Why do you stay with your current employer?
Do you like the company its people and believe in its shared values? Would there be an economic cost to you if you left and went elsewhere? Does your place of employment just happen to be convenient for you at the moment?
Are you committed or are you involved?
Researching commitment, Dr. Natalie Allen and Dr. John P. Meyer analysed what they saw as three components of workplace commitment, a psychological state which binds an employee to an organisation. All three components might be present in every employee, it is the intensity of each component which decides the productivity outcome.
The affective component is strongest in true believers. These are employees who remain with the organisation through thick and thin because of an emotional attachment to the organisation. An identification at a deep personal level with the organisation's goals driving them to put in extra discretionary effort in the workplace.
The continuance component is strongest in people who believe leaving would be too costly for them. An unacceptable loss of accumulated benefits and organisational seniority if they started working elsewhere keeping them where they are. They climbed up the corporate ladder with their teeth when required. They are not starting from the bottom somewhere else.
The normative commitment is a sense of loyalty one might feel for an employer who has treated you well. Or treated you poorly. The normative component reacts to circumstances and is transactional. You get back that which was put in.
Let us say if what you have been putting in is not coming back out and has not been for a while? As useful as it is to identify why people stay, it is as useful to discuss why even true believers should leave an organisation.
If you have walked around inside some different companies you can detect the rot. It is when different kinds of rot occur together that even the true believer should make plans to leave.
What does the rot look like?
Quality decreasing as complaints increase is always a warning sign for anyone who is committed to an organisation. If you are of a disposition where your affective component is intense this will be a psychologically painful situation for you.
If you see quality decreasing and it is not an aberration which can be resolved with elbow grease, you now need to start listening to who is complaining about cash. Is someone up the org chart showing photos of their new boat to anyone passing while your customers and suppliers grumble about slow order deliveries and payments that are not coming?
You now have the humiliation of your blood and sweat not only being attached to poorly made products, but people are also angry at you because the products they have paid for are not being delivered or the goods they sold you are not being paid for.
Then we come to the elevator drop, stomach churning moment faced by anyone who has ever worked in a dying company. When you ask leadership a direct question about the future of the organisation and the answer you get is so incoherent you may as well have asked a complete stranger sitting next to you on an airplane.
Quality in free fall, no money, senior leadership living it up like the great depression starts tomorrow morning and the future of the company is just random words a moron is stringing together? I expect anyone who has reached that point to yell “BINGO” make finger gun noises, then walk out of the meeting as it is in progress and go look for a job somewhere else.
So if you lead people, are responsible for their wellbeing and want to retain them what should you be doing in your organisation?
The 2004 Corporate Leadership Survey performed quantitive analysis on 50,000 employees from companies worldwide and has some very interesting findings.
For leaders the things which strengthen commitment and increase discretionary effort, affective component effort, are in demonstrating that you are open to new ideas. That you care deeply about employees and their success. That you make employee development opportunities a priority and that you are committed to job creation.
Employees like to see new life springing up around them. New life is new co-workers.
Not surprisingly because of what we have covered in previous blog posts the top three drivers for increased effort come from understanding how your work is part of the organizational strategy, how important your work is to the organisation’s success and how the projects you are working on should get completed.
People leave workplaces for a variety of reasons. Some are rational reasons others are emotional reasons but people who stay and are productive all stay for the same reason.
If you can increase commitment in your corner of the organisation people will work with you for longer periods of time and do more with you while they are around.
(And if you are ever living the nightmare and think it’ll be too embarrassing to walk out of an all hands meeting to the sound of finger guns as you quit your job at a crummy firm, call me and I’ll do it over speaker phone for you as you leave.