The Year 2000 Problem (or Y2K) was a crisis for both digital (computer-related) and non-digital documentation and data storage situations which resulted from the practice of abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits. This practice became problematic with logical errors possibly arising upon roll-over from x99 to x00, causing date-related processes to operate incorrectly for dates and times on and after 1st January 2000. Without corrective action, long-working systems would break down when the “… 97, 98, 99, 00 …“-ascending numbering system became invalid. Companies and organisations world-wide went into “panic mode” and checked, fixed and upgraded their computer systems. Governments got involved and appointed special task teams to deal with essential services. Fear gripped the digital world and millions started realising how much faith is actually placed in computers. Unlike human beings, computers don’t need lunch breaks or maternity leave and they work 24/7 without a salary and without belonging to any union – a great investment! Companies had been consistently eliminating the human factor in favour of perfectly logical automated machines and with the onset of Y2K, were confronted with the shadow side of such dependence – they were going to have to depend on the human factor once again to see them through the turn of the century.
Companies have become really good at “controlling” the external world – finance, production lines, structure, distribution, assets and physical resources. When it comes to human resources, however, they seem to be far less proficient. Managing the human mind, emotions and passion produces fear amongst some in leadership, who adopt the “easy way out” and employ a contingent of human resources specialists to deal with the human factor. This fear, as such, reduces interaction with staff, impairs communication and managers become known as aloof and non-caring.
Perhaps organisational leadership needs to come to the place of recognising that ultimately every person wants the same thing – to be cared for, to be appreciated and to be recognised for the contribution that one is making. Unfortunately, because of selfish or other ambitions, employees are often treated politically – behaviour that subtly harms relationships, such as withholding of information and care, favouritism, criticism, aloofness, side-lining and ignoring. Fear becomes the operating environment in this instance, with resultant loss of motivation and energy amongst employees.
Positively changing the way we relate is critical for organisational sustainability and success. A change of attitude is necessary – when two people (particularly manager and subordinate) share the intention to remove any elements of attack from their interaction so that they mutually may feel cared for and loved, everything changes. Selfishness gives way to concern for the other person and trust starts to form. When the needs of each other are mutually met, the focus can now shift to organisational needs, productivity is enhanced and creativity becomes possible. An environment of care is created and the “spirituality” of the organisation is enhanced.
The “human factor” in organisations should never be overlooked. There is an intense need for organisational leadership to focus on caring for the mind, emotions and passions of employees, not just ensuring that they receive a monthly salary. There needs to be conscious intentionality of creating an organisational heart-beat – an environment that meets everyone’s needs.