InTents June/July 2019 - 52

business | management

Spooky legends and
workforce strategies
Fear of the boogeyman can change organizational behavior.

P
by Karl Sherrill
Karl Sherrill leads the National
Manufacturing Practice Group for
New York-based Marsh & McLennan
Agency. He is based in High Point,
N.C., and has both Certified Insurance
Counselor and Certified Risk Manager
designations along with an MBA.

52 intents

june-july 2019

icture this: It's bedtime and
children are getting their goodnight
kisses. The parents wish them sweet
dreams, leave the room and close the
door behind them. With their defenders
gone, the children begin their nightly
debate: Is the boogeyman here? And
if so, what exactly are they going to do
about it?
The boogeyman comes from the
15th-century Middle English word
bogeyman, which means "frightening
specter." As legend would have it, this
ubiquitous creature prowls around
at night, snatching up misbehaving
children. While most parents reassure
their children that such a mythical
creature of correction does not exist,
the legend persists and it taps into a
powerful motivational factor-fear.
Mind your manners, obey your parents,
do your chores and the boogeyman
will stay away. Misbehave and take
your chances.
As a risk management consultant
in the Marsh & McLennan Agency's
National Manufacturing Practice
Group, I have the opportunity to interact with leaders across the country and ask them this question: What
is your biggest fear regarding your
organization's future stability? In
other words, what's your boogeyman?
Today, the boogeyman at the top of
everyone's list is workforce strategy.
There is great uncertainty about the
best strategy for hiring, retaining and

leading teams in our dynamic labor
market, a labor market whose makeup
will be dramatically different for the
foreseeable future.
The number one way to deal with
fear of the boogeyman has always
been about good behavior. Here are
some thoughts on how to develop good
behavior in your organization, so you
can reduce the risk of this frightening
specter paying your team a visit.

Change the conversation

The words we use and the ways we think
have significant effects on behavior and
results. Expect a negative result and you
will often get it. The reverse is also true.
In today's workforce, I believe the way
we talk about the younger generation
needs to change. Let me demonstrate.
Grab a pencil and write down the first
10 words that come to mind about
the younger generation. Really, take a
minute to do this.
Now, look at your list and circle the
descriptors with a negative connotation.
Do they represent half or more of the
words on your list? When I speak to
groups, I ask them to do this same
exercise. While the results vary slightly
based on the demographics in the room,
a similar pattern invariably shows up-
approximately 75 percent of the words
listed have a negative connotation; the
other 25 percent are neutral to positive.
Is this unique to 2019? Is the Millennial
generation deserving of this negativity?



InTents June/July 2019

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