Whose responsibility?

Today I am speaking at one of the banks in London on Motivation. Part of my speech relates to responsibility for motivation – are we each responsible for our own motivation? Or are our companies and managers responsible? Perhaps you take the view it should be a shared responsibility?

I suspect many will say it is a shared responsibility. That seems logical and fair. But why is it shared? Why are we, as adults, not responsible for our own motivation? Do we sometimes see our managers as a bit like our parents or teachers? How weird is that?

Not so long ago, a read a news report about the Japanese becoming more childlike in their approach to life: phoning the police to ask how to deal with a bath overflowing; reporting a hat that had blown away; asking what to do with an ice cream that was melting too fast.

A year ago, I also saw a documentary about sex education in schools, a woman arguing that responsibility for such education lies solely with the government (setting the curriculum) and teachers (delivering it) and that parents do not have any role to play at all in the sex education of their own children. Then just this week I read of how the UK by 2020 will become increasingly dependent on the state for looking after us and making even simple decisions in our lives. For those of you who saw news reports during December about the women who phoned police to report her snowman being stolen, you will know that we are already seeing this in our society.

So, is the manager of the future going to need to be more and more like a police officer or teacher? And is the board of directors of the future more-and-more like the government, setting really detailed parameters for behaviour and actions?

It would be an interesting study to select 100 organisations and identify what percentage of their employees currently take responsibility for themselves: their own actions; their own motivation and what percentage have already moved towards this greater dependence on others for such things. And critically, what percentage is the point at which organisations will then fail to flourish as a result of not having enough free thinkers, drivers of change, innovators etc?

Writing this reminds me that many, many years ago, when correcting a basic error in a letter produced by one of my team who had identified being drunk at work as an act of ‘poor performance’, rather than ‘misconduct’, she rebuked me saying ‘I’m not paid to think.’ I had hoped we were past this stage of compliance and endless reliance on others to do the thinking for us, but perhaps with increasing amounts of legislation, procedure and regulation, we are in fact heading back the other way.

If true, how sad is that? But more importantly, what on earth does this all mean for business?


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