Dig your own hole, sharpen your own shovel
We each — on a personal level — have to chose the work we do, if personal and company engagement is going to be aligned
In an earlier post (see Deep business culture eats shallow corporate culture), I took a somewhat different path to the question of reengagement in business. It’s well known that only 30% of the respondents to a recent study considered themselves engaged at work (see Why are disengaged employees disengaged?). My argument is that the usual prescriptions for dealing with this are off-center. Business has shifted the social contract with employees over the past decades, and in the interests of flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness, management theory has shifted to a looser relationship with employees; however, management rhetoric has not shifted to match, so false loyalty exists on both sides of the company-employee relationship.
As I wrote,
Imagine a time in the near future where organizational culture becomes ever more thin, as we switch to a new business ethos, a deeper one than any company — however large — can engender.
One of the primary motivations for this shift is the decreasing social contract between the company and the employee. We’re in a time when everyone is acknowledging the inutility of the false loyalties of business. The company wants loyal employees, but treats them as expendable in a downturn. Employees say they are committed to the company’s five year plan, but in secret disbelieve, and plan to take other work as soon as something better comes along. In such a climate, individuals are unlikely to take on the cultural trappings of an organization when they have little expectation of long-term employment, and companies have small incentives to grow their staff, or invest in their futures.
And, at the same time, people are increasingly likely to affiliate with others who share aspirations for personal development, and a shared belief that the most central goals have to be striving for mastery in your work, the autonomy to pursue and apply mastery, and gaining the regard of those that you respect. And those principles transcend any specific job or company, and the network of connections that encompasses those that we respect reaches past the walls of the business.
In this light, the re-engagement of the workforce is not likely to arise by management inducements to refocus workers’ attention on the company’s goals, at least not at first. We will first have to agree — as individuals, leaders, and organizations — that each person must re-engage with their own work.
I intend to explore the theme of a new ethos animating the deep culture of business in a series of posts over the coming weeks and perhaps months, this can be considered the next in that series.