By Wayne R. Bodie, MBA, SPHR
Captains of Industry amass fortunes by increasing productivity, expanding markets, providing more jobs, despite navigating tumultuous waters. All the while, stoically stable. After all, they are ultimately responsible for their vessel, the crew, and safe navigation. However, when the ship’s captain teeters on instability, one misjudgment, and one navigational error can slam a cruise liner onto the rocks. I faced that sad reality on vacation. While combing the beach, I stumbled on a battered life ring. Looking ahead, more maritime debris littered the sand. The resort staff let me know that was all that was left of the sunken ship El Faro.
Earlier this month, the Coast Guard said the primary cause of the sinking of a cargo ship two years ago that killed all 33 aboard was the captain misreading both the strength of a hurricane and his overestimation of the ship’s strength. No bodies were ever recovered. It was the worst maritime disaster for a U.S.-flagged vessel since 1983.
Like any other business leader, if a Captain mismanages his duties, for sure the crew will increasingly panic and perhaps pay a heavy price. Across all industries, a leader is appointed for a reason, and many times we may not all see the personal sacrifices made by these individuals.
They say that there are only two certain things in life: Death and Taxes. I would argue that there is a third. Life-altering personal life challenges. No exceptions, every single person on planet earth is subject to challenges, whether it is daily, seasonal or life-altering. A perfect storm of circumstances or grievous events such as an unexpected loss of a loved one, a bitter divorce, financial destruction, something will eventually come to pass that will challenge our relatively normal and logical mental state.
Employees benefit greatly from having supervisors or mentors that can identify when something is amiss. There is a multitude of indicators that even the “greenest” of a supervisor can usually identify. Whether it is attendance, work performance, personal presentation, or even more obvious indicators such suspected intoxication or illegal narcotic use. Once a problem is identified, support is usually quickly directed towards the employee in terms of a sympathetic ear, donation of resources, or referral to an Employee Assistance Program.
Here’s is a challenge. Who is watching the supervisors and who is watching your direct supervisor? In a perfect world, the individuals listed above would self-identify a problem and they would take appropriate steps to overcome whatever is affecting them. But you know as well as I do, we do not live in that perfect world. We live in the real world.
Human resource professionals are in a unique position to discern catch subtle clues in changed behavior in company leadership and both up and down the organizational ladder. Scheduling regular meetings with leaders in an organization addresses “organizational needs” and can be multi-purpose. One, it keeps the department proactive on required changes and two to keep a finger on the pulse of employee morale. If Human Resources regularly makes assessments, everyone in the organization is protected with one exception. Who is watching them? Especially those in a department of one. Fortunately, informal checks and partnering with the direct supervisor is a key advantage. And a close relationship with a boss helps, allowing a free exchange of information in both directions. Luckily, who’s best informed about company benefits, perks, and resources. That wonderful lifeline – human resources.