Growing menace of pumpkin heads at workplaces
Designation : - Associate Professor-Business Management
Organization : - Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad
Other Writers : - Dr. Rajanikanth M - Assistant Professor-Business Management, Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad Centre
Pumpkin heads are an observable phenomenon but a vexing problem in organizations. The ubiquity of pumpkin heads is its inescapability in any human organization. Except for Peter's principle, not much of business academics talks about pumpkin heads. Pumpkin heads are neither good nor bad, but are highly unsuitable for a decision making position given their ordinariness from all perspectives, be it, value, or performance or skill or ability. Their commitment is just ordinary, never outstanding and thoroughly uninspired. Their focus is just to complete the work with minimal quality and sometimes middling quality. Ordinary commitment, with respect to pumpkin heads may involve interest or rigidity in select best practices and willingness to undertake a limited application with just enough effort to ensure an occasionally positive result. The commitment is too modest. A pumpkin head is not good and deep down inside and he/she understands it, therefore, they push away potential threats and take credit for success that is not theirs. However, the birth of a pumpkin head is always enigmatic.Pumpkin heads are either imposed by organizations or form as a result of poor internal decisions. It is imposed by organizations in the form of bureaucracy, incompetent leadership, territoriality (using space to communicate ownership), uncoordinated organization due to bounteous growth, or any other structural/socio-technical reason. Sometimes, they are a consequence of poor processes such as improper assessment during recruitment and selection, insufficient performance audit, inappropriate skill training, limited internal replacement choices, and so on. Sometimes, pumpkin heads result from a particular context in relation to others who are superior/inferior. Contextually, people rise to peaks of excellence or fall into abysmal incompetence. An able person in a particular trade/domain is rendered incompetent when he is promoted to a higher responsibility. If the organization fails to see this, incompetence is imposed. Sometimes organizations deliberately settle for pumpkin heads because of the confidence associated with the organization's brand. Alternatively, pumpkin head may be a personality trait, lack of latitude on the job, or a seniority based promotion, which contributes to ineffective performance.
Authority is helpful to suppress the enthusiasm of capable performers; often they are publicly ridiculed thereby pushing them into silent obscurity. Authority also helps form a strong informal set-up comprising gossips, rumours, manipulations, blame-games, biases and jealousies (communal and others), inaction, procrastination; all of them killing productivity and team work causing people and relationships to crumble down. Pumpkin Heads gradually get obsessed with power because only that helps them survive with ignorance. Thus, it manifests in the above forms causing exit of good employees and death of creativity, performance, and initiative. Tales carriers, gossip mongers, impression managers, loose talkers, manipulators, and bozos (jokers) begin to rule. Another consequence of pumpkin heads is that a company ends up with large number of inept employees, owing to a chain of ineffective and unproductive recruitments. This phenomenon is caused when an organization hires a pumpkin head, who in turn hires many more pumpkin heads who then hire incompetent workers. In accordance with the similar-to-me effect, it is a generally agreed notion that, high performers hire high performers while low performers hire similar or much lesser-abled employees. The reason behind such strings of low level recruitments can be attributed to the fact that it safeguards and upholds a sense of superiority amongst the pumpkin heads, thus eliminating their chances of endangerment from high performing peers and subordinates.
1. Absolute lack of knowledge on contemporary happenings, current affairs, or relevant matters leading to high level ignorance. Pumpkin heads give instructions with high level ignorance camouflaged as super confidence leading to deadly silence from passionate performers. Gradually, high performers quit the organization.
3. A Pumpkin head takes a visitor to cafeteria first which is located in a remote corner and then lectures on the indoor plants located outside the cafeteria.
5. Pumpkin heads are mostly eligible but not suitable. For instance, would a senior vice-president from Microsoft with a PhD in computer science be an ideal employee for a start-up? Also, would a PhD in a particular subject with zero research exposure and shallow knowledge on subject depth, and inadequate technical and conceptual skills, be an ideal director/principal for a university college? Not necessarily.
7. The success of a competitor upsets pumpkin heads more than the loss of a customer.
9. Pumpkin heads cannot adapt to emerging technologies or work processes/methods, thus, insist employees to work on age-old models/methods.
11. More than three people had to be consulted to spend less than $ 10 million in a bank.
Is there a method to curtail this problem? The symptoms of inefficiency and the associated maladies can be curtailed through a thorough behaviour modification programme which provides a clear structure and consequence to employees encouraging them to change in an observable and a structured time frame. Behaviour modification programme doesn't manage the individual but creates an environment that reinforces desired behaviour and strongly de-emphasizes punishment. Pumpkin styles should be allowed to extinguish through the withholding of reinforcement. The implementation of behaviour modification should typically be preceded by a performance audit because performance audit identifies unforeseen discrepancies. Is behaviour modification adequate to produce desired outcome? Can desired outcomes and contingent consequences be clearly defined in IT jobs, and AI jobs? In such cases, having contingent consequences attached to desired behaviour and/or outcomes should be an agreement between employee and employer. Out of this agreement, results may follow. However, at what cost? Would it build hope, confidence, and optimism or would it create resentment, tiredness, and entrapment? What if, attaching only contingent consequences might lead to pumpkin heads explosion? If they do not have best understanding about self, can they apply their best self at work? At this juncture money, feedback, and social recognition act as reinforcing factors. When feedback is combined with money, it increases performance as it helps discover self. The social mechanism is the method through which the contingent consequence (social recognition) is applied. For instance, a write-up about the employee in the company's newsletter is a social recognition. In a nutshell, four steps can be followed to modify pumpkin behaviours in organizations.
2. Perform Antecedent Behaviour Consequence.
4. Evaluate results.