Your purpose X the owner’s purpose
Make no mistake, we will never wear your company’s shirt.
In a conventional company, with a minority owning it, competition will reign mainly and mostly. The organization is a great tug of war, in which every person involved, employee or owner, pulls a different rope in a different direction. And Human Resources will not change that.
When one enters into a conventional structure, where control is centered on one or more person, one may go through a “honeymoon” period, in which some illusions are created by oneself, by the structure or even by HR, still stand. A person can even try to accomplish the purpose of the structure, but it does not take long for the illusions to end, and with time the employee already integrates organizations without any change of his own focus.
There is a great myopia when it is believed that the purpose of the employee will be the same as the owner’s. And in the end, the purpose of conventional structures will be the owner’s purpose for it. In a conventional enterprise — hierarchical as a form of organization and capitalist as a form of production — the primary purpose of the organization is to reproduce capital, that is, to generate profit. Here, it is important not to confuse Profit with Compensation.
To simplify, let’s align the concepts for this text with the following meanings:
- Profit: The difference between the total revenue of the company and all costs (wages are included). Roughly speaking, pay the bills and the wages, leftover is profit.
- Remuneration: It refers only to payment in cash and utilities, such as food, housing, clothing, and others in exchange for the services provided by the employee. Roughly speaking, what the employee earns to work.’
As much as the organization puts in its mission that it has other objectives, the priority will be to generate profit for its owners. And if there is a moment of cutback, the cuts will go towards social impact, compensation, etc. seeking to ensure profit.
While the owner of the structure has his focus of generating profit, the employee has his own focus of generating a positive condition for himself. This can happen in many ways. One is to contribute to the purpose of the organization, but only if the employee sees that it is the effort that will bring the best result for himself (other ways might be: creating initiatives to project himself externally and get a better opportunity elsewhere; do the minimum to maintain his position, sabotaging others’ projects to be able to project internally, diverting resources from the organization to himself).
In his article, “Peter’s Principle: A Theory of Decline,” Lazear states that some employees manipulate the rewards system to get a promotion. An employee eyeing a higher salary, higher status and a better office will work to get a promotion. After the amount of time needed working tirelessly, the employee will likely receive the promotion he was looking for. Once the goal is achieved, the employee gives himself time to relax after a period of intense productivity.¹
Having an owner’s attitude without having the owner’s benefits
A real requisite, though paradoxical, is that the employee has an “attitude of owner” ou ownership. You may even find the requirement in job posting ads.
To conceptualize: “The attitude of owner is the differentiated mentality of those who believe in the business, wear the shirt and want to see the company prosper as a whole.” ²
But he seems to forget what drives an owner to have that attitude. He is the one who has greater autonomy for making decisions in the structure. It is also the one who reaps the most benefits the greater the success of the structure. These mostly financial or capital appreciation benefits, but also recognition from their peers and society.
Yet, to the employee is not allowed autonomy. The command and control model exists to try to ensure that the employee continues to operate so that the owner’s purpose is achieved. In addition, he has no voice over his pay, usually ends up being exploited³ and earning less than he generates impact on the organization.
Giving rewards or punishments works, for example in the form of compensation or dismissal, but has a very limited effect. Even raising one of the two does not lead to a proportional improvement — one comes to a point, for example, that raising a salary is not only ineffective but can have a negative impact.
Rewards can only meet the basic needs, and punishments can only threaten them. The rest of the human needs, as Maslow traced, can not be met with a greater amount of money.
“Purpose, meaning, identity, fulfillment, creativity, autonomy — all these things that positive psychology has shown us to be necessary for well-being are absent in the average job,” — Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt, professor of Leisure Studies at the University of Iowa ⁴.
What does misalignment generate?
The point of bringing up these issues is not only to recognize the impact on employee well-being, but also to reflect on its effect on productivity as well as on innovation capacity.
Teams with misaligned purposes not only have a worse performance than aligned teams, but they also tend to develop friction and conflict. A misaligned company, with misaligned teams, has a much larger difference in it’s outcome than it could have.
A simple metaphor is that of a great weight being moved by several people. In a first scenario, each one wants to take it to a different place. The object will not reach any goal, just an average group’s goals. And the waste of effort results only in a slow or even null progression. Yet, in the other scenario, the whole group moves the weight in the same clear direction, without waste of energy and without friction of effort.
According to a Gallup global survey⁵, only 15% of employees are engaged in their work. 67% are indifferent about their organization, behaving in a “disconnected” way, as somnambulists during work, usually doing the minimum necessary and only if asked. There are still 18% who are actively disengaged, unhappy at work and acting out of that unhappiness, sabotaging their peers and the organization.
The company also recognizes that the cost of productivity lost due to lack of engagement is U$7 trillion. Not to mention human misery coupled with an unsatisfactory professional life. Another research⁶ showed that out of 1.5 million employees interviewed, 75% experienced moderate to high levels of stress. These current and increasing levels should be of concern because there is a direct and adverse relationship between negative stress, well-being and productivity.
To give the feeling of purpose
Organizations try in many ways to create a sense of purpose. The manual brings various methods, dynamics and communication efforts so that the employee believes in a larger purpose of the company. Companies create institutional missions to simulate an interest apart of profit, such as environmental sustainability or social impact⁷. The employee may receive, as a form of compensation, shares or percentage of the organization — usually a very small volume and with no decision making effect — in an attempt to attach a positive result of the structure to a positive result for the employee. There are even attempts to decrease the hierarchy and to try to “give more autonomy.”
These efforts can bring the intentions of those involved closer together, reducing waste and friction. But the purpose tends to completely misalign, the closer to a relationship without autonomy, without gains with the organization and without focuses beyond profit. And the closer to autonomy, the gain of the total result and focuses beyond profit, the closer to aligning the purpose.
How to make your purpose the same as the owner’s
Well, the solution is as simple as it is obvious. Be the owner.
In a simplistic thinking: if the sizes of your engagement and delivery are larger according to how much more you earn on top of the result, it will be as large as possible with you earning as much as possible.
But understanding that the organization is made up of several people, and the best result is with everyone engaged, it would be necessary for everyone to have as much of it as possible. Which means to divide equally the organization and its results, as well as the decision making. This is a horizontal and cooperative model.
Beyond the simplistic thinking there are a number of psychological and motivational reasons, but I will explore the theme further on in another text.
A horizontal and cooperative structure model has the potential to build a de facto alignment of purpose. Obviously it is not something that is built organically, and there are processes and methodologies for this development. But if applied in a conventional logic, this development would be limited according to its position regarding the management and property.
Some interesting reflections to follow the text:
- Would you rather be together and cooperating or alone and competing
- Would you rather be owner along with others or employee?
- Do you know what its purpose is?
The exploration of a few concepts is necessary to complement the reasoning. For simplicity sake I’m breaking it into smaller texts. I will still explore more about motivation and personal pursuit and the equal value of all positions in a structure.
I invite you to engage with questions, conversations, arguments, criticisms or any manifestation in the comments below, I will respond as soon as possible. I will be happy with any contribution! They can even generate new texts.
With sufficient time and levels in the hierarchy, all positions would be occupied by incompetents.medium.com
- ²This excerpt has been translated from
- ³It is impossible to understand the value of contribution of each individual within a complex organization. I will post a text about the value of jobs within an organization. But if we understand that all are equally essential, those who earn more than the average pay are gaining because of the work of others. In the text that I will post I go into detail in the explanation of this model.
- ⁴ https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/07/world-without-work/395294/
- ⁵http: //news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/224012/dismal-employee-engagement-sign-global-mismanagement.aspx
- ⁶A long-term Global Challenge longitudinal survey of more than 1.5 million employees in 4,500 companies in 185 countries as part of the Global Corporate Challenge found that approximately 75% of the workforce experienced moderate to high levels of stress — more specifically, 36% of employees reported feeling extremely stressed at work, with another 39% reporting moderate levels of stress in the workplace.
- ⁷If the total impact is actually accounted for, the structure does not neutralize its environmental impact and is not even sustainable. As well as generating a total negative social impact even if some initiative has some positive result. I will talk more about structures that seek social impact in an upcoming text.
Every document deserves and should be problematized. Analyzed to whom it was destined, as well as the social conjuncture in which the author lived. No writing is neutral, regardless of the ideology that permeates it. I advise that the attentive reader does not disregard this observation, as it will ensure that no anachronisms or any other possible confusion is committed.
I’m an experiential educator, group facilitator, and organizational designer. Supporting cooperation and anti-hierarchy.