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On becoming irresponsible and incompetent

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image Leanda Lee - PhD. Assistant Professor, School of Management, Leadership and Government. Coordinator MBA Program and Coordinator Career Centre, USJ

Good employees are self-driven, not only do the job as contracted but take initiative to broaden their roles, undertake additional tasks and exhibit behaviours that support the organisational environment. These organisational citizenship behaviours (OCB) include extra time at work supporting co-workers, developing networks inside and outside the organisational community, simple smiles of greeting, recognition, and appreciation of others.
These employees may extend themselves perhaps by contributing articles for the company newsletter, visiting an ailing colleague in hospital, sharing coffee or lunch, offering solace by lending an empathetic ear or sharing a joke. OCBs support job tasks and are what makes working life more interesting, more meaningful, and to some to whom the work itself is unfulfilling or difficult at times, even bearable.
Some people have a greater propensity towards citizenship behaviours than others. Organisations benefit from having as many of these people as they can muster as such employees create a positive organisational culture that can drive a collaborative work ethic.
Organisations themselves can encourage or even destroy these behaviours. Long-term social exchanges built on trust lead to more organisational citizenship behaviours so this is the culture that organisations should attempt to create. Once there is a body of driven and mutually supportive employees it does not take much from management to sustain such a culture and organisational efforts.
It is fairly simple, textbook material: management should provide unambiguous lines of authority, make decisions in a procedurally just way, and organisational goals, vision and methods of implementation need to be communicated so that staff members are clear about how they contribute.
Moreover, employees need to be given the tools required to undertake their duties – simple things like a comfortable and clean work environment, sufficient desk space conducive to the task, the provision of ergonomic work spaces with appropriate levels of lighting, temperature and sound insulation and free from miasma, pollutants, chemical smells.
Macau’s minimal talent in managing people and their physical space has prompted the Macau government and grant-giving bodies to begin to focus on the work environment through sponsorship of research projects to determine the extent of the problem with the aim of minimizing psychological and physical work stressors.
There are warning signs in organisations to indicate that management may be failing in supporting OCBs. If you begin to notice the working day becoming shorter for those with discretionary hours, fewer people around the coffee machine, less people writing those articles and Friday night drinks or Wednesdays’ yum-cha gatherings just not happening like they once did, the work culture may no longer be conducive to OCBs.
Small changes in behaviour are indicative of attitudinal change.
The implication to this point is that employees are instigators of citizenship behaviours and that the role of management is merely to maintain and not undermine employee commitment and involvement through managerial incompetence or ignorance.
Fortunately, there are also tools available to managers to encourage such behaviours, although as with all group behaviours they interact with perceptions of individuals.
Once employee expectations have been violated, it takes a much more sustained effort or a critical event on behalf of management to rebuild the work environment and staff goodwill. This becomes even more problematic when employees perceive high levels of organisational politics especially when due to self-interested motives unrelated to organisational goals.
Within this environment – to which Macau’s highly networked organisations are hardly immune – employees are more likely to hold the organisation responsible for any breach in expectations or contract.
One mechanism through which employees filter the actions of management is Perceived Organisational Support (POS). It is the perceived level of support, rather than actual, that is crucial to employee attitudes such as commitment, job involvement and more tangible outcomes such as job performance.
POS is the extent to which employees believe that the organisation cares about their wellbeing and values their contributions. Where organisational support is perceived, employees reciprocate by voluntarily going beyond the call of duty (OCB) but where there is little perception of support, employees will attempt to balance the employment relationship by lessening their contributions.
In Macau, where good quality staff is precious, it behooves upon management to be seen to support them.
Where organisations fail to deliver their duty of care, even reasonable and previously committed employees are likely to exhibit a range of negative behaviours from anger, lowered trust, irresponsibility and feigned incompetence. If customers or other stakeholders are to come first organisations cannot but afford to give equal weight to caring for and valuing those who deliver the product or service offerings.
Should previously good staff be exhibiting irresponsibility and incompetence or barely meeting their contractual obligations, they are most likely to be attributing organisational lack of care and support to the discretion and competencies of their managers and not to external factors. In this way, perceived irresponsibility and incompetence breed irresponsibility and incompetence.

©MDTimes/ University of Saint Joseph

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