In my article entitled “My Bottom Line,” I outlined the main things that I profess when I teach organizational behavior. The final three points on my list deal with partnership, performance, and caring. I firmly believe there is no substitute for performance, and no substitute for caring – these are our fundamental responsibilities of work. I also feel it is our responsibility to create interdependent, not dependent relationships with people at work.
One of the clearest thinkers on engagement is Tom Britt of Clemson University. I highly recommend his chapter entitled “Self-Engagement at Work” in the book Positive Organizational Behavior. Britt and his colleagues add something to the conversation on engagement that I think is missing from the way most others talk about it – personal responsibility.
Because employees who are engaged in their work feel a sense of personal responsibility for their job performance, the outcomes that occur at work have greater implications for their identity. Therefore, to be engaged in work is also to care about and be committed to performing well. (p.204).
Notice Britt asserts the self-engaged employee is committed to performing well, but he does NOT say that employee is committed to YOUR organization. Britt makes that point clear in this research brief “Engaged employees are good, but don’t count on commitment.”
Is the organization’s responsibility to create engaged employees, or is the organization’s responsibility to provide the systems and resources where self-engaged employees can thrive?
Here is my concern: if we send our employees the message that their engagement is our responsibility, we create the conditions for dependent relationship. Employees assume the posture of waiting to be engaged because our rhetoric and systems teach them this is what we expect.
I think we should send the message that self-engagement is everyone’s responsibility. Employees and managers share the responsibility to partner with each other to continuously improve processes and conditions necessary for peak performance to flourish. I strongly believe that if employees don’t learn this posture of interdependence and self-responsibility as followers, they will never lead this way. As leaders, they will continue to perpetuate and reward the dependent relationships they learned as followers.
We can do better. It matters.
About the Author: Bret L. Simmons
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