Monday Musings 180: Compliance and commitment
Modern workplace is a minefield if not a battlefield. Many still find time, space, opportunity, energy and wisdom for happiness and meaning in the nine to no-time schedules. They should be christened as saints, given bravery awards and must be protected under wild life protection act or preservation of rare species, flora and fauna programme.
Our work systems are designed to create the average. Everyone wants the incumbent to follow the job description, the role, the boundaries - no one wants him to stick his neck out, ask uncomfortable and unconventional questions, or follow the non traditional paths. Career choices are made not on the basis of what he truly enjoys, but what would guarantee a basic security of a traditional job. It is nothing short of miracle that so many clones get churned out through the factory shop floor, each one looking like a clone of the other, go about the motions of life, work and career and still hold the pretence of happiness. But scratch the surface a bit and almost everyone wants to do something different, something that gives them more joy, more satisfaction and meaning that what they are doing today. Most will not know what exactly ‘that’ elusive thing is, many just want to escape from the current pigeonhole, and some may actually be fortunate enough to know what they enjoy but cannot make themselves to take the risk of foregoing the security of a well paying job.
It is not surprising again that such straight jacketed, stuck between walls employees only generate compliance, while organisations need commitment. Actually most organisations take a stated position that they need commitment, while the systems, processes and the culture are designed to elicit compliance. Employees must comply with the boundaries of their role, follow established norms, and work within the broad contours of what is prescribed as ‘role boundaries’. They are also expected to follow instructions, understand orders and obey. When they come up with an idea, it will be ‘value added’ by an over excited supervisor, whether that value is sought or not. Author Malcolm Goldsmith says that such unsolicited value addition “improves the idea by only 5%, but reduces the employee commitment by 50%”, because in his mind, it is no longer his idea but that of the supervisors.
Supervisor behaviour is often the worst culprit, even though there is clear evidence that intellectual lethargy of the employee can be an equal contributor. If a suggestion is given only poorly camouflaged as an order or an expectation, it will generate only compliance. If dissent is considered tantamount to questioning authority, the next time around it will only elicit compliance. If a failed initiative or attempting a new way of doing things is come down upon heavily, the next time around it will foster only compliance. If credit is shared disproportionately or unfairly, then it will encourage compliance. If policies, practices and systems get short-changed at the altar of convenience or whims and fancies, it will promote compliance. Compliance will only do what is absolutely necessary. It will engender survival mindset. Servility goes hand in hand with compliance, but progress is fuelled by the horse power initiative – the spirit of doing more than necessary, in more ways than known
Commitment is the engine of progress in organisations. Team members and employees do not commit because you want them to commit to your cause. They commit for theirs – and only when they want to. They commit either when it works for them, benefits them; they want to do it for you – which again is a choice whose locus rests with them and not you. Knowing, discovering and triggering your teams commitment is a rare art – but so is leadership.
Just because people have complied does not mean they are committed.