As someone once said,” why“ people work, determines how hard they work!
Why then, do so many organisational leaders and managers find it so difficult to talk to organisational purpose and employees’ need for personal satisfaction from their work?
Why do leaders use the idea of “purpose” in recruitment and marketing campaigns, and then go silent on purpose inside the organisation? Why do the rest of us go along and dumb down our expectations instead of holding each other accountable to the importance of civility and integrity with stated values? When managers see and hear peers diminishing their direct reports, why do we standby and allow incivility to take root and its noxious psychic force throughout the organisation.
The absence of respect towards those we manage has been reported time and time again in employee engagement surveys, yet little has changed. Our experience running ethics workshops in traditional, as opposed to new workplaces, is that employees crave more civility, more focus on purpose, more opportunities to play to their strengths, to make sense of the disruptive changes engulfing workplaces and more help in gaining access t, the skills they need to stay employable. Today’s background context is one of growing anxiety that AI will eliminate traditional jobs and these employees may not be future fit.
In contrast, in new start-ups, a very different story is unfolding. Here the focus in on creating an organisational culture and conditions that enables employees to flourish and perform at their best. It begins by insisting on mutual respect at every level. It involves nurturing dynamic teams and collaborating across teams to pursue best outcomes for the organisation. Hierarchies have given way to a recognition that complementary skills are the best criteria for allocating roles. Here, relationships matter. They are purposely nurtured to ensure employees are accountable to each other. The pay, except in IT and AI, isn’t particularly good, but the focus on purpose and ensuring intrinsic satisfaction, by recognising and releasing individual talents, keeps employees committed and contributing.
Perhaps the most outstanding ethical challenge for traditional s workforce leaders who have failed to embrace purpose and intrinsic satisfaction, is that they are failing both their organisations and their people. They are not ethical leaders. The new start-ups show that there is an alternative management model that works for both employer and employee.
Despite the vast range of social and psychological science we have available to show exactly how to engage and motivate staff, Gallup reports only a 1/3 of Australian employees are engaged today. What a waste of human potential. What personal tragedies for the employee-victims concerned. Is this lack of leadership accountability to the people they lead sustainable in a #MeToo world? Is it time we all started talking about how mutually beneficial relationships at work are ethical and make good business sense?