Provocative Propositions

In the hyperactive and challenging world in which we all live, it is becoming harder and harder for business leaders to find time to read, reflect and gain insight from the many valuable sources at our disposal.

In "Provocative Propositions", The Beacon Group attempts to fill that void by offering our opinion, often rather pointed, on a wide array of issues we believe are relevant to leading a modern organization.

The articles are catalogued into 12 categories so you can quickly and easily find a topic of particular interest. We then offer three easy steps under the heading "In Our Opinion" to help business leaders take action on the key themes.

Simply click on the category and read away.

The Hostage Mentality in Organizations
Youíve been trapped in this room for days.

You can hear voices all around you.

You keep playing the images over and over in your head.

What you should have said, what you should have done.

But itís no use. Itís too late.

Your situation is hopeless.

You realize at that moment, youíre truly a hostage.

Then, like every other day, you log-off your computer, and head to the elevator.

So ends another day at the office.

The Fact is every day, in too many organizations, a large number of employees find themselves in situations where they feel powerless. They have become victims to a "hostage mentality".

The Problem is that by acting in a manner akin to those who have been trapped, your employees will be less likely to offer new ideas, point out legitimate problems, and ultimately perform at their optimal level.

The Outcome is that organizations will ultimately become full of "hostages", even though there may not even be a "captor" - in the traditional sense. By ignoring the problem for so long, the helplessness will take over and the organization may never be seen or heard from again.

The Solution is to develop an organizational mindset that keeps employees' minds and actions free to challenge constraints, and overcome stifling bureaucracy.

The Abduction

In this case, no gun-wielding maniac will burst into the room, nor will a late 80's van screech to a halt and four masked thugs jump out and throw you into the back of the van.

The abduction in this case is gradual.

You are lulled into a situation where you suddenly realize you are, in fact, a hostage. You cannot speak up. You cannot act as you need to act. You have been abducted, and you probably didnít even know it.

The Bonding Cycle

To understand how employees become trapped in a "Hostage Mentality", you first have to understand what author George Kohlrieser calls "The Bonding Cycle" in his book "Hostage at the Table".

The cycle is composed of four stages:

Attachment: a process of creating nearness and making a connection.

The comfort of developing attachment leads to...

Bonding: the emotional exchange following attachment.

This emotion can grow, or in other cases, fade away leading to...

Separation: an interruption to the bonding and attachment process.

The key is to move to the fourth state...

Grieving: letting go and saying goodbye.

What Kohlrieser believes, is that Hostages are in a state of unresolved grief. They have been detached emotionally from the organization, but cannot find a way to break free, and are ultimately trapped indefinitely.

Stockholm Syndrome

Bosses arenít a bad people. They're just doing their job.

Donít kid yourself. Organizations trapped in a "hostage mentality" may evolve into organizations that exhibit the "Stockholm Syndrome". Employees feel a sense of loyalty to their "captor", and do nothing to break free.

The situation is no longer driven by fear; hopelessness has transformed into complacency.

Hostage Negotiation

In his book, "Hostage at the Table", author George Kohlrieser says that the number one tactic of a successful hostage negotiator is to stay out of the "hostility" of the situation.

The key, if youíre a leader who realizes your organization has been taken hostage by itself, is to realize that itís not the fault of your employees that they are acting this way. Remember, the organization with its rules, policies, culture, and legacy issues trapped them. Your job is to step back from the situation, and deal with the history that has led to this behaviour. Only then can you free them.

In Our Opinion

The Beacon Groupís Keys to Releasing Yourself from a Hostage Situation

Stay Informed - The best defence is a good offence. Keep your lines of communication to the "outside world" open and strong. By comparing your situation to others, you will be more likely to know if your organization is trying to abduct you.

Personalize - Captors do not take people hostage, they take "collateral". Therefore, in a business context, develop a good, candid rapport with those around you in the organization. If the emotion level drops, find a way to pick it back up, or get out before itís too late.

Move Slowly - Although it sounds counter-intuitive, the fact is, if you make a daring attempt to break free and it doesnít work, your "Organization-Captor" will only find ways to monitor your behaviour more closely. Make deliberate choices to change, and let the momentum build up, and you will be more likely to break free.

Get Help - Unless youíre Rambo, or Jack Bauer, or the CEO, youíre not going to be able to free the rest of the organization by yourself. Find a team of employees who want to be emotionally engaged with the organization, and develop a plan to free the other "hostages."
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