In my last post, I discussed a theoretical debate that I had with a friend. This person is an attorney and has some very strong beliefs regarding the importance of protecting his corporate clients. We had a lively and very respectful conversation that highlighted the differences in our positions. In full disclosure, I was sandbagging in this conversation because I have written on this topic before for an entirely different purpose. I pulled from that content in our conversation and in these blog posts.
A Short Background: An organization wishes to keep the event but lower the risk of a safety incident. The company should institute a two alcoholic drink maximum per employee and offer no-cost and no-questions-asked rides home for any employee who becomes intoxicated. This solution allows the management to maintain spirit and joviality of the event while significantly lowering the risk of an alcohol-related traffic incident.
The proposed solution is a developmental change for the organization. Developmental changes are adjustments to existing processes and procedures and do not necessarily have to be large in scope. Because they are smaller in scope and adjust existing procedures or processes, these types of changes are met with lower levels of resistance or anxiety by employees.
Implementation Is a Key to Success
The lack of acceptance of an organization change by employees may give rise to resentment and lower employee engagement. Utilizing a framework, such as Kotter’s 8-step change process, may help improve the outcome of a change initiative. There are many frameworks to choose from, but this is the one I am most comfortable utilizing. The first step creates a sense of urgency in the organization that leadership may do through opening up a dialogue about employee safety.
Once enough awareness is achieved, select members of the leadership and influential employees should offer guidance on the strategy and become the base of a grassroots support effort. Next a guiding coalition should be formed to develop the vision and philosophy of how employee events may be safer in the future. Communication needs to be consistent and widespread. The leader needs to get across to the organization that they genuinely care about employees and wishes everyone to have fun while doing it in a way that keeps people safe. These communications may take the form of emails, posters, company meetings, department meetings, and small group back channel conversations.
At this point, it is time for the organization to put action forward. The leadership needs to empower others which would include initiating the home ride process and developing a discreet way that employees may utilize the service. Employees may use the honor system and corporate culture peer pressure to limit drinks to two per individual. Should this prove ineffective, a drink ticketing system could be developed to reinforce the point of moderation. The next step is to demonstrate some successes. The management team should uphold the two-drink standard and remind everyone about the ride home service during a subsequent employee event. Consolidation of the improved organizational behavior may be completed by continuing the safety messages while stressing the fun elements of an employee get-together.
Arguably, the last step may be the most critical. The new behaviors must be anchored into the corporate culture. This is a critical function of the leadership team as they must support the initiative through limiting their own consumption and utilizing the ride home service periodically. The maintaining of standards by the leadership team must consistently be executed at all future company events. Any failure to do so will destroy the initiative and send a deeply conflicted message throughout the organization.
A Few Closing Thoughts
If communicated correctly and supported by consistent actions, the employees will understand the necessity of a change. In this particular hypothetical case, the majority of people should not experience any impact whatsoever from the limitation on the amount consumed beverages at company events. The organizational culture of responsibility and accountability should reinforce this change and may even foster new values of peer support and mutual accountability. Over time, the employees should experience the change as another demonstration of leadership’s commitment to both a dynamic workplace, fun, and a commitment to their well-being.