The Law of Reciprocity - Human Capitalist - November 2010
The Law of Reciprocity
By Joe Hunt
The law of reciprocity is central to the spiral effect many organizations feel, either upward or downward.
As Managers and Executives we have at our fingertips the power to unleash a dramatic productivity explosion by aiming straight at the heart of the unseen, immeasurable, yet controllable factors related to attitude, trust, and relationships.
Attitudes alter relationships. Think about the rewards you’ve received—an extra half day off, an increase in pay, a new office. What made those rewards meaningful was that someone showed they valued your contribution.
If you regard people as less valuable than material, economic, or other factors, you can expect a downward spiral. If you regard people as the most valuable resource, you can expect an upward spiral. Low morale is nearly always related to absenteeism; high morale nearly always correlates with less absenteeism and greater contribution. When even one employee is not valued, the entire company achieves less than its full potential.
When evaluating your organization, ask yourself: Is there a rise or drop in confrontations, grievances, and complaints? Is employee morale high or low as measured by their behavior toward leaders, peers, and customers? Are people quick to make suggestions or reluctant to express opinions? Do trust and loyalty seem apparent? Are employees often tardy or absent? And Is the quality of work and productivity on the decline or on the rise?
With many executives focused on trimming the fat, downsizing, and becoming lean and mean in preparation for economic battle, the very people who are needed to make organizations successful are becoming alienated. When that happens, absenteeism, poor productivity, and low quality follow. The forward looking organization that succeeds
in the next century will be one that changes its corporate culture so that people feel valued and empowered through the building of strong relationships.
It is no longer adequate to deal solely with economic issues of the pocketbook. Priority must also be given to non-economic issues of the heart. How does an executive address the heart of his or her people? By developing a style of working with people that is built on relationships, by getting close to employees to truly affirm, appreciate, and recognize them. They don’t want to be regarded as components— just pieces in the puzzle. They want to feel that they are seen as the life-blood of any enterprise, that they count.
Criticism has a much greater potential for wounding than building up. We’ve met hundreds of people who are feeling the effects of criticism from years past—
from family members, friends, and employers. People are more likely to become
what they are praised to become, not what they are admonished against or told they’ll never be.
The very people who are needed to make organizations successful are becoming alienated.
Do you talk with employees or to them? Employees rarely respond positivelyto threats. Delete phrases such as“You are required,” “You must,” and“You are mandated” from your memos.Insult your employees, and you’ll be theobject of insults. Hate your employees,and you’ll get hate back. Don’t threatenemployees with doomsday statements ordraw conclusions that may never happen,anticipating the worse.
Motivate people toward success, toward attitudes and behaviors that create success, and watch productivity soar. This doesn’t mean that you never point out an area of weakness or error to an employee. Consider using phrases such as “One way I’ve found to be most effective” or “Have you considered trying...?” The payoff for strengthening the overall
relationship with the employee in non-confrontational ways is priceless. Most people give back what they receive. If they receive love, dignity, and respect, managers and customers will get the same in return.
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