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Lately, the news has been scattered with news of protests in New York City and around the world in relation to the Occupy Wall Street movement. This movement has emerged as a protest against economic inequality and the corporate status quo. It is not surprising that this movement has emerged in the midst of an economic downturn, as people feel frustrated with their lack of economic opportunities. And even if your employees are not using sick days to join the picketing, there are management development lessons to be learned from this recent phenomenon.

Recessions and economic downturns are times when many people reflect upon their own status quo, and some are dissatisfied with what they discover. Whether or not your employees are challenging the status quo on Wall Street or in the office, it is worth considering that many of them may be doing so in their heads. In this current atmosphere of general economic unrest, no business is immune.

So what can you do? Business consultant Justin Menkes warns of the need to address possible employee dissatisfaction and unrest before it becomes a problem. In times of high anxiety, “events are becoming more distracting, increasing our levels of anxiety and affecting our ability to keep focus on short-, mid-, and long-term goals. This agitated way of looking at the world is extremely dangerous because it causes us to ignore the indisputably cyclical nature of our industries and the absolute necessity to balance our long-term strategy with our short-term needs.”

Basically, Menkes is saying that employee anxiety about short-term personal, political, or economic problems can negatively affect performance over the long term. In order to maintain a competitive advantage, managers should focus on helping “re-attune ourselves to the mid- and long-range strategic initiatives that will in large part determine our long-term prosperity.”

In order to do this, managers need to consider challenging the status quo. Managers need to become more open to hearing employee concerns, and managers also need to help their employees to see that “fluidity and crisis management will be a core part of all of our jobs.” (Read more from Menkes here)

The management development lesson to be learned here is that in order to best keep your division afloat in these tough economic times, managers need to be flexible. They need to be open to challenging the status quo in the office to improve employee performance. They also need to lead by example to encourage similar flexibility in their employees, preparing them to adapt to whatever new challenges arise.


What Protests Teach Us About Management Development

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