Right there in between cultures of blind obedience and self-governance lies the most common category in company culture. These workers aren’t ignorantly following the leader, but they certainly aren’t shot callers either. They’re stuck in that corporate status quo, limbo. The Boston Research Group conducted a very popular recent study of thousands of US workers at every level.
- 43% of survey participants described their company cultures as top-down management, leadership by coercion - blind obedience.
- 54% of those surveyed described their company cultures as top-down, but with skilled leadership - informed acquiescence.
- A mere 3% of the workers surveyed described their company culture as being guided by a set of core principles and values that inspire and align workers around the company mission - self-governance.
Acquiescence is the reluctant acceptance of something without protest. That means over half of US workers are clocking in and out of work every day on a spectrum of bitterness. Some workers reluctance might be slight while others might be palpable. You can’t always tell, but where these workers fall on that spectrum will certainly become slap-you-in-the-face obvious when they walk out the door. Here are a few things leaders should know about cultures of informed acquiescence...
Talking Isn't So Bad
Deloitte calls this the Talent Dialogue Approach to employee engagement, and it entails not just letting employees talk, but encouraging them to enter into a two-way, continuous conversation about the things that affect them with leadership.
“Through the Talent Dialogue process, employees and employers share their needs, preferences, and goals with each other on a real-time basis. Employers can gain a better understanding of what employees value and why, which can inform the development of total rewards programs and other workplace initiatives specifically designed to enhance employee engagement. Employees, in turn, can gain a better understanding of what the company needs and expects from them, as well as the sense of having a real say in how the business is run.” - Deloitte, The Talent Dialogue Approach to Employee Engagement White Paper
Business is the constantly evolving, fluid entity, so in turn each and every day presents a new opportunity for your workforce to reluctantly “go with the flow”. US business professor, Gary Hamel (@ProHamel) said, “People aren't generally against change, but are against change that's imposed on them without any input from them.” Stop imposing; start talking, it’s not so bad.
You Might Not Be Getting It
The same Boston Research Group study revealed a pretty big disconnect between the perception of leaders and their employees. About 27% of bosses believe their employees are inspired by their organization while a mere 4% of employees find this accurate. Additionally, 41% of leaders believe their organization rewards performance based on values rather than just on financial results, but only 14% of employees are buying that.
You know when a child tries to cross their eyes for the first time since they found out about this life changing skill? They make their attempt, look you square in the eyes and ask, “Am I doing it? Are my eyes crossed?!” This is kind of like that.
In short, and as usual, perception vs reality is a wake up call. While many leaders may truly believe they are trying to foster an inspiring value-based culture, they are, in fact, missing the mark with a great deal of their workforce.
An Attractive Alternative
While it’s true that only 3% of workers get to be part of a self-governing organization (indicating the cultivation and maintenance of this type of culture is no walk in the park), those organizations are experiencing some insane bottom line benefits as a direct effect of their values-centric approach to talent management.
“High-trust, values-driven companies outperform other types of organizations across every important performance outcome in the U.S. and in Mexico; in the U.K., Australia, Germany and Turkey. Same in Brazil, Russia, China and India and every other country in the 18 where this research was conducted.” - Dov Seidman (@DovSeidman), Workplace Performance and Leadership Expert
As the head of a department in the midst of a sustained period of rapid growth, Sara has spent thousands of hours interviewing, hiring, onboarding and assessing employees and candidates. She is passionate about sharing the best practices she has learned from both successes and failures in talent acquisition and management.