Bruce Tulgan is a force of nature!
Doug Bonestroo, VP of Business Development, Agile Frameworks

Teaching Citizenship

Is loyalty dead?

Here’s what I always tell managers: “Let go of the idea that good citizenship has to be completely selfless.” Good citizenship does not require selflessness. It’s ok if there is a quid pro quo. Employment relationships are transactional by nature. There are very few people go to work every day who do not need to make a living. Most people would stop coming to work if you stopped paying them. That does not make them disloyal. You can get a very deep level of true commitment – something more – and still have the essence of the relationship be transactional.

Membership, belonging, participation comes with rights and rewards – that is the quid pro quo. What good citizenship requires is this: When you “join,” you are also fully accepting, embracing, and promising to observe the duties – even at considerable personal sacrifice — that are on the other side of that quid pro quo. That means you have to define those duties in no uncertain terms and make it really clear why they are important.

Over time, the power of belonging comes more and more from accepting, embracing and observing one’s duties than it does from enjoying the rights and rewards of membership. But that’s one of those secrets of wisdom that only comes with experience and age. You don’t need to tell them about that part just yet.

Make Them Aware/Make Them Care

This is the message I recommend managers deliver when they are trying to convince their young employees to really care about developing good citizenship skills:

“Here’s why you should care about learning to be a great citizen of this organization… Working here is very valuable. Joining this organization comes with a lot of rewards. But the rewards of membership – the rewards of belonging – also go along with considerable duties.

What good citizenship requires is this: When you “join” an organization like this one, you need to be prepared to accept and embrace and observe the duties – even sometimes at considerable personal sacrifice — that go along with all the rewards.

Like every workplace, this organization has its own structure, rules, customs, and leadership. What good citizenship means in one organization may be very different from what it means in another.

What does this mean for you? First, it means you need to know what really matters to you. What is “in it for you” here in this job? And what is that worth to you? Second, it means you need to understand our structure, rules, customs and leadership and what that requires of you. You need to really understand what it means to be a good workplace citizen in this organization. Third, you need to make sure you feel really great about accepting, embracing, and observing the duties of belonging here – the duties of what it means to be a good workplace citizen here— along with the rewards.

Good citizenship means different things to different people. But it really matters. Being a bad citizen is one of the worst things you can be. Even if you are good at your job, if the powers that be consider you “disloyal” or somehow dishonorable in terms of fulfilling your duties as an employee — not just “doing your job” but doing your job like a good citizen should. It is not always tangible. That’s why it can be so hard to teach. Yet those intangible elements of performance really matter. So do your best to make them as tangible as you possibly can.

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