Relaxing in my leather chair, a glass of Spanish Tempranilla in hand, relaxing music playing, and the company of a good friend, the conversation last evening turned to organizational culture. (Call me a geek, but I’ve clearly found my work-passion balance!)
You see, she recently transitioned from a Fortune 500 giant to a local non-profit, and after just a few days in the new role, the cultural differences were striking. No longer was her contribution to the company judged by the number of hours her manager observed her chained to her cubicle, the famed “ass-in-seat” measure. Rather, it’s already become clear that her new boss is concerned not with babysitting her, but empowering her to excel. The result, she’s passionately embraced working longer hours (her own choice) and even taking work home.
I know, many of you are thinking, “She’s new. The enthusiasm will fade.” And perhaps it will. But that’s not really the point. What’s important is the sense of freedom and respect that she’s been given in just the first week or two, with the emphasis not on when she arrives in the morning or leaves in the evening, but rather on the thoughtful value she provides.
Others may be thinking it’s odd in this day and age that it’s unusual for a white-collar professional to NOT take work home. Again, this may be true. But there is a significant difference between taking work home because you have to and working extra hours (from home or a coffee shop) because you WANT to. THAT is the definition of engagement — a purposeful eagerness to provide maximum value and contribution to better the goals, services, or direction of an organization.
In reality, the cultural difference between the Fortune 500 company and her non-profit can be summed up by McGregor’s decades old Theory X and Y for motivation and management.
- Theory X (represented by the corporate giant in this example) speaks to an authoritarian style of management. Individuals are viewed as inherently lazy. Workers need directive, quid pro quo punishment-reward systems in order to accomplish the task at hand. In fact, the workers WANT this, according to the theory.
- Theory Y, conversely, sees individuals are self-motivated, hard-working, capable, and participative in their pursuit of their own goals and those of the organization.
As trends continue to stress the growing importance of thinking and learning workforces, organizations that strive to remain competitive (both as employers and within their industries) will need to embrace a Theory Y approach to managing employees. The non-profit “gets it,” and, as a result, it gets an engaged, enthusiastic, intelligent, and innovative thought-leader to help it move forward in an uncertain and ever competitive environment.
The Fortune 500 company? Well, they will continue to lose their best and brightest, those who refuse to continue operating as lemmings and for whom a career of value means being valued.