Based on what we unfortunately see in the employee and social engagement space, I’ve sadly been predicting social unrest in my People Management blog for some time. It’s now happened within a range of communities. Realistically it’s more likely to escalate than go away!
David Cameron, the Tory leader, is lecturing all who will listen about a slow-motion moral collapse rooted in irresponsibility and points to discipline and the need for a war against so-called feral citizens, but from behind the bars of his gilded Etonian cage. “War against gangs” David, what have you said?
Ed Milliband, the champagne socialist labour leader has had the temerity to point the finger at the greed of the bankers and ruling classes, the feral rich, despite the irony of the fact that his party had over a decade to affect social transformation, yet reinforced many of the core problems instead.
Following the eruption of the simmering malcontent bubbling beneath the surface of brand England for decades, the chattering classes are now all a lather about a moral collapse, setting politicians against police against politicians against alleged “mindless thugs”. They’re all very much missing the point.
Sadly our old England has been staggering blindly for some time. Its much-lauded welfare state has become a millstone around its neck in an alleged free market economy, inadvertently breeding a flabby underclass and underpinning a so-called multi-cultural society about which no-one was apparently consulted but which clearly breeds insecurity by undermining an English identity that dare not speak its name.
But that alone didn’t light the fuse.
Cool Britannia has slowly become cruel Britannia as the family law system has so tragically fallen out of synch with the evolution of parenting models, robbing fathers of rights, rewarding so-called single parenting and denying generations of children much-needed male role models. And a generation of people who defended these islands against tyranny and then loyally paid their taxes now find themselves having to choose between heating and eating while community centres disappear and as their pensions collapse. In the meantime, energy companies and rail bosses continue to inflate prices to pay shareholders.
But this, on its own, hasn’t sparked the looting, rioting and fires.
As with the many businesses that have betrayed their stakeholders by saying one thing and practicing another, leadership, values and culture lie at the core of this problem. There’s no single golden bullet (not, not even a rubber one), or a quick fix. The way we engage with people and do things round here so obviously needs a complete overhaul and we need to start appreciating and celebrating what we do well.
But reflect for a moment on the scale of the leadership problem:
- Bankers paying bonuses indirectly funded by pension shortfalls and public sector cuts.
- Mass MP expenses outrage
- Seemingly constant sex scandals within the religious establishment
- Immoral and ill-mannered millionaire sports stars
- Spin vs authentic communication and relationship management
- Get famous at all costs” and trash tv
- Phone tapping journalists
- Lying CEOs
- Disingenuous marketing
- Telephone competition scandals within the TV networks
- Police corruption
- Barely justifiable wars in the Middle East wrapped in the veil of a de-stabilising “war on terror”
- The disease of negative journalism
- Rampant consumerism despite warnings about the impact on our ecology
There is clearly an all-pervading leadership vacuum which is undermining society by lowering the moral bar. Yet we’re shocked when the disaffected follow this lead and smash and grab, seemingly devoid of any moral self-regulation.
At times like these, the problems of businesses are put into stark relief. But just as employee engagement is key to performance, citizen engagement through consultation and involvement to re-define and live values will be key to restoring pride to this green and pleasant land. The problems we’re facing as a society are echoed in many businesses. The question is, will it be the finger-pointing people in the suits or those pushing the brooms who will take the lead? Either way, we can all play a part in bringing about change. Feral and independent initiative are not the same thing.
Read more about the link between business, brand, values and meaning in Ian’s provocatively different and ground breaking: Brand Champions..