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How to create self-sufficient employees and why would we want to?

The above phrases were printed in a newspaper article which described some employee "unrest" at a major U.S. corporation. What we see demonstrated in this article are employees legitimately troubled about activities being performed within their company. As loyal and concerned employees, why would they not express to their management openly and honestly their feelings about company policies and procedures? Why did they feel the requirement of the anonymity offered by the newspaper? Are there any unsigned memos or undisclosed sources at your company?

* Does your company have employees who believe they have projects or ideas that would benefit the organization?

* Are some of these potentially beneficial projects or ideas not being implemented or expressed due to employee concern over what they perceive as a threat to job security?

If you answered yes to the above two questions, you believe your company employees do have ideas or projects they feel may benefit the organization but are so dependent on the approval of the organization for their security they may not feel "safe" suggesting or implementing potentially beneficial ideas or projects. If that is indeed happening in your work environment, both the individuals, and by logical extension, the organization suffer.

Many of today's organizations must plead guilty to stifling employee independence and for fostering (and relying upon) employee dependence. This dependence is gained through the use of "control devices" such as favorable salary classifications, promotions, large offices, executive dining rooms and reserved parking spaces -- "carrots" awarded to those who please the "powers to be". To the degree employees accept their dependent status is the same degree to which organizational productivity is minimized.

To maximize organizational productivity, the dependency illusion must be eliminated. Who will do the eliminating? The organization can through elimination of dependency generating policies and procedures. The employee can through elimination of a false sense of believing job security lies in the organization.

Though both employee and the organization have a role to play, the change from dependence to independence must start with the employee because employees are treated by their organizations as the employees have taught their organizations to treat them Employees, through over concern with job security, have trained organizations to rely on employee dependency as a motivational tool. Therefore, if there are to be the creative, innovative, risk taking and growth-oriented work environments so desired and required in today's changing business environment, each employee must "retrain" his/her organization by reducing personal dependency. Let us examine how this shift in the motivational paradigm is advantageous to both the employee and the organization.

Consider an entire work force of employees who either:

* won the $40 million dollar lottery and remained on their jobs


* treat the subject of job security as if they had won the $40 million lottery.

How would your company motivate its employees if there were no fear of losing job security? There would be only one way, and that would be to provide for each person a work environment that is fulfilling and rewarding for its own sake. In essence, organizations would be creating growth environments necessary to keep those employees who want to work (independent) rather than creating a threatening environment for those employees who perceive they have to work (dependent).

If employees expect their organizations to work hard at creating the same environment for them as organizations would need to create for the lottery winners, employees must commit to retraining organizations. Employees must choose to view their need for organizationally generated security in the same manner as instant millionaires. As soon as each worker realizes that the only security that does exist is within the independent self and she/he prepares for and can visualize a future without his/her company, then the worker can truly choose to be a participating member of that organization. When the majority of workers in corporate America are of this independent mind, we will witness a significant increase in corporate productivity and the greatest shift in motivational patterns since the Emancipation Proclamation.

What can managers do to help develop self-sufficient employees?

In an effort to help employees become less focused on their job security and more inclined to move from dependence to independence to interdependence, consider discussing with your work group the following thoughts on the subject of security.

* There will never be 100 percent job security. Anyone can lose any job on any given day for many different reasons.

* Absolute security does not exist, only varying degrees of risk, and what security there is, is not external but internal.

* Job security does not lie in the organization but in the quality of one's work.

* A person with a strong sense of where his/her security originates will do a self-analysis to bring to light what she/he needs to become more marketable, and go get it.

Following are some further examples of managerial activities designed to aid the employees in the evolution from dependence to independence:

* Encourage employees to pursue educational opportunities both inside and outside the work environment.

* Suggest to all members of the work unit that they prepare or update their resumes.

* Keep catching people doing things right. This approach builds the self-confidence necessary in an unsure business environment.

* Encourage initiative. Ask employees what should be done and how to do it.

* Managers should "unlearn" controlling techniques since managers do not have control anyway.

* Reward individuals on your team for questioning policies, testing limits, and redrawing organizational parameters.

* Move people often within the organization, i.e. build in a lack of security. Successes in new environments increase employee self-confidence.

* Encourage workers to interview for other jobs, both inside and outside of the organization.

Work groups without independent self-sufficient employees will find it difficult to maximize their potential. Therefore organizations which in the past fostered employee dependence must now work toward employee independence and ultimately employee/organizational interdependence, for the mutual benefit of the employee and the organization. Independent employees with enough self-sufficiency, born through a realistic understanding of the true internal source of their security, to inform the "naked king" of his true condition must be valued and nurtured if the new "leaner and meaner" organizations are to succeed.

Tom Payne is an Albuquerque, NM-based speaker, trainer, author and founder of LODESTAR, a performance enhancement company. For more information on programs or his current book, "From the Inside Out: How to Create and Survive a culture of Change", call 505-296-2940.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Canadian Institute of Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Payne, Tom
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Dec 22, 1992
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