International attention buzzed in late December about the “ailments” of the Roman Curia, as enumerated by Pope Francis. It was a surprising rebuke of an organization he felt had taken some wrong turns.
The Pope’s list of 15 “illnesses and temptations” should resonate in many workplaces that have become bloated or insulated by hierarchies. Perpetrators and victims alike might benefit from a New Year’s reappraisal of his remarks. Roughly translated and truncated, he said:
■Beware of considering yourself immortal, immune or indispensable. Stay up to date. Be self- critical.
■Busy-ness is not the same as accomplishment. Find time for rest and reflection.
■Empathize with others.
■Avoid excessive planning that fails to translate into effective action. Stay open to imagination and innovation.
■Collaborate. Work as a team.
■Don’t depend only on your own views.
■Eliminate unhealthy rivalry and pride.
■Don’t hide behind bureaucracy. Remember there are real people involved.
■Have courage to speak directly to people instead of gossiping behind their backs.
■Don’t be an apple polisher in hopes that it will get you somewhere.
■Be sincere and warm in your personal relationships.
■It’s not good to mask fear or insecurity by being gruff or grim.
■Accumulating material goods won’t fill “emptiness of the heart.”
■Closed circles — cliques — cause disharmony to the organization as a whole.
■Don’t strive for power by discrediting others.
There are a lot of workplace and management consultants who say the same thing in seminars and private counseling. Any one of Pope Francis’s 15 points could be posted on the office bulletin board as a daily reminder.
The issue, of course, is that the “guilty” need to recognize themselves and correct abuses. And the “victims” need to find the courage and focus to tackle the workplace ills. Neither is an easy prescription.
Often, when an unhappy worker writes me about a workplace problem, the email includes something like, “My hands are tied” or “I can’t quit” or “No one will listen.” They’re miserable and don’t see an exit door.
Fortunately, it’s becoming easier for workers to leave dysfunctional organizations. There are more job openings. Health insurance is available to more people who might have been tied to their job in order to keep benefits. Housing markets have improved.
As we enter the new year, a dominant message to employers from experts who monitor the workplace is that workers will be increasingly mobile. Employers are being told they have to work harder to attract and keep good people.
Given that employees who work in an organization are its best recruiters, it behooves everyone to take stock of Pope Francis’s list. What kind of place are we? What kind of person am I?