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This chapter is from the book

Moving Toward We: The Three Rs of Work Life

In my many conversations with bosses who defend their what-orientation, I've been told that without strict adherence to the Prescribe, Prepare, Police, Pay, and Punish formula, the great majority of workers will not do their jobs. "Ask the average employee to join in a real problem-solving discussion at work," they say, "and the response is either belligerence or a blank stare." My response is: Did they begin that way? Did they arrive on day one of their new job completely devoid of any desire to innovate, initiate, achieve, or explore any creative ways of making their work environments more productive and satisfying? If not, then could the belligerent, blank response possibly be a consequence of receiving hundreds—perhaps thousands—of messages from bosses that effectively alienated them, erasing any sense of identification with their organizations and eroding their job commitment?

This is not to say that developing employees' organizational identification is a panacea for all workplace ills. It is a major contributor to an organization's success, but not its sole cause. In excess, the very same powerful in-group dynamics that encourage workers to advance their company's goals can in fact prove harmful. Narrow, intense allegiance to a firm has even been the basis for employees' criminal efforts to benefit their organization at the expense of others. The conditions that give rise to such overzealous and unconstrained obedience, as well as the steps that can be taken by organizations to avoid them, are discussed in this book's closing chapters. Nonetheless, these perils are rare in comparison to the great potential that arises from workers' sense of identifying with their employing organizations.

In every firm, company, and workplace, employees are watching for messages contained in their bosses' practices and policies in an effort to decide whether they are being viewed as We or They. Workers use these data, whether overseen or overheard, stated or implied, to answer certain core questions about their relationships to their jobs:

Do my bosses only care about the quality of the product I deliver, without any authentic regard for me as its producer?

Do my bosses have any genuine concern for my concerns, or am I regarded simply as a machine that must perform to or above the standards they have set?

Do my bosses view workers like me as interchangeable, or do they see me as an individual, not simply a number?

Am I merely hired, or am I truly a member of the firm?

Guy Wolff, an employee of an agri-business in the United States' Midwest, captured the essence of these questions when he told me, "They say take the job personally; then they go ahead and treat me impersonally." Hundreds of other workers have pointed angrily to the same paradox. The preceding important queries boil down to a single question, which concerns the three Rs of life at work: Rewards, Respect, and Recognition:

Am I treated fairly, with genuine civility, and with proper recognition of my abilities?

Unfortunately, employees are regularly led by bosses' messages to answer a resounding "No." In every chapter that follows, practical examples—gleaned from organizations that have successfully grown ties that bind—offer precise prescriptions for bosses at every level to turn that answer to "Yes," and to change a previously alienated worker into an engaged, loyal, and powerful force capable of the achievement of organizational goals and personal satisfaction at once.

Any organization's success relies on employees' organizational identity; and identity is built on bosses' handling of Rewards, Respect, and Recognition. The next three chapters tell the story of what's going wrong, and how the three Rs can be revived to the benefit of employer and employee alike.

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