A ½ day workshop by Wanted Transformation Consultancy.
How can Romanian employees be managed? The short answer is: “not easy”. The classic answer: “it depends”. Our answer is: “wisely”. By that we mean you need to understand the relationship between stimuli and reactions, and the mechanisms that underline it. Romanian employees will, predictably, tend to have reactions largely in line with the national culture, the societal values. In the corporate environment, however, these are heavily blended with and influenced by global concepts and practices related to leadership and motivation. The mix is not always predictable. Some combinations produce the desired effects, other the opposite.
In our interpretations for this workshop we used the vast array of data already available about the Romanian culture, mainly the research done by Geert Hofstede about the national culture and the data coming from Human Synergistics International, about organizational culture. To these we added our own observations and experiences both as managers and consultants during the years.
From the many traits that are important when dealing with subordinates from a position of authority we chose seven that we found the most relevant and having the biggest impact when dealing with Romanians.
Dealing with authority
The keyword for understanding the relationsip Romanian employees have with authority is “duplicity”. Authority is something we love, when we have it, and we loathe when it is imposed on us. This comes from the fact that authority is largely perceived in an extreme way and very related to absolute power: it either confers one absolute power or takes any sort of power away. This means that people will comply to authority but will resent it and will try to sabotage it in any number of perverse ways, the simplest of which being doing exactly what you are told. Although it is tempting to use authority to get things done, as it seems to work well, this will initiate a vicious spiral that will quickly overload the management with menial work. The solution is to empower people, to delegate them trust and authority along with the tasks. This is the only way, after all, by which things can still happen when the boss is not around.
Although natural and healthy in moderate doses, in high extents competitiveness hinders performance. Romanian society and most organizations are hyper-competitive and this amplifies the negative conotations. Success is measured by comparison, in order for someone to win someone else has to lose. This generates internal conflict and lack of cooperation between people and functions. On a more subtle note, hyper-competitiveness is closely related to lack of ethics, as moral principles get eroded by relativisation. The solution is to institutionalize mechanisms that foster and even mandate collaboration, to stop rewarding individual performance in the absence of group performance, to clarify the goals of the organization and each team and make achieving them meaningful.
From this perspective, the fundamental difference in Romanian organizations as compared to Western cultures, mainly Nordic one, is that in Romania relationships are based on the assumption of mistrust. When dealing with an unknown person, Romanians expect that the other should make visible efforts to prove trustworthy. Of course, since the other person has the same expectations, the resulting relationship is anchored in suspicion and mistrust, as neither party feels compelled to make the first move. On a more subtle note, this kind of relationship frequently degenerates in actually behaving in an un-trustworthy way, because if one is already under suspicion the moral obligation of integrity is weakened. Thus, people actually create their own reality. When extended on a large scale in organizations, this lack of trust translates into horrendously complex systems that try to control everything and prevent all possible infringements, based on the assumption that all clients and employees are potentially inclined to cheat. To solve the problem, the model needs to be turned on its head, and then the same mechanism that makes it accelarate in a downward spiral will generate a virtuous one.
Responsibility is poor in most Romanian organizations mainly because the subject is misunderstood, mistakenly identified with accountability and associated with guilt and blame. The key concept here is that responsibility is intrinsic, willingly taken, whereas accountability is extrinsic, imposed on you from the outside. Although both generate motivation, the type of it is very different. As responsibility stems form self-esteem and self-confidence and accountability is based on lack of confidence and trust, the solution is to extend people trust and support on a personal level and to make them feel part of something bigger and more important than them. Also, making them responsible towards their workgroup is always more productive than making them accountable to the cold and impersonal construct of the organization.
Defined as ”ideas that have value”, mainly value for others, creativity is for Romanian employees a double edge sword. It helps them find solution to obstacles, on one hand, but on the other it makes them search for loopholes in rules and regulations. While one of the approaches generates diferentiation, creative solutions, excellence the other generates chaos and rigidity, as management scrambles to plug any and every”hole” with more and more rules. The key here is to leverage the power of the group and to use creativity towards creating value for more than just oneself, from finding faults to finding solutions.
Finding the right balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is particularly challenging in Romanian organizations. Romanians have a strong need to prove themselves and are prepared to invest significant energy and effort to be part of something that makes them proud of themselves. Thus, for us intrinsic motivation works really well and can generate spectacular results when tapped and unleashed, even more than in typical Western organizations. Quite often, the role of management is not to motivate employees but to stop demotivating them, by lack of respect, mistrust, lack of recognition and support. Replacing motivation with incentives works for a while, but is always minimalistic and short-sighted. Thus, an important organizational resource frequently goes missing.
Values based leadership
One of the biggest challenges in the Romanian business environment (and quite frequently all over the world) is aligning declarations and esposed values with actions, systems and processes used in managing the business. What is particular in Romania is that if alignment is well done it will give spectacular results, more so than in other societies, but alignment is difficult to achieve, due to the inherent skepticism of Romanians and the need of deep and subtle understanding of the human nature. Values-based leadership is not, as many managers still think, a soft, touchy-feely way of managing that puts the well-being of members above the achievement of organizational goals. Quite the opposite. Intrinsic motivation, responsibility and trust generate a lot of pressure to perform and prove worthy of the power invested in you. Thus, value-based organizations are demanding, uncompromising and quite tough, tougher usually than command and control ones. This is why values-based leadership gives excellent performance. Although it requires subtlety and time to stabilize and work well, values- based organizations are very resilient in time and, more importantly for us Romanians, they provide formative models for the society.
Whether, in your organization, you have new leadership, or adopt a new strategy, or experience a disconnect from customer focus, or a misalignment around the company vision and values, but you still have a strong desire to generate sustainable growth, we would be glad to engage in a meaningful and thorough exchange of ideas.