In The Times last week, Rachel Sylvester accused our MPs of suffering from learned helplessness, allowing the hard-right to run rough shod over Brexit negotiations, while doing little to actually try and improve the situation.
But MPs certainly don't have a monopoly on this phenomenon, and I'd like to share a little about how it's impacting the effectiveness, and the reputation of your organisation.
First though, what exactly is learned helplessness?
Well, in the most basic terms, it's a subconscious decision (and a common human reaction) not to try because - due to conditioning - we both come to expect pain/suffering/discomfort and we learn to feel, think and act (believe) that we have no power to change a given situation.
The theory was tested extensively by Seligman and Maier, in the 60's and early 70's, through (frankly horrifying) experiments with dogs, whereby it was identified that if pain and suffering was conditioned and expected, then even when there was a very simple opportunity to escape the discomfort, the dogs didn't even bother to try.
Thankfully, the human experiments were much less extreme, yet the results remained consistent.
What's more, Seligman et al (1978) found that learned helplessness also leads to depressive symptoms and low self-esteem.
So what's all that got to do with you?
Well, if you're frustrated by the morale, attitudes, and/or behaviours of the staff in your organisation, chances are it's a serious problem for you.
Because if your business is racing to keep up with technological advances, and to maintain a competitive edge, while your staff quietly (or loudly) resist, insist on continuing to do things the way they've always been done, and behave in the way everyone else behaves (while at the same time moaning and griping about how terrible everything is, to their co-workers and your customers) - because they simply don't believe they have the power to contribute to and improve the culture of their workplace - the needle of effectiveness, and the reputation of your business can only move in one direction (hint: it's not up).
Of course, this idea that your people are helpless to affect change couldn't be further from the truth, and it is in fact their own commitment to this false belief that exacerbates low morale, weak innovation, and poor service, thus creating a vicious circle of frustration and disappointment both in and outside of your business.
So what's the alternative?
Well it's pretty simple really.
Your people just need to understand how much influence they wield, how they are not only accepting the current frustration of the status quo, but indeed contributing to it. And, how very easy it is for them to start contributing, instead, to create the kind of workplace that they would love to work in (they don't need to exit, they can remain and reform).
You see, while it's crucial for leaders to be on board and pulling in the right direction, when building a culture of engagement and excellence, the best company cultures are not merely a product of their leadership, but a product of the continual engagement and empowerment of their people.
To discuss how I can help you to empower your staff to be effective self-leaders and create a culture of excellence, contact me here.