The Stifling Impact of ‘Mirandisation’ on Organisations

How it creates an invisible barrier to effective organisational culture  

Miranda Warnings/Miranda Rights are given to suspected criminals by the police in the US at the time of their formal arrest or during custodial interrogation.  Key elements of the respective administration are as follows:

Miranda Warning

Miranda Warning

However, such aspects also thrive within corporate entities prone to regimented control for ingraining the desired organisational culture within the workforce.  Let’s explore these elements to see how they permeate into the organisational fabric and create an invisible barrier to establishing a truly binding corporate culture.

You have the right to remain silent

The expectation of being good ‘team players’ starts from the vacancy ads that generally provide the list of key behaviours from prospective candidates aspiring to become the next generation of inducted talent.

This is further reinforced by enthusiastic proponents of prevalent organisational culture during formal onboarding and informal office conversations.  Such ‘norms’ are also actively promoted by supervisors and executives to ensure a healthy cohesive spirit in achieving organisational harmony.

However, this type of ‘corporate bonding’ is often tested in extenuating circumstances, e.g., the prospect of ‘whistle-blowing’ in case of an ethical conflict.  Predominantly, key influencers (such as  career counselors, mentors, colleagues, peers, family, etc) vehemently oppose any measures that can jeopardise a conscientious professional’s foreseeable career progression.  Consequently, ethical misgivings are routinely sacrificed to livelihood and safety concerns at the altar of pragmatism by ‘sound’ professionals.

This emboldens the principle of upholding the right of remaining silent under the banner of professionalism and is generally seen as one of the key traits for rising up the career ladder.  The downsides of such an approach are often managed as ‘acceptable risks’ in the ‘greater interest’ of all concerned.

Onboarding processes are generally designed for efficiency and effectiveness in imparting the necessary knowledge to new employees about the foundational elements of working in an organisation.

Consequently, the germination of a systematic corporate maleficence starts under the watch of a ‘gambling’ senior management and the foundation of a debilitating corporate scandal is unceremoniously laid.  Such challenges are becoming disturbingly common in a digitally connected world that barely offers any solace to those unwilling to bend the rules to their advantage while ‘corporate watchdogs’ are faced with the dilemma of finding an optimum balance between the institutionalisation of ‘restrictive’ laws and ‘facilitative’ laws in a precarious economic environment.

Anything you say will and can be used against you in a court of law

Every employee in an organisation with a formal Human Resources/Talent Management function is introduced to a set of policies/procedures/processes that are to be followed in prescribed conditions.  Some of these references pertain to disciplinary issues on account of any unauthorised actions including:

  • breaches of confidentiality;
  • copyright violations;
  • behavioral transgressions; and
  • corporate espionage, etc.

However, the extent of control exercised over unsuspecting employees may go beyond the permitted areas within the applicable legal framework(s), especially, in cases of privacy and discriminatory practices.

Generally, relief is available to employees through courts. However, such initiatives are often not pursued by the vast majority of employees to safeguard their future career prospects since background checking has become the norm in the recruitment industry and any indication of a ‘problem’ with a previous employer can signal the closure of promising advancement opportunities.

Additionally, the ‘army’ of lawyers retained by well-resourced corporate entities ensures that any chance of a damaging lawsuit is dealt discretely and effectively before entering the public domain and tarnishing the employer brand.  This may take the form of tacit intimidation of the hapless employees who are offered a ‘respectable’ exit with a ‘reasonable’ severance package tied to a ‘legally watertight’ and ‘heavily punitive’ confidentiality agreement, rather than, face the prospect of getting drenched in a legal downpour and suffering irreparable damage to professional reputation while forfeiting the prospects of a dignified career resurrection elsewhere.  Quite often, a firm handshake with a wry smile and labored signing of necessary documents seals such ‘backdoor’ understandings.

You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you

Progressive organisations frequently portray themselves as bastions of workplace harmony by pointing out employee-friendly practices that have resulted in strengthening the working environment.  Their claim is often backed up by ‘glowing’ employee surveys that serve as magnets for future talent and become the preferred fodder for management consultants/eminent academics/benchmarking companies/envious competitors as shining examples of an organisation that truly cares about the wellbeing of their team members and is firmly focused on achieving organisational excellence.

However, the truth of such claims is securely hidden behind ‘corporate handcuffs’ that are worn by every employee upon signing the relevant employment contract that is heavily laden with legal jargon or is subservient to a set of rules in written or online form that can only be discovered by very few astute and determined researchers/analysts.

Sadly, even the best of efforts are sometimes not enough to uncover the disturbing details of what goes on behind the corporate walls before disaster strikes the unsuspecting legions of admirers and oblivious stakeholders.

For example, Enron was named America’s Most Innovative Company for six consecutive years by Fortune magazine prior to its sordid fall from the pantheon of richly admired corporate leaders.  Employees in such ‘enterprising’ organisations are often given the ‘free will’ to explore internal/external ‘counselor’ services to resolve their grievances with the lure of a ‘whistle-blower’ hotline.

The aforementioned challenges have been highlighted to indicate how ‘Mirandisation’ haunts even the best of intentions for effective running of progressive organisations.

However, such ‘magnanimous’ offers are generally seen as ‘poison pills’ by astute career-minded professionals who prefer to exit gracefully, rather than, stay ethically conflicted in dubious circumstances or become embroiled in ‘draining’ litigation with low probability of speedy resolution and a successful outcome.

Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?

Onboarding processes are generally designed for efficiency and effectiveness in imparting the necessary knowledge to new employees about the foundational elements of working in an organisation.  They reinforce the core values, guiding principles, work philosophies and facilitate acclimatisation with the key functional drivers within the respective corporate entity.

At all stages of indoctrination, formal and informal feedback is solicited to ensure that the desired level of understanding is achieved with respect to what it takes to be a ‘team member’ and the ‘expectations’ to have a fruitful career through the designated talent pipeline.

Such ‘programming’ is deemed necessary by progressive organisations to ensure that there is minimal chance of any unanticipated ‘disturbance’ in the workplace and the desired ‘cultural fit’ snugly covers all aspects of routine professional interactions.

This is also a mandatory part of the periodic performance reviews and employee conformance to such ‘entrenched norms’ forms one of the key considerations in positioning ‘High-Potentials (HIPO’s) as succession prospects for prime leadership positions.  Consequently, sagacious employees tend to maintain a dignified silence on thorny issues that might put them in the crosshairs of a fidgety senior management by adhering to the idiom of ‘fake it till you make it’, which is robust enough to withstand ‘open door policies’, ‘candid employee surveys’, ‘informal chats with peers’ and ‘incentivised forums for pointing out profound challenges’.

Consequently, all invitations to address simmering concerns about organisational culture are neatly channeled into ‘less contentious’ and ‘solvable’ areas of employee mandates under the comforting pretext of ‘effective’ employee engagement.  Unfortunately, this increases the blind spots of the placated senior management and fuels false hope of smoothly running a crumbling organization.

The aforementioned challenges have been highlighted to indicate how ‘Mirandisation’ haunts even the best of intentions for effective running of progressive organisations.  Such an ‘affliction’ also harkens the call for brutally honest and refreshingly enlightened introspection to reform management practices for preserving the sanctity of psychological contracts with dedicated employees and reinforcing a healthy cohesive corporate culture; a culture that can withstand the corrosive aspects of insular thinking and imprudent experimentation generally buoyed by ephemeral executive fads or legacy proclivities.

Inducted, existing and exiting employees are not prospective criminals and while Theory Y does provide them relief of ‘being innocent until proven guilty’, the practical manifestation of an accommodative approach is far from being the majority practice under the guise of a ‘unifying’ corporate culture.

The key hurdle for organisations to overcome remains the ‘unchaining’ of employees from the invisible shackles of limiting belief systems that prosper under the ‘religion’ of professionalism to create a palatable balance between strategic imperatives and humanistic concerns.  Hopefully, the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ can ‘illuminate the tunnel itself’ in future.

#mirandawarning #culture
(Statue image credit Createsima at freeimages.com)


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.

Author: Murad Salman Mirza

Murad Salman Mirza is an innovative thinker and an astute practitioner of areas within and associated with the fields of Organisational Development, Talent Management and Business Transformation. He has lived, studied and served in different regions of the world, including the US, Australia, South Asia and the Middle East. Murad has more than 15 years of multi-disciplinary experience and has rich exposure to multiple sectors within the corporate world. A Board Member with the US-based Global Diversity & Inclusion Foundation, he is also a columnist for Vertical Distinct.

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