UNLOCKING MOTIVATION PART 7: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTRACT
Welcome back to Unlocking Motivation! Over the last six episodes, we have discussed content from my first book Mapping Motivation, published in 2016, which outlined many of the theories and practices of Motivational Maps. We have also looked at Mapping Motivation for Coaching (co-written with Bevis Moynan), the second book in the series, which deals with how the Maps can support one-to-one coaching, self-coaching, and personal development. We’ll now be moving on to the final part of this series, which is Mapping Motivation for Engagement (co-written with Steve Jones).
Firstly, what is engagement? Engagement is a relatively new concept. William Kahn was one of the first researchers to truly allude to the critical role it plays in business in 1990. Since then, it has become something of a worldwide phenomenon, with countless tools, models, and paradigms for measuring and increasing employee engagement, most of it to no end whatsoever. There are a number of important ideas, what I call ‘preliminaries’, that preceded engagement and informed how we understand it. I cover a large number of them in the book, too many to detail fully here, I do have space to talk about one or two. David Kolb, in his book Organisational Psychology, said that: ‘A company staffed by “cheated” individuals who expect far more than they get is headed for trouble’. He is referring to what is known as the ‘organisational contract’, a concept that arose in the 1970s. It effectively describes the ‘unwritten’ contract between employer and employee, the implied expectations of the employee. For example: ‘This will be a positive and enriching place to work’, might be one expectation. Whilst this is nowhere guaranteed if their contract, if this is what they have been led to believe through interviews and initial contact with the company, they will feel ‘cheated’ if it is not what they get.
In 1995, Mullins put it in the following terms: ‘a series of mutual expectations and satisfactions of needs between the individual and the organisation. It covers a range of rights, privileges, duties and obligations which are not part of a formal agreement but still have an important influence on the behaviour of people.’ I think the words: satisfaction, meaningfulness, psychological, and expectations are extremely significant here!
EXERCISE: Consider your role, whether it is a freelance position, organisational post, or even something entirely different, such as a charity board volunteer position. Write down your expectations of the ‘invisible’ psychological elements of your employer-employee contract. Ask yourself whether these expectations are being met.
There have been a number of profound changes to the workplace which seems to me to be directly correlated to the emergence and significance of engagement. Firstly, the coming of the Information Age, which has increased the speed of communication to absurdly rapid levels. Whilst this has many positive outcomes, it has also produced negative ones: an erosion of personal space / time, an erosion of traditional working hours, a culture that expects everything immediately. Just as we are adjusting ourselves to this rapid pace, we are also experiencing what I would describe as the deathly slow failure of Taylorism.
Taylorism, for those who don’t know, is ‘scientific management’. It is the traditional corporate methodology of defining job roles by breaking them down into prescribed behavioural activities, with a focus on rules, control, compliance, supervision and efficiency. Of course, what we are observing now is a realisation that greater efficiency does not lead to greater effectiveness. Or in other words: efficiency does not equal results. In addition, the negative impact of Taylorism on creativity, responsibility and commitment cannot be overstated. There is a reason that there is a crisis of innovation in most industries in the UK!
There are many companies that still cling to the Taylorism model, and that is their prerogative to do so. However, I think it has clearly run its course. In the ironic words of Jacob Morgan: ‘Robots aren’t taking jobs away from humans; it’s humans who took the jobs away from robots’. We have become a society trying to treat people like machines.
Once we step away from ‘controlling’ employees, ensuring they are ‘compliant’, and instead move towards honouring our psychological contract with them, we begin to reach engagement. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that engagement is the way forward for organisations large and small. Here are some facts:
- The cost of employee disengagement to the economy in 2008 was between £59.4–64.7 billion per annum. That is a staggering figure, and it is for the UK alone!
- Only 29% of employees 11 were engaged in their work. Which means that 71% are not fully engaged.
- Companies on the Glassdoor 12 Best Places to Work list outperform the overall stock market by 115%. Best places to work are, by definition, places where employees are engaged, so from a purely financial point of view engagement is surely desirable?
- In the UK, 82% of senior managers regard disengaged employees as one of the three greatest threats facing their business.13 In other words, engagement is a strategic issue.
- As many as 47% of employees stay in a job they dislike for fear of having no other option. In saying this we are almost raising a moral issue: do we want to be the kind of managers who preside over misery and fear?
So, now we know why engagement is important and that we need to take action to work towards transforming our place of work.
Engagement is based on a ‘psychological contract’ between the employee and employer.
Engagement is the opposite of ‘scientific management’ or Taylorism and is about enriching the employee’s work life by honouring the psychological agreement.
The consequences of failing to engage staff are DIRE!
In the next article, we will be exploring the barriers to engagement and productivity that one faces in an organisation.
If you want to read more about Motivational Maps and unlocking the secrets of engagement, then you can find Mapping Motivation for Engagement at the Routledge website.
Posted by James Sale 2019