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Culture Change

Citizens Arise!

Chris Harrison

January 22, 2024

At work, we are slaves to the acronym. If we can find a way to abbreviate a company name, a process or a condition we will use it. Even though, forever after, someone will always be explaining the acronym to someone else who hasn't heard it.

When it comes to employee performance, many of us are slaves to the KPI and the KRA. There is certainly a role for these in planning and measuring employee productivity.  But, in my experience, the organisations that obsess about them are the ones with failings in leadership and culture. Obsessing about these acronyms indicates that leaders are concerned that employees won’t turn up to work as expected (or as paid for).Worse still, it suggests that the culture of the organisation does nothing to inspire staff to give any more than their contracted effort.

In the world of Organisational Culture Transformation we are very interested in encouraging something we call Discretionary Effort. Creating an environment in which employees do more than is expected of them because they want to.

Sadly for managers this is something that cannot be mandated. Try writing a memo demanding more effort from your staff and you will be profoundly disappointed at the response. Recent research also indicates that employees consistently withhold their discretionary effort in the face of traditional methods that rely on incentives, fear, or punishment. Previous generations of workers would generally put up with this kind of treatment but now have the challenge of employing young people who simply don’t feel obligated. What to do?

An interesting approach to encouraging and measuring Discretionary Effort was developed by Podsakoff et al in 1990. It describes five dimensions of Organisational Citizenship Behaviour: altruism, conscientiousness, sportsmanship, courtesy and civic virtue. Each has a sub-set of easily understandable human behaviours that you may find rather interesting.

For example, altruism considers employees who automatically tackle work delayed by absent colleagues. Conscientiousness rates people who take fewer breaks or‘ sick days’. Sportsmanship credits people who tolerate less-than-ideal circumstances without excessive complaining. Courtesy acknowledges behaviours that are considerate to colleagues. Civic virtue assesses how engaged people are in the ‘political’ life of the organisation.

You’ll notice that this model is entirely built on the competencies of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) which some companies now understand is the key to greater success. An emotionally intelligent workforce beats an intellectually competent one every time. The fundamental differentiator is the ability of a person to step out of their own shoes and consider a problem, a customer or an innovation from another perspective.

How active is the civic pride in your company?