Open access peer-reviewed chapter - ONLINE FIRST

Muddy Realities of Organizational Existence: Should HRD Dive in or Take an Ostrich Defense from the Sidelines? Review of Literature, Framework Development and Future

By Kebafentse Tshiamo Modisane

Submitted: November 29th 2020Reviewed: March 9th 2021Published: May 4th 2021

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.97122

Downloaded: 8

Abstract

Workforce management goes beyond the management of people and the management of human resources processes and projects, to deciphering organizational climate of operation, activities and behaviors that could hinder organizational progress thereby negating good strategy implementation plans. This chapter intentionally selected several challenges that usually entangle organizations, throwing them into muddy pools where entangling meshes of corruption, workplace incivility, stigmatization, crises and management failure among others envelope and bring some of these organization to their perilous ending. The chapter asserts that the field of Human Resources Development (HRD) could play a meaningful role in the identification of organizational challenges and the initialization of the designing and implementation of interventions that could address systems blockages. By getting inside the challenging muddy pools, HRD would assume a strategic position in redefining its purpose of existence by decoding organizational bottlenecks and introducing interventions that could create new paths and new avenues for organizational effectiveness and sustainability even during environmental turbulences. Through a detailed discussion of negative issues bedeviling organizations, including the crisis brought by the corona virus pandemic that has not spared organizations either, this chapter asserts that HRD cannot take an ostrich defense of burying its head in the sand while chanting the ‘I see no evil, I hear no evil’ slogan pretending that challenges bedeviling organizations are not HRD’s concern. The chapter asserts that through new research pathways and the provision of appropriate interventions, HRD has great potentialities of removing systems blockages and supporting both leadership and the workforce to be flexible and adaptable to environmental turbulences of organizational operations.

Keywords

  • dynamics of organizational operations
  • corruption
  • organizational crisis
  • corona virus pandemic
  • workplace incivility
  • stigmatization
  • globalization and resistant to change
  • management failure
  • HRD field potentialities

1. Introduction: dynamics of organizational operation

Management of human resources requires flexibility for continuous adaptability to environmental turbulences. Organizations currently function in dynamic environments that continue evolving depending on climate of operation. Such evolving environments require leadership to understand the dynamics of market demands and versatilities for being innovative and resilient despite environmental turbulences. Such skills and abilities cannot occur on their own volition but require proper nurturing through leadership development programs, reflective sharing of experiences, collaborative project inquiry [1] that could promote change [2], risk taking [3], and a call for leaders’ humility and trust [4].

While globalization opened international market competitions and advanced the use of technology for organizational growth and profitability, on the flip side, seething below the rosy technological welcoming front are dark forces of corruption, scandals, leadership mismanagement, employee incivility and unethical behaviors, (among others), that continue engulfing and lingering over many of the organizations’ core existence, thus seeking to erode the hard earned efforts that globalization sought to promote- the building of globalized human resources and the dignifying of human lives through socio-economic advancement of nations. Through an intentional selection of some of the challenges bedeviling organization, this chapter takes readers through negative issues entangling organizations subsequently sinking them into meshes of muddy pools of ineffectiveness, poor quality in service and product delivery, organizational toxicity, bankruptcy and ultimate closure. The chapter also brings out the crucial implications of these dark forces to HRD and its potentialities to positively identify the bottlenecks in the system followed by the launching of appropriate interventions that could support organizations as they strive to find new paths for sustainability and growth.

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2. Review of literature: inside the muddy realities of organizational existence

2.1 Corruption; whistle blowing; employee voice

Corruption tops the list of issues that scholars bring out as the darkest issue affecting organizational existence, ‘clogging the wheels of progress and frustrating the realization of noble ideas’ [5]. Scholars worldwide affirm that corruption is responsible for many organizational woes as it translates to organizational failures that could manifest in abandoned projects, poor quality in the implementation of projects, dilapidated infrastructure, nepotism and tribalism [6]. Even more, corruption is associated with poor organizational performance, low quality product deliverables, business losses, subsequently business failure.

Corruption is defined as the abuse of power for private benefit [7]. Many governments in both developing and developed economies have come to the realization that persistent corruption contributes to the erosion of national economic gains and the dignifying of human lives. Gabbioneta [8], points that corporate corruption seems to have become endemic in the society. Surprisingly, one of the most striking features of corporate corruption is the inability of professionals and professional service firms to recognize and expose corruption. Findings of a study undertaken in China by Chen et al. [9], indicated that lower- status leaders with high power were more likely to engage in corrupt behaviors, whereas high status leaders with high power were more likely to do so in a western cultural context [9]. The study made notable contributions to literature on power, status and corruption as it provided information on leadership qualities that could be susceptible to the accommodation of corruption and corruption practicing behaviors. After making a similar finding on leadership’s role on corruption, Di Pietra et al. [10] pointed that the relationship between corporate governance and corporate corruption are now ‘ripe for systematic analysis from multidisciplinary approaches’. Upon realizing that corruption occurs across legal, cultural and organizational boundaries, just to mention a few, Di Pietra et al. [10], concluded that corruption is a complex and rich phenomenon worth exploring further in different contexts and environments.

It should be noted that corruption varies across countries as much as labor costs or corporate tax rates vary from one country to another [11]. Corruption remains multi-dimensional and multi-faceted and continues to negate organization’s financial strategies and profitability while bringing many economies to their knees. In some developing economies, corruption is associated with inefficiency, reduction of foreign direct investment, reduction of economic growth, and increased rates of poverty and inequality [7]. In developing economies, corruption deprives these nations of potential investors, distorts public expenditure, increases costs of running businesses, costs of governance and encourages the diversion of resources from poor to rich nations [5]. Indeed corruption practicing behaviors of fraud, money laundering, misappropriation of public funds for personal gain, procurement scams, kickbacks on awarded contracts and payments for favorable judicial decisions among others are instituted by corruption practicing cartels as they swindle and loot public funds for personal gain. According to Doh et al. [7], while corruption is present in a variety of industries and different countries, it is more common in sectors where large investments and complex contracts are made including during infrastructure development of various projects. For example, corrupt side-payments could easily be disguised by using payments of various forms and channels including excessive fees charged for the project, fees with no legitimate services delivery, fees supported by false documentation, failure to disclose conflict of interest during the tendering process by government official, employment of relatives of officials ‘with no show up to assume work’, yet receiving monthly salaries; gifts by contractors to a government official responsible for awarding a contract or tender, leases of accommodation or offices owned by government officials or their immediate families at inflated rates, and cash payments to projects inspectors or sub-contractors disguised as legitimate fees. Such corrupt side-payments differ by country but would be undertaken with the purpose of improperly influencing the recipient directly or indirectly as a way of ‘greasing and oiling’ the skewed relationship and maintaining it for a long time. For many people, the analogy as Di Pietra [10] alludes is, ‘if so and so is doing it, why can’t I?’ Though many law abiding citizens could out of frustration give in to sordid corruption practicing behaviors for livelihood’s sake, but the truth is that, everyone who joins the bandwagon of these corruption cartels expands the corruption leaven even further until it reaches the core fabric of societal ethos denting, eroding and crippling the nation’s socio-economic development efforts while leaving the nation hopelessly entrenched in muddy pools and meshes of corruption. It is true that corruption milks national resources and rewards unproductive behaviors by channeling finances to firms and contractors that are dodgy while penalizing efficient, ethical and ‘straight’ operating business oriented firms in the process.

Since corruption is mostly embedded in governmental institutions, some firms are concerned that exposing corruption would reduce profits or anger corrupt officials without changing their behavior [7]. Such points of view, however, encourages acceptance of the status quo and the futility of standing up against corruption subsequently surrendering to the corruption practicing cartels as they clean, loot and empty the treasury while the rest of the nation wallows in poverty and hopelessness. It should be noted that since governments to a large degree, “set the rules of the game, it could thus be concluded that it is the same governments that could introduce a new game plan that shuns corruption and corrupt practicing behaviors by tightening the loose nuts and bolts of government institutional systems subsequently exposing these corruption practicing cartels. While some consider corruption as the “grease” that makes commerce possible and profitable, Rodriguez et al. [11], posit that such small advantages to few members of the society masks deeper developmental challenges that are far more costly. For example, if one person amasses US$ 84 million through corrupt practicing behaviors while public hospitals do not even have panado painkilling drugs to administer to the sick, and the health facilities do not even have personal protective clothing and wheel chairs to transport the critically sick within the hospital premises, and to top the cherry, public schools have no stationary for the learners, then this state of affairs implies that deeper national crisis are looming in the horizon including impoverishment of the already poor families that may not even know for a certainty if they would afford the next meal. A study undertaken by Joshi and Fast [12] revealed that group interdependence leads to great corruption as people tend to protect group members who engage in corrupt acts that benefit the group as they are motivated by collective gain, and as a result, would more likely protect those who engage in corrupt behaviors that benefit the group. The results of study 3 and study 4, by Joshi and Fast [12], revealed that interdependent mindsets are less likely to punish corrupt members who benefit the group when they are motivated by collective gain than participants with an independent mindset [12]. Basing on the findings of these studies, it could rightfully be assumed that corrupt practicing individuals are like a drug cartel that functions as a syndicate. Such a syndicate or ‘cartel’ is difficult to uproot or eliminate as it has many avenues, team members and routes that render it not easy to follow.

Mathur and Jammulamadaka [13] concluded that anti-corruption efforts in India were failing because when they were put in place they did not acknowledge the locally constructed nature and the meaning of corruption. Corruption in India, according to Mathur and Jammulamadaka [13], is indexical in nature, and locally constructed by prevalent social norms emerging out of social relationships and power considerations. Obuah [14] mentions that in Nigeria, the dishonest use of office for personal gain is done by appointed public office holders and top bureaucrats who use their positions of authority to actively engage in corrupt practices. A study undertaken from the era of Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa until the era of President GoodLuck Jonathan concluded that the root of corruption in Nigeria’s public sector emanates from societal pressure, tribalism, nepotism, and low- risk high-benefits of involvement in corruption by others [5]. Even as corruption reaps apart many of the developing economies while benefiting a few cartels and individuals, evidently, countries with low levels of corruption are better able to reduce inequality in the society through entrepreneurial activities [15]. However, Chowdhury and Desai [15] point that the exact reason of wide income distribution across any country remains unclear and remains under investigation. Further research needs to be undertaken on this topic, in order to examine the key variables in-depth. Though Castro and Ansari [16] assert that when the context is ‘ripe’ for change, it would be ideal to launch anti –corruption operation, but, it could be ideal for nations to embark on multi-stakeholder participation and multi-disciplinary efforts to uproot this societal evil as it remains a deeply entrenched phenomenon that is complex and multi-faceted to decipher and untangle. Mitchell et al. [17], asserts that those who are in desperate poverty have lost economic hope and suffer from extreme need, anxiety, or despair due to economic hopelessness. Therefore a picturesque view seen through the eyes of scholars is that while on one side others lavishly live on proceeds of corruption, on another side others languish in economic despair and hopelessness with hunger staring at them squarely on the face. These two extremities of life within societies, especially in developing economies, continue to widen disparities between people and cannot simply be bridged through food hampers and handouts but require leadership that would seek and pursue in earnest institutional change that would launch anti-corruption operating systems that would yield breakthroughs and provide hope, dignity and a future to many citizens.

It should be noted that no economy can pride itself that its economic success and sustainability were derived from corrupt practices hence governments all over the world continue to put measures in place to fight corruption. Corruption of government officials are recognized as an increasingly critical problem both domestically and internationally. Rothstein and Eek [18], assert that if government officials in a society are known to be corrupt, people will believe that government officials cannot be trusted. People will therefore think that most other people cannot be trusted. It is true that indeed trust and corruption do not see eye to eye and the first causalities to corruption are trust, integrity and ethical standards. Despite multilateral treaties and national efforts undertaken in the past 15 years to address this problem, corruption continues to affect firms’ economic and financial strategies, behaviors, organizational situations, and international management and financial reporting [10]. For example, the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and similar efforts by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and other international institutions signaled a collective push to reduce corruption [11]. Advocacy against corruption has also been launched through the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC); African Union Regional Anti-corruption Convention (AURACC); Transparency International (TI); World Bank and McKinsey Global Institute among others. However, it remains visible that, though corporate governance mechanisms have been employed to reduce corruption and limit the effects of corruption, but corruption still persists as a covert strategy to obtain business [10]. Overwhelmed by the escalation of corruption in the country, Brazil launched operation ‘Lava Jato’ (Car wash operation), the largest anti-corruption operation ever launched in Brazil by those who were seeking institutional change, in order to fight corruption. The operation yielded breakthroughs only at certain points in time when the context was ‘ripe’ for change. Castro and Ansari [16], points that the Lava Jato operation was successful as the cumulating work of purposeful actors for the anti-corruption action led to gradual changes and breakthroughs.

Researchers point that corruption and unethical behaviors in organizations can be reduced by cultural change within the organization. For example, leadership could maintain ethical practices that organization members could identify with [19]. Organizations may also work with governmental bodies that are eager to promote local participation to crack down on corruption [7]. For example, Corruption and Economic Crime Agencies or Institutions in different nations could partner with regional and international bodies in order to learn, to network and benchmark new ways of fighting corruption in order to strengthen role requirements and capabilities for the eradication of corruption. For example, several bodies and agencies include Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Afrobarometer, World Economic Forum, Business Anti-Corruption Portal and Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program that could help with the strengthening of ties and learning from best practices in order to scale up responses to corruption. Other scholars posit that since it is difficult to stop corrupt activities that have become embedded within the daily operational routines, perhaps those in leadership could introduce preventive measures [20] that would aim at educating employees, the public and stakeholders about dangers of corruption to organizations and to national economies.

Apart from dealing with corruption, other nations especially developing economies suffer from malpractices of tribalism and nepotism [21]. Tribalism is when those in positions of power favor those from the same tribe with them by giving them priority on hiring, promotion; compensation or any other better work treatment or project even though people from other tribes could fare better than the preferred candidate. Nepotism on the contrary is when those in position of power favor their relatives, community or religious group [22] at the expense of qualifying candidates who do not fall within the defined network. Ugwuebo [23] asserts that such actions contribute to organizational ineffectiveness. For example, employees of La Compagnie Ivoirienne d’Electricite in Ivory Coast reported that tribalism was one of the paternalistic factors affecting firm operation and performance [24]. Ijewereme [5] asserts that using tribalism and nepotism as a method of awarding contracts or work, or even promotion or appointment to public office while ignoring principles of merit provides room for preferential treatment of one individual over another and is a highly biased method to rely upon. Where there is prevalence of such action, it has been established that the quality of the public service is downgraded [25].

The irony is that, in the era of globalization, while affluent economies move ahead with the development and betterment of their communities, developing economies remain steeply entrenched in corruption and corrupt practicing behaviors, including practicing tribalism and nepotism-unsavory practices that undermine logical reasoning and intelligence at the detriment of quality in performance, efficiency and socio-economic progress. Though Abueva [26] asserts that strong kinship ties, which are characteristic of Africa’s societies placed nepotistic pressure on pubic officials to help relatives, but, reality is that the globalized world of today unlike the 1970s has no room for tribalism and nepotism but places merit in quality of performance, expertise in skills and competencies at the forefront prior to the awarding of a contract or a job. Unfortunately, since developing economies continue being a safe haven for the proliferation and acceptance of tribalism and nepotism practices even today, Africa’s genuine intellectuals, techno savvy individuals and innovative thinkers whose potential could set the “Silicon Valley and Google –land of Africa” would remain forever in oblivion while mediocrity and below average work output reign amidst the spirit of cronyism and favoritism that engulf institutional governance and systems in developing economies. It is a worrying issue of concern that developing economies, especially African economies, continue along this unsavory path denying their high performers opportunity to use their intellectual capabilities for the advancement of Africa’s technologies and innovation drive. Sadly, Africa’s dream of becoming a major globalized team player would remain forever a pie in the sky. Furthermore, as pointed by Modisane [27], ‘HRD practitioners and leadership developers in Africa should be concerned about lack of research that could influence organizational practices. Equally, they should be concerned about leadership mismanagement practices that seem to engulf the continent unabated (p.3). It is true that no economy should allow room for nepotism and tribalism to flourish at the detriment of merit and quality outputs, including in the developing economies as they readies themselves for the globalized bandwagon that values ethical practices, quality outputs and the dignifying of human lives.

As the developed world relies on the capabilities and the potentialities of excellence in performance at the Silicon Valley of California and also at China’s Silicon Valley of Shenzhen, these megacities through sound leadership practices and versatile governance of the Eric Schmidt’s and the Jonathan Rosenberg’s of the world bit the odds and excelled in leading powerful teams that have contributed immensely to the world’s technological advancement as instituted through Google platforms. Larry Page, Google co-founder and CEO when giving the foreword to the book ‘How Google Works’ by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg [28], pointed that, ‘it is hard to imagine now when we started Google Maps, people thought that our goal of mapping the entire world, including photographing every street, would prove impossible. So if the past is any indicator of our future, todays big bets won’t seem so wild in a few years’ time. These are the principles that I think are important…’ This book indeed illustrates how quality in hiring turns into quality work output. Larry in the foreword emphatically mentions that management at Google placed much energy into hiring independent thinkers and setting big goals because if they hired the right people and had big enough dreams they were positive that they would get there and even if they failed in the process, they would probably learn something important from the attempted failure. True, aiming to reach the stars through the achievement of organizational goals and ensuring sterling quality performance would not have room for nepotism and tribalism that do not place emphasis on quality hence the fruitage of quality inputs of hiring sterling performers at Google continues to benefit all nations and people indiscriminately until now. The irony is that mediocrity and average inputs of nepotism and tribalism practices are only self-serving practices and by nature would not develop wings that could spread out and benefit many nations and humanity at large.

Whistle blowing is regarded as a practice that could help reduce corruption by pointing out to illegal practices that are taking place in organizations. Whistle blowing could be done by employees, board members or internal auditors who are close to the day to day inner workings of the organization, and whom by virtue of close proximity to the organization may witness or experience wrong doing first hand. According to Dryburgh [29], whistle blowing could ultimately help correct workplace conditions and curb illegal practices. However, it should be noted that blowing the whistle does not always receive the expected responses from colleagues, supervisors and managers [30]. More often than not, whistle blowing triggers accusations of disloyalty, secrecy breaching, and leaking sensitive information [31, 32, 33]. Retaliation for whistleblowing, according to Parmerlee et al. [34] may take many forms including isolation of the whistle-blower, character defamation, exclusion from meetings, harassment, firing from the job and many other negative forms in order to silence the whistleblower or prevent full public disclosure of information. Basing on negative circumstances that may befall whistle blowers, protection of whistle blowers is important if organizations would like to win the war against corruption. However, fewer countries have put up whistle blowing protection acts thereby defeating the purpose of listening to voices of concern that could assist in stemming out corruption. On 27th November, 2012, the US signed into law the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEC) to provide protection to federal workers’ need to safely report government corruption and wrong doing [32]. It is hoped that other countries would emulate USA since employees’ voice should be encouraged in the fight against corruption and unethical practices.

In the exit –loyalty –voice ELV framework, McLean et al. [35] point that employee’s voice has been of interest to organizational scholars at least since Hirschman in 1970. Scholars have been debating whether employees challenge the status quo or exit the organization if their voice is disregarded [35]. Morrison [36] defines employee voice as an informal and discretionary communication by an employee to share ideas, suggestions, opinions or concerns about work related matters to persons who might be able to take appropriate action that could bring improvement or change. The reality is that faced with unsatisfactory situations within the organization, employees may opt to exit, voice the misconduct or remain silent. Research indicates that more often than not, employees with greater tenure may prefer to voice the misconduct than exit. Such employees may have power to effect the change especially if the wrong doing tended to be unacceptable and uncomfortable [37]. Researchers posit that instead of voicing matters, an employee may opt to remain silence even if they have an opinion, suggestion or concern about issues. This could occur if employees do not want to be viewed as trouble makers or complainers. Employees may also opt to remain silent if they do not want to jeopardize the relationship with their supervisor as he/she controls the rewards, resources and assignments [38]. In 2010, The US Department of Homeland Security launched a national campaign called, ‘If you see something, say something’ for residents to alert any anomalies for national security reasons. The notion of reporting anything out of the ordinary, is a leaf that could be borrowed and contextualized to organizations so that employees voice issues of concern, opinions or suggestions that could bring upon change or improvement to current situations, including whistleblowing against acts of wrongdoing and unethical behaviors and practices.

In organizations, when employees experience problems or observe opportunities for improvement, naturally it is assumed that they would dialog with their supervisors. A study by Detert and Trevino [39] revealed that employees were likely to engage in voice to their direct supervisor if the supervisor had a positive relationship with top management. Employees reasoned that if such a relationship existed, it was likely that the supervisor would have greater likelihood of being heard and the issue acted upon. Some scholars posit that if supervisors do not address issues raised, and employees continue experiencing the same conditions they raised, employees may conclude that it is futile to speak up [39]. When employees are not listened to, they could lose faith that management would make necessary improvements [38]. It should be noted that by virtue of their positions, supervisors have the power to influence decision making process of senior level managers by advocating for issues that employees raise, similarly, employees have the prerogative to exit the organization if they feel that their voice does not matter and the work environment could subsequently become toxic if they remained.

2.2 Organizational crisis; corona virus pandemic

Besides the various forms of corruption that could entangle organizations, it is evident that organizations could ‘fall prey’ to crises, scandals, accidents and disruptions that could directly affect organizational operations [40]. Currently, organizational crisis have become more complex and prevalent. These situations include among others investor fraud, financial meltdowns and dramatic fall in market value, bankruptcy, terrorist acts, diseases outbreaks and natural disasters that severely impact organizational sustainability. The corona virus pandemic has severely affected many organizations with mom and pap small businesses and spaza tuck-shops now closed down. This indeed has created a period of uncertainty and crisis beyond human comprehension since a pandemic of this nature was last experienced with the Spanish Flu of 1918–1920 which claimed millions of lives worldwide. Though nations today may not cry wolf in comparison to what happened in 1918–1920, but, a loss of one life to the pandemic is too much a loss taking cognizance of the advancement of medicine and science, sophisticated telecommunication systems and well developed human resources which renders our world to be in a much better standing compared to the Spanish Flu era of 1918–1920. Currently, pharmaceutical companies’ world-wide worked round the clock since 2020 to develop vaccines which could be administered to the general populace probably from 2021. Nonetheless, preventive measures of social distancing, wearing of masks in public places, hand washing, monitoring and self-isolation of those who have been exposed or are symptomatic remain in place.

When the corona virus pandemic started unraveling, at national level, many nations imposed travel restrictions, and instituted lockdowns and curfews to curb the spread of the virus. Organizations too grappled with handling the crisis and more importantly devised new ways of survival and staying afloat beyond the crisis. At its highest peak, the corona virus pandemic altered and disrupted workplaces leaving trails of organizational uncertainties, closed industries and crippled the hospitality industry world-wide including hotels, restaurants, and tourism sights that remain closed. The airline industry which ferries travelers for business and leisure purposes was brought down to its knees and many of its employees were furloughed. Within a short period of time, many employees found themselves out of work, on unpaid leave or working remotely from home. According to the McKinsey report on ‘The future of work after COVID- 19 (2021), the scenario of massive job losses suggest that many people may require the switching of occupations, re-training and upskilling on digitalization for occupational mobility and independent work or changing careers altogether. Organizations could require the reimagining of how work should be done and digitalization of infrastructure as well as organizational retooling for management of remote workers. It is envisaged that as the pandemic fades, the creativity of workers, organizations’ adaptability to environmental turbulences, launching of interventions by program developers, and policy makers would need continuous relearning and learning for effective workforce performance, management and organizational profitability. Carnevale and Hatak [41], posit that today’s organizations have to remain alert and adoptive to unforeseen events such as external crisis, which create increased uncertainty among the workforce and pose immediate threats to organizations’ performance and viability. It is basing on these viewpoints that indeed the reimagining of work and reskilling of the workforce could be viewed as inevitable undertakings for settling into the ‘new normal’ which may influence workforce management beyond the current pandemic.

The pandemic created unforeseen crisis to organizations and increased uncertainties’ among the workforce. With continuous lockdowns and curfews instituted to control the virus spread, organizations found themselves navigating into news terrains of operation, and in some instances without any customers to break even and were forced to place employees on unpaid leave, lay off staff or close shop because of lack of business. Other organizations survived by switching to digitalized remote work so that employees continued with their work while under lockdown at home. In many places across the world, the pandemic exposed weaknesses in organizations’ operations’ systems, and weaknesses in public support systems. Sarkis [42] posited that shocks in the supply chain sustainability revealed operational supply chain fragility and faltering global supply that pointed to conspicuous lack of operational agility. Not to be outcompeted during the pandemic was the ugly head of corruption which also reared its head in different forms. Venelin and Petrou [43] point that the pandemic increased potential risks of corruption activities borne from states of emergencies and the concentration of power at the top, as well as the injection of large sums of money in the economy. Bulgaria curbed the increased risks of corruption through increased reliable communication and information sharing by public institutions, transparency in the public sector, regular inspections to curb possible illegal spending of public funds, spontaneous investigations and inspections of price hikes on food, medical supplies and fuel and the auditing of procedures for the utilization of large cash flows that were allocated as aid and support to members of the public and the private sector.

Just like findings made by Venelin and Petrou [43], when discussing the situation in Bulgaria, Hamzah [44] stated that since large negative shocks that required fast and massive spending could increase corruption, the Indonesian government instituted measures to ensure vigilance against corruption and curbed any fraudulent activities that could likely happen amidst the corona pandemic. In order to be pro-active in approach, the Indonesian government increased monitoring and inspections of procurement of goods and services for accountability, effectiveness and transparency. Implementation of the procurement of goods and services procedure was also audited and if fraud was detected in accordance with the contract agreement, the contractor was subjected to sanctions. Government contractors were supervised by the Government Financial Supervising Agency which provided assistance in the implementation of procurement. It is noteworthy pointing that the Indonesian Anti- Corruption Behavior Index (IPAK) recorded 359 corruption cases from 2004 to 2019 and indicated that 2020 may have an increase in reported cases in comparison to 2019 which had 3.84 cases of corruption (on a scale of 0 to 5). Indonesia relied on Civil Law articles on Criminal Act of the Corruption Eradication Commission Circular No 8 of 220 concerning procurement of goods and services for the disclosure of public information as a form of transparency and accountability, imposition of strict sanctions on fraudulent contractors who breached contract agreement, and implementation of good faith and ethical principles during the procurement of goods and services to curb corruption in Indonesia.

As the corona pandemic raged on, Veins and Eyawo [45] postulated that decades of corruption that left health systems, particularly health systems of the developing world that had been underfunded for a long time, inadequately staffed, and insufficiently regulated would likely experience dire overwhelming of facilities that could be catastrophic. Dincer and Gillanders [46] also posited that poor health infrastructure and endemic corruption would make it difficult for low income communities and developing economies to contain the virus through the public health system necessitating the developed economies to step in to assist these nations. Evidently, failure to build quality health systems and to rightfully equip them by many nations was visible when many people became sick from the virus and required hospital admission and oxygen. Shortages of ventilators, beds, personal protective clothing, and limited health personnel became glaringly visible thus overwhelming the already insufficiently equipped health systems. In some places, the sick were left unattended or returned home during the dire time that they required medical assistance. In some instances, the hospital had to choose who would be given a ventilator and who would be left to die. Yet in some countries, those in top leadership who became critically ill because of the virus were flown in private jets to neighboring countries or to developed countries because they understood fully well that the state of local medical facilities was inadequate and wanting as these facilities were poorly funded, understaffed and ill equipped. Veins and Eyawo [45] point that lockdowns, travel bans, and airport closures prevented the elite from being flown to the developed world to receive high quality care in countries with functional health care systems- something that was normally done when they were ill. COVID 19, according to Veins and Eyawo [45], made it clear that health vulnerability is for everyone and prioritization of health funding should be at the fore front of governments in the developing economies in order to have effective health systems and integrated pandemic preparedness structures. Despite the challenges experienced in all the countries world-wide, all nations, including developing nations, would forever be grateful for the selfless health care workers who were at the fore front of the pandemic. True, many of them succumbed to death in their line of duty by contracting the virus and this should be seen as a lesson of resolve to well equip, fully train, fully staff and remunerate health personnel in order to ensure that lives are not placed at risk for nothing. Had nations properly built, equipped and resourced health facilities and hospitals some of the deaths could not have occurred at a larger scale and could have been contained or alleviated.

Besides the current corona virus pandemic, the financial meltdown in Greece in 2015 left the economy on its knees while many multinational companies pulled out of the country. Even more, the 2007–2008 financial crises that rocked the USA left many economies affected and numerous organizations closing down. Scholars posit that crises leave painful emotions like sadness, worry, and confusion that linger questions of whether such an event could have been prevented [47]. Crises also leave organizations with a vacuum of pondering on the theoretical framework that could have been established or pursued to curtail disruptions. It should be noted that predicting when and where crises will occur is difficult. Even more complicated is planning for the effects of crisis because there is basically a lack of precise information about the course to follow when crisis occur [48]. Indeed even if it is generally not clearly foreseeable when and how crisis would occur, but a crisis management plan is required to comprehensively manage the situation and apply an integrated approach [49] in order to curb a disastrous overwhelming impact on the community and the nation. The current corona virus pandemic led to many pharmaceutical companies rushing to develop vaccines while nations queued to secure doses for their people especially for the health workers in the frontline.

2.3 Workplace incivility; stigmatization

Organizations just like communities cannot exist in environments where the law of the jungle prevails. Human civility matters a lot as it dictates basic principles of simple personal behaviors during communication, interaction with others, actions that could be done and those that should be avoided. Pearson, Andersson and Porath [50] point that civil behaviors help preserve norms for mutual respect at work, positive connection to others, building of relationships and having empathy for others. Incivility on the contrary, entails exposing of uncivil behaviors including rudeness, erosion of empathy, uncooperativeness and mistreatment of others that might lead to disconnection and breach in relationships. Uncivil behaviors in organizations could start as unsavory jokes that could later on translate to negative patterns of behavior that may include bullying and even physical violence [51]. Uncivil behavior could result in a hostile environment that is not conducive to employee learning and development [52]. Such behaviors may have negative impact on witnesses and those who directly experience such incidents. It is important to note that every organization has standards of moral understanding that members hold dearly to. Therefore, violations of these standards could result in incivility [50]. Acts of incivility could include having one’s credibility undermined in front of the others, being excluded from a meeting that you regularly attend, neglecting to greet others, cutting off someone on the telephone line while they are speaking with you, leaving trash for someone else to pick, a sarcastic remark by a supervisor in the presence of the subordinate’s peer group [50]. Research conducted by Pearson et al. [50], indicates that rudeness is on the rise and is influenced by the changing nature of work, complexities and fragmentation of workplace relationships, overwhelming use of digitalized telecommunications, teleconferencing, including overbearing workload and time pressure. In a study conducted by Pearson et al. [50], one supervisor responded by saying that; ‘how can I take time to thank each of my subordinates for a job well done when I have five deadlines to meet, four meetings to attend, and a spouse and two kids at home who need to be fed dinner?’ Building of interpersonal relations, understanding of workplace incivility, using different modes of communication to reach out to group members could help with the building of long lasting relationships with peers, subordinates and other stakeholders.

Uncivil workplace behaviors could carry financial costs including costs for absenteeism, turnover, legal action, and reduced productivity [51]. Research by Pearson, Andersson and Porath [50] indicated that 70% of males in comparison to 30% of females were more likely to be involved in acts of incivility. While men were more likely to target someone of lower status to them, women were more likely to target their supervisors but less likely to target their peers. It is noteworthy mentioning that acts of aggression go beyond incivility. According to the US Department of Justice, workplace violence could include incidents of physical/emotional abuse, bullying, harassment, threats, extortion, stalking, theft/robbery, assaults, kidnapping, rape, homicide, terrorist activity and mass murders [53, 54]. Uncivil work environment could lead to poor employee health, low job satisfaction, low organizational productivity and commitment, high employee turnover, and poor application of learning at work [55, 56, 57, 58]. Whether instituted by men or women, but incidents of workplace uncivil behaviors should worry and concern HRD practitioners hence HRD could help the organization to put in place systems for dialoging and resolving such issues amicably.

Supervisors could also engage in destructive behaviors by displaying hostile verbal and non-verbal behaviors, excluding physical contact in order to prevent personal goal attainment of followers [59, 60]. The destructive behaviors of people in leadership positions have often been referred to as abusive supervision [60]. In a study conducted by Schilling [59], 42 managers were asked about their conceptions of negative leadership, its antecedents and consequences. Results show that the concept of negative leadership is associated with eight behavioral categories of insincerity, despotic, exploitive, and restrictive, failure, laissez-faire, and active and passive avoiding leadership [59]. To achieve the destructive goal, the supervisor could develop authoritarian rule over his followers using every kind of measure to achieve obedience and submission. I.e. the supervisor could use commanding, ridiculing, lying, or humiliating [59] tactics to achieve the destructive goal over followers. Tepper et al. [61] posit that supervisors who are exposed to procedural injustice in the organization are more likely to experience depression and behave abusively towards their followers whom they perceive as vulnerable and/ or provocative. Tepper et al. [61] summarizes that subordinates who experience the abusive wrath of the supervisor could be less satisfied with their jobs, less committed to the organization, less trusting of their co-workers, more psychologically distressed, more resistant to supervisor’s influence and less willing to perform pro-social organizational behaviors. Ashforth [62] describes such supervisors as petty tyrants who revert to oppressive, capricious, and vindictive use of formal power and authority which, in essence, reveals the arbitrariness and small mindedness of the actor. Such behaviors have destructive consequences to the organization and in the long run contribute to corporate downfall [59]. Scholars posit that, apart from individuals experiencing lowered self esteem, insecurity, fear and doubt about the worthiness of the supervisor, the organization could also be affected from conflict escalation, negative team spirit, and destructive organizational climate that could lead to high rates of employee turnover and sickness due to stress and excessive work load [59, 61]. To prevent destructive leadership behaviors, organizations could support leaders through counseling programs in order to help them cope with pressure and personal stress associated with their job. Encouragement of building communication channels and encouragement of constructive feedback could also be used to build good relations. Joint problem solving, team work and peer networking could provide mechanism for building good relations. Concepts of negative leadership, workplace incivility and stigmatization could be included in leadership development programs, workplace attitudinal surveys, seminars and workshops to sensitize leadership and discuss such issues with depth in order to find common ground of understanding through dialog.

Employees may be subjected to stigmatization in the organization. Stigmatization could originate outside the organization or could originate from workplace issues and incidents [63]. It should be noted that in spite of its origin, stigmatization could bring harmful effects to the employee and the organization. Stigma could trigger negative attitude, beliefs and emotions. Those holding on to stigma may deny others opportunities through stigmatization. Furthermore, stigmatized individuals could be subjected to discrimination including bullying, harassment, and social rejection [63]. For example, an employee with a mental illness could come to believe that she/he is less competent than others and that she/he does not deserve advancement opportunities- a kind of thinking that could be the result of being subjected to stigmatization and social rejection. Similarly, a person with arrest or criminal record could be unfairly excluded from employment and as a result could revert to criminal acts [63]. Other individuals in the organization could face stigmatization because of certain diseases and health issues. Scholars posit that coping with stigma may be a ‘draining process that ultimately hurts individuals [63]. Because of the destruction and disruptions associated with stigmatization, organizations could strive to promote socially valued behaviors. Organization could create a friendly work environment where all individuals could internalize their ideals and strive to live their personal identities without harassment. Leaders and employees could all cultivate humility consequently developing a spirit of tolerance, inclusion, acceptance and compassion to fellow workers. Scholars posit that leaders’ humility is still viewed as a rare personality trait that somewhat mysteriously produces favorable organizational outcomes [64]. By cultivating humility, it could be speculated that leaders and employees would help create a friendly work environment that is conducive and inclusive to all employees irrespective of their backgrounds, personal identities, religion, race or creed.

2.4 Globalization; resistance to change; management failure

Though globalization has turned the world into a ‘global village’, but some scholars look at globalization with skepticism [65]. These scholars quickly point that globalization has altered the competition landscape of firms resulting in growth or decline. Such scholars view globalization as a process that is beneficial to some organizations while on the flip side capable of brewing hostility, fear and increased inequality within and between the nations. Scholars posit that globalization also threatened employment, living standards and even thwarted social progress of others [65]. Other scholars, however, contend that many organizations fail because they “fail to anticipate, recognize, avoid, neutralize or adapt to external or internal pressures that threaten their long term survival [66]. Such organizations gradually slide to low levels of innovation to meet market demands consequently experiencing slow growth, low risk aversion, liquidation of subsidiaries and conservatism. The following organization illustrates vividly, this line of thought. In Innovation Generation: Creating an Innovation Process and an Innovative Culture(2008) Merrill [67] tells a story about a company called Ashton Brothers that made baby nappies called Zorbit nappies. The story is as follows;

They had the most powerful brand in the baby care industry. They had been incredibly profitable, year in year out, for nearly a century. The CEO was an accountant and rejected the innovative move to disposables. This could not be justified given their huge investment in terry weaving machines. That investment had to be recouped. Terry cloth was “what we do well” at Ashton Brothers…. The global trend on disposables was moving like a juggernaut. The Zorbit nappy business, after nearly a century of success, crashed and burned in two years. The brand disappeared overnight and became synonymous with “yesterday”. The new generation of mothers was no longer interested in hanging a dozen bright white terry napkins on the washing line in the back yard. Washing napkins was no longer an “act of love” for the new born. It was now domestic imprisonment. …It was too late for Zorbit [67].

One realizes that failure to “read” the fine lines of market demands and accept that new mothers no longer wanted to use terry white nappies and preferred something that would be convenient brought Ashton Brothers to its perilous ending; now Zorbit nappies is history. The ability to read the external environment and meet market demands are crucial for organizational sustainability and continuous growth.

Resistance to change, centralization and scape goating of leaders are some of the primary symptoms that could be attributed to organizational decline [68]. Probst and Raisch [69] point that some once prosperous companies collapsed at the height of their success as they were affected on areas of growth, change in leadership and organizational culture. In most cases such companies grew and changed too quickly, had too powerful managers or nurtured an excessive success culture [69]. The Ashton Brothers nurtured on past successes of nearly a century and anticipated to be around, probably until Kingdom come; because ‘they offered the best terry nappies’. By investing in more weaving machines the company thought that it was a way of cementing its long standing positon in the market - unfortunately the market had taken a different direction that the company could have adjusted and adapted in order to maintain their presence in the market.. The crushing down of Ashton Brothers because of failure to adjust and to meet market demands, compounded by having a rigid CEO who invested in more terry sewing machines before ‘reading’ the market is a clear example to all organization in these turbulent times that control of the market today does not guarantee tomorrow’s success; instead, assessing the market is crucial to meeting customer needs, subsequently staying afloat.

Other scholars argue that organizational failure could be attributed to unfortunate events in the firms’ external environment that does not imply management ineffectiveness or inefficiency [70]. These scholars suggest that organizational performance and failures are the outcomes of a process of ‘natural selection’ whereby those firms that do not fit the environment got ‘selected out’ and died [71]. Such reasoning could be correct for certain industries but not for all. For example, it could be incorrect to speculate that in the airline industries, well managed airlines in Africa with robust strategies like South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways continued growing while other national airlines like Ghana Airways, Cameroon Airlines, Zambia Airways, Air Afrique, Nigeria Airways and Uganda Airlines collapsed because of natural selection. In the case of state owned airlines, it was suggested that in general, factors that could contribute to their decline among others were excessive bureaucracy, poor management, lack of clear strategy, over staffing, political interventions and undercapitalization [72]. In concluding a study on the collapse of Ghana Airways, Amankwah-Amoah and Yaw [72], pointed that the frequent changes of executives was largely due to the deep seated problems of political interferences in the firm. In the study conducted by Amankwah-Amoah and Yaw [72], majority of the respondents attributed the high staff turnover at executive level to government’s interference on management operations of the airline. It could be contended that majority of countries in Africa would relate to the statement made by Amankwah-Amoah and Yaw [72]. It is therefore fitting to reason that, selection of leadership for high organizational positons should be based on meritocracy, good performance and experience above everything else. Such leader would have the capability to assert themselves against internal and external pressures, coupled with possession of acumen to change direction when the environment changes. Probst and Raisch [69] posit that a good organizational leader often changes directions. Studies have suggested that sustained organizational decline is often associated with lack of managerial foresight and failure of the top management team to respond to changes in the external environment [73, 74]. Debrah and Toroitich [75] suggest that monopoly status and the lack of checks and balances contribute to the performance decline of some state owned firms. Similarly, ineffective boards with directors chosen through the influence of the CEO could fail to provide the necessary checks and balances. Therefore organizations need to rise beyond politics of the day by nominating effective leadership and board members who would positively guide firm strategies and growth in order to attain success. Such leadership would rise beyond organizational challenges and assess environmental temperament while using their competencies, intellect and acumen to steer the firm into rightful directions.

The ability to read the internal and external environmental factors and the repositioning of the organization basing on market demands requires creativity and innovation. According to Skarzynski and Gibson [76] companies should always keep the momentum of innovation even during their dark moments. The example of Whirlpool, a North American manufacturing company of home appliances provides the illustration:

When its fledgling innovation system was beginning to show its first serious results, the organization was hit by the largest spike in commodity prices in history. Suddenly, in a single year, CEO Jeff Fettig had to swallow an additional $700million in material costs. …. The trick, as Whirlpool discovered, was to be able to shift some weight to one end of the rope for a year or so- to let the organization concentrate temporarily on cost reduction- without completely losing the tension from the innovation side…. What Whirlpool learned was that even in the face of intense cost cutting, the momentum and credibility of a company’s innovation activities must be kept alive. People need to see that while innovation has been temporarily scaled back, it is definitely not gone. Some tactics for achieving this included:

  • Preservation of the organization’s innovation infrastructure (i.e., vice presidents of innovation, discovery teams, innovation boards…..

  • Continuation of public recognition of innovators (i.e., through award ceremonies)

  • Making a clear statement of commitment by keeping some of the company’s best people focused on future opportunities

  • Publicly and explicitly talking about the tension between innovation and efficiency [76]

Whirlpool’s survival indicates that the momentum of innovation should never be lost even when an organization is going through turbulent times because that is what could resuscitate the organization later on. Maintenance of the innovation momentum even during turbulent times by balancing the scale of attending to crisis while at the same time holding on to the innovation strategies is crucial for survival. Whirlpool had well developed innovation systems and processes and when former Whirlpool CEO David Whitwam announced his vision of “Innovation from Everyone and Everywhere”, he simultaneously took on the role of ‘Chief Innovation Officer” of the company [76]. Therefore, organizational leadership could play a crucial role in setting the innovation culture and taking the lead in walking the talk just like David Whitwam. Organizations could synchronize their processes, metrics, and structures over a period of years despite economic ups and downs. This synchronicity could bring coherence to the organization ultimately innovation could become an organization’s character, part of its essence [76]. Skarzynski and Gibson [76] point that organizations must recognize…practices, policies, and processes inside their organizations that are toxic to innovation and remove them. Leadership need to realize that building a truly innovative company is not a matter of simply asking people to be more innovative but a matter of positively changing those things that today diminish or stunt the organization’s innovation potential [76]. HRD has the potentialities of identifying and pointing at organizational toxicities that hinder organizational progress and stunt organizational growth and sustainability. Such toxic practices or behaviors should be corrected. HRD professionals should function like plumbers by seeking blockages in the system in order to remove these blockages and allowing smooth organizational operations to take off.

3. Crucial implication to the field of HRD

The muddy realities that organizations find themselves steeped into require multidisciplinary approaches in order to find long lasting solutions that could be sustainable. Therefore, as organizational environments become more complex and complicated, and organizations find themselves inside the muddy pools of challenges, HRD could aid these organizations by using strategies and interventions that could appropriately address organizational challenges. Scholars posit that it is important for the HRD profession during challenging times to step up into the global podium to address issues of managing change by supporting managers through the provision of relevant programs that could help organizations to become more competitive and sustainable [77]. Holton III and Yamkovenko [78] assert that the time is right for the field of HRD to consider an even broader platform for continuous growth and evolution. “On the one hand, we believe that organizations are continuing to demand even more of HRD professionals as knowledge and expertise continue to grow as the key source of competitive advantage” ([78], p. 271). Ngcobo [79] in analyzing Maritime Educational Institutions in South Africa concluded that South Africa has a potential to advance seafarers both in the region and internationally but could only achieve that through development of human resources in universities, investment in infrastructure and benchmarking from developed economies for maritime technological advancement.

HRD could also make a strong positive contribution to the development and implementation of interventions that could facilitate learning and reduce the likelihood of corruption, uncivil behaviors, organizational crisis and scandals, stigmatization and leadership mismanagement. HRD could provide leadership development programs that could develop creative and innovative skills for global competitiveness. Williams and Foti [80], point that organizations could directly stimulate innovation through formal development programs. Similarly, leadership entrepreneurial capabilities could be developed so that leaders could successfully deal with organizational competitive environments [81]. It is noteworthy mentioning that competitive environments of today should not necessarily be viewed as an evil undertaking but a means of providing customers with alternatives and better products. For example, the introduction of pampers nappies saw the Ashton Brothers go under the bridge after serving the market for over half a century. The perilous ending was brought by market demands for a more convenient product. The new mom, now, a working lady, could not be conveniently served and sustained by Zorbit nappies. Basing on the terry nappies story, it could be stated that competing on innovativeness and product quality is a noble undertaking that could provide the world with convenient products that take cognizance of the needs of the populace and their circumstances. HRD could help organizations create conducive climate for innovation, implement various programs including ethics programs, coaching and mentoring programs, corporate digital communication platforms, employee voice providing mechanisms and forums, employee reskilling programs, remote work adaptation and digital communication programs, and talent management among others.

Even more, HRD could develop leadership development programs (LDPs) that aim at the provision of current and future leaders with new perspectives of leadership. The corona virus pandemic exposed leadership unpreparedness and indecisiveness in handling the pandemic during the initial stages hence the finger-pointing and the blame game robbed nations of precious time that could have been fruitfully used for joint collaboration and team work during the initial stages. It is hoped that such crisis mismanagement episodes provided a learning curve to all those in leadership. Shuck and Herd [82] point that leading requires new perspectives of leadership as well as new scaffolding of understanding the complexities of leadership in an evolving landscape; one that maintains varying levels of identity simultaneously. LDPs could include management of crisis, diversity and inclusion, remote working; creativity and innovation; workplace adaptability and work-life balance in order to address current organizational crisis. Kormanik and Rajan [83] assert that managing diversity entails managing in a way that is designed to fully realize the potential benefits that differences could bring to the workplace. Leadership that is open entails being aware of differences in behavior, leveraging strengths, acknowledging biases/prejudices, avoiding assumptions, and focusing on merit. Calls for leadership’ humility intensified in the wake of corporate scandals that were attributed to unbridled egos, hubris, sense of entitlement and self importance of corporate executives [4]. HRD could develop LDPs that would take cognizance of leadership behaviors, organizational environment of operation, external pressures as well as envisaged strategic directions, values and the culture that the organization would like to build.

Organizational crisis are areas of inquiry for HRD. Hutchins [47] posits that HRD could offer many opportunities for enhancing organizational crisis management practices. HRD could be at the fore front through the provision of contextualized training programs that address organizational challenges, and help organizations use multidisciplinary approaches and digitalized learning platforms. The current corona virus pandemic that is sweeping across the globe unabated has exposed weaknesses in the majority of our leadership and their unpreparedness at handling national and global crisis meticulously. The pandemic punched holes of unpreparedness that were left gaping and exposed the failure to have communication strategies in place; crises management plans and enough funding and resources to mitigate crises. HRD could facilitate organizational plans that could include crisis management teams, crises budget and funding, crises communication processes, crises training, drills and simulation. HRD could participate by bringing together crises management communication structures and lobbying for funding and development of standards of operating procedures. It should be noted that through multidisciplinary approaches, HRD could bring all stakeholders together in order to forge a holistic approach that addresses the crises. Emphasis could be on multiple stakeholder approach and continuous learning. Rusaw and Rusaw [84] posit that, an effective crises management program could promote flexible leadership and organizational structures to respond effectively and efficiently during emergencies while promoting openness in participation and multiple formats. This flexibility, it could be opined, could be crucial in order to listen to all voices of reason. The flexibility could also allow experts on the issue to lead and guide the resolution of the crises while networking and working collaboratively with colleagues globally could also allow learning from best practices and approaches since crises may take different forms and shapes that have not been experienced before.

One of the submissions of the 2021 Academy of Human Resources Development (AHRD) scholar-practitioner nomination award was entitled, “Using HRD Research-to-Practice Frameworks to Mitigate COVID-19 in US Hospitals: Deploying Action Research Strategies in the Coronavirus Pandemic”Through the submission, De Georgeo et al. [85] provided a vivid example of the role that HRD could assume during times of crises. Working with US Midwestern based hospitals of the Allina Health System; these HRD scholars provided interventions that resulted in increased knowledge of efficient usage of personal protective clothing and defined risk zones. These efforts resulted in lowered risks of self-contamination by less frequent doffing and containment of the COVID 19 patients in specific units to limit hospital-wide outbreaks. Basing on the analysis of the submission by De Georgeo et al. [85], the conclusion reached was that the team demonstrated crucial role requirements and expectations of HRD in times of crisis in terms of identification of blockages in the system and removing these for smoothening operations.

This chapter also addressed uncivil work behaviors, stigmatization and the ill-treatment of whistle blowers. The chapter suggests that through multiple stakeholder approach, HRD could dialog with relevant stakeholders, and design training and counseling services that could address uncivil behaviors [51] and aftermaths of traumatic experiences of violence in the workplace. HRD could also promote local participation to crack down corruption by using public education forums and speaking out against corruption during social gatherings [7]. HRD could also help with the development of anti-corruption knowledge centers and ethical programs for the workplace. Even more, authentic leadership training could ensure that at the helm of organizations there are responsible and ethical men and women who shun corruption and corrupt practicing behaviors and instead choose to lead organizations through integrity and ethical behaviors.

HRD practitioners could also cultivate a culture of networking and collaboration by promoting the use of latest technology to internally integrate organizational members and also to external link with key stakeholders. The use of virtual technologies [86] could provide opportunities of learning organizational culture, organizational expectations and model corporate communication style [87]. As the corona virus raged on, the use of digitalized communication platforms including chat rooms, news feeds, remote meeting platforms, skype and emails for reaching all employees was crucial for organizational communication, continuity and sustainability. Even though digitalized technologies have been in existence for a while, there was no urgency for organizations to adapt to their usage. The corona virus pandemic aftermath should be ‘credited’ with the elevation of digitalized platforms for remote working in order to ensure organizational continuity and sustainability. These digitalized channels, even though they became ‘fashionable’ because of the unwavering nature of the pandemic but it appears that their usage would in some way mark new organizational working styles that were not previously utilized. More importantly, the digitalized platforms have opened new communication channels and cultures that value the sharing of information with employees, listening to all voices of reason and the learning of self-management and self-evaluation of performance. Therefore, through virtual communication channels, individuals, groups, teams and top management could get information about new ideas, new techniques and current important issues so that both the left and right side of the brain of the company would know what is taking place. If after the pandemic, it becomes evidently clear that a good percentage of remote working employees self-managed and achieved work plans, daily activities and the quality of their performance was above average, probably, this could signal that instead of micro-managing employees in the office, it would be ideal for remote work to be given a chance as one of the employees’ working platforms. Not only would remote working lessen traffic jams and reduce the number of daily commuters on the road but it would also lessen car emissions experienced on the roads.

During the pandemic, many employees worked remotely from home in order to social distance, observe laid down national protocols, or were socially isolating under observation. Needlessly, all these remote workers required effective guidance from team leaders and supervisors in order to achieve results. Previously, face to face meetings in the office or boardroom were conveniently used and all could read facial cues and body language. Unfortunately, that was not the case with remote working. However, many organizations continued functioning even during turbulent times hence the ability to manage virtual teams is inevitable and cannot be avoided. HRD could provide more ways on how virtual teams could be effectively managed in order to achieve organizational goals. Virtual team leaders could require retooling in order to become supportive to the remotely working employees. Remote workers could require support during the development of their work plans and setting of key performance indicators and action plans. Simultaneously, employees could be developed through e-learning programs so that they transition to the ‘new normal’ and embrace the status quo of remote work. Through implementation of rightful programs and techniques, employees could be guided to develop new work plans and performance targets. If work expectations and communication channels are clearly communicated and understood, remote working could become a ‘new norm’ for majority of workers.

Maintenance of work-life balance, even during periods of remote working amidst a raging pandemic is necessary in order to avoid burnout. Employees could be assisted so that they do not become overly overwhelmed by the ‘isolation’ or overworking themselves to the state of reaching fatigue. Since more time is spared because there is no longer time lost while commuting to work, the use of this extra time could be rewarding as leisure activities like cooking, exercising, gardening, crocheting and painting could be valuable time well spent. The ‘resuscitation’ of ‘old’ hobbies that could have been abandoned during periods of work pressure and the lingering on through traffic jams for hours coupled with unending office meetings and office politics could spell healthier lifestyle and the ushering in of effective work-life balance equilibrium that was not in place before.

More importantly, the good part of being with the family and the maintenance of healthier lifestyles including eating homemade freshly cooked foods could be viewed in a positive and appealing light. The organization too could probably relearn to learn that an ‘office’ does not mean a literal space but could be ‘a virtual platform’ where all members meet during meetings and discussions. Management of a literal office with all equipment, furniture and maintenance costs could in-fact safe office rental money, including having less or no utilities payments. Even more, as digitalized platforms become familiar to all, organizations could tap into the global talent pool which could diversify the organizational talent and human resources.

HRD has the potentialities to conduct empirical research on topics of corruption, workplace incivility, violence, crisis and scandals to better understand the nature, magnitude, and outcomes of these issues and the extent to which they impact individuals and organizations. HRD professionals could develop appropriate strategies that reduce the likelihood of these unsavory behaviors from recurring. Ghosh et al., [51] posit that HRD could conduct exploratory studies that capture overall status of individual and organizational awareness on the issue of violence and provide preliminary evidence in order to develop theoretical framework. For example, studies point that there has been a relative neglect of research on stigmatization in organizations and work settings [63]. Estes and Wang [88] posit that the phenomenon of uncivil workplace behavior has been largely overlooked by the field of HRD. Therefore the field of HRD has a lot to offer the world in terms of development of empirical research studies to address organizational pressing issues including research on stigmatization, workplace incivility, and organizational corruption. Research findings could provide HRD with opportunities to institute contextualized programs that address encountered challenges.

4. Conclusion

The muddy pools that organizations are steeped in prove that workforce management is a complex and multifaceted role that requires flexibility and adaptability to environmental situations. It requires leadership that could discern and interpret market demands and continuously remodel the organization so that it could adapt to environmental changes like a chameleon. Scholars have a moral imperative to guide leaders, employees and stakeholders through a robust evidence on mechanisms that could help tackle global problems [89]. The field of HRD does not function in an island and ‘requires a new paradigmatic shift to continue its growth and evolution’ [78]. HRD professionals and practitioners could critically reflect on their own potential culpability in the global crisis and their roles and responsibilities in a post crisis environment [90]. HRD cannot just be a support function, [78], but could show that it has the ability to directly contribute to organizational financial outcomes, organizational competitiveness and effectiveness including addressing organizational social ills with other disciplines. Gubbins and Garavan [91] posit that HRD practitioners could work on more complex problems such as change initiatives rather than concentrating on training programs. It should be noted that by bringing relevant stakeholders together, HRD would not necessarily be assuming the ‘jack of all trades persona’ but through coordination of activities, HRD could bring together rightful stakeholders for multidisciplinary approach in resolving of issues and the use of diverse expertise in order to address organizational challenges from different perspectives. De Man et al. [92] posit that collaborative research is beneficial and would allow both Scholars and Practitioners to research on topics that are common to both groups. HRD practitioners therefore, could create platforms for interaction with various organizational departments, functions and groups and individuals in order to manage projects and activities. By assuming a bigger organizational role, HRD could dive into the muddy pool of organizational realities and not take the ostrich defense from the sidelines- HRD sees and hears and cannot take an ostrich defense. HRD could open new research pathways and avenues for the understanding of different environmental climates and for the development of appropriate interventions that could support both leadership and the workforce to become flexible and adaptive to environmental dynamics of organizational operations.

N.B. Original article presented at the 2016 AHRD International Research Conference in the Americas, February 18–20, at Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

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Kebafentse Tshiamo Modisane (May 4th 2021). Muddy Realities of Organizational Existence: Should HRD Dive in or Take an Ostrich Defense from the Sidelines? Review of Literature, Framework Development and Future [Online First], IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.97122. Available from:

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