by Olateju Oladapo, HR Officer at RS Hunter Limited, January 25, 2016
How often have you heard a business owner say “It’s my company so what I say goes.” or “I built this company, I know what I went through to bring it this far, I must be doing something right!” I once had a boss who when I made a suggestion told me that the company wasn’t mine nor was it his so “Let’s do it the way we’ve been asked to”. While his statement was very true, I felt discouraged and demoralised by this attitude and as such I began to hold back from making other suggestions since I felt they would receive the same response.
Most employees, particularly in my part of the world tend to lack a sense of ownership in the workplace. This has resulted in them feeling disconnected from the business objectives and corporate vision. Going by my experience, I think there are some employees who may have started off with an enthusiastic ‘I-can-make-a-difference’ attitude but somewhere along the way they became tired of making suggestions that were never deliberated on let alone implemented.
On the other hand, all companies have a set of employees that have always limited their abilities and involvement in the company either because they lack job satisfaction or they are content with being ‘average’ performers. Statements such as “It’s not my father’s company so I refuse to kill myself.” or “I don’t get paid enough to be this stressed.” and “It’s not like I will get any money when the guys at the top start sharing profits.” are repeated time and again with very little consideration for the impact such statements have on the morale and performance of others.
It really is unfortunate that these situations exist particularly when others are working really hard to pull the company forward. The reality is that if the performance of such a company does not meet shareholder’s expectations, they may end up seeking alternative investments for their money which could put everyone’s job at risk.
Managers and supervisors play an important role in making sure their subordinates feel free to express themselves in the workplace. Such an environment fosters collaboration, knowledge sharing and better performance. While not every company can give its employees an ownership stake in the business, there are other ways to get employees to start thinking and acting like business owners including the following:
- Appreciate them at every opportunity you get
- Clearly and frequently articulate the company’s vision and your expectations to them
- Do not micromanage them
- Encourage freedom of expression
- Practice constructive criticism
- Communication should be a two-way street
- Let your employees decide how they execute their day-to-day tasks
- Treat all employees with respect
- Always give feedback
- Listen to your employees
- See every employee as a stakeholder of the company
- Be a leader and not a manager
- Reward your employees appropriately
Similarly, as an employee we must avoid exhibiting ‘not-my-company’ traits by:
- Being passionate about what we do and owning our work
- Holding ourselves accountable for the decisions we make
- Having a willingness to learn
- Aligning oneself with the company’s culture
- Understanding how our personal objectives tie into the company’s overall objectives and working towards achieving them
- Cultivating a positive attitude and getting rid of negative thoughts
- Defining your job (don’t let your job define you).
There’s no doubt that the future of any company is highly dependent on the motivation of its employees. While we all aspire to run our own businesses someday, we must remember that certain learnings are necessary in order to be a successful entrepreneur. If you are unable to take ownership for the little you are responsible for as an employee, you will most likely struggle to manage the responsibilities of being a business owner. Employees should begin to see themselves as co-owners in the companies where they work while employers should build a culture where employees are willing to go the extra mile for the company.
Whatever your experience has been, always remember that as an employee you must have the desire to succeed so if your manager is not supporting your ideas, don’t let it dampen your spirits; keep your problem solving, innovative and creative juices flowing because you will definitely need them again someday.