment that motivates them to do more than the basic requirements outlined in their job descriptions.That claim and this HR action seem incongruent.
Two, firing the employee solves nothing other than making it seem that Fedex caress about their customers’ packages. Customers are placated, temporarily, until a more severe incident is captured on video. At the same time, the company is not addressing the real issues behind the behavior, which are surely a function of the way the organization operates.
If the employee was treated as a person, who has motivations, feelings, concerns, problems in doing his job as per the company’s values, it will uncover the solutions the company needs to take to solve the issue for good. Not just this time, but for long-term, while also building a humanized company that nurtures an open and supportive organizational culture.