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Who’s supposed to keep you engaged in your job?

A very large company that has been struggling with economic turmoil the last few years had a conference call recently between the CEO and a majority of its employees. There was an extended period of Q&A where anyone could ask the CEO anything they’d like about the status and direction of the company.

One of the questions posed was...

“Since staffing levels haven’t kept up with the workload lately, what are you going to do to keep people engaged and motivated in their jobs.”

The CEO didn’t directly address the question, and seemed somewhat taken aback by it.

Among many employees, the consensus was that he blew it and was shirking his responsibility by not providing incentives for people to do their jobs.

It’s not unusual for a similar type of question to be asked by candidates in a job interview.

What does the question say about the candidate, and what is a company’s responsibility? The answers certainly are varied depending on who you ask and can inflame passions.

Part of the consideration is to determine the reason for the company’s existence. While there may be exceptions, especially in non-profit organizations, the reason for a company’s existence is to provide a product or service in order to create a profit for its owners and shareholders. The company does not exist to provide jobs for people.

Jobs are a very beneficial side effect for society, and necessary for the company to operate. In order to attract the quantity and quality of talent it needs to achieve it’s goals, in a free market system, it must pay competitive wages.

In a free market system, employees are not indentured servants. They have a right to leave a position at any time, or choose not to work at a company they don’t like.

Ethically, however, employees have an obligation to the company to give their best effort to do the job they are being paid to do.

They are being paid a salary that they agreed to accept to stay “engaged” in their job. The question posed to the CEO by the employee implied that without additional incentives, they somehow had no responsibility to do their best work. As a CEO, that would not be an encouraging thought to come from one of their employees!

It’s certainly good business to create a culture and environment where people are appreciated and made to feel good about coming to work each day. However, whether the company creates that kind of environment or not, an employee has an obligation to do their jobs to the best of their  ability for the wages they agreed to, or leave the company if they don’t.

While it’s fair, and reasonable for a candidate to inquire about the company’s culture and incentives in a job interview, how it’s asked can have tremendous bearing on the impression that’s made. If it’s perceived that the candidate is primarily interested in finding a culture compatible with their work style and personality, it appears they are smart about their selection process. If, however, it’s perceived that their work ethic is conditional on whether they believe they are appropriately appreciated, it’s likely to create a very negative impression.

It’s natural to want to find an employer that does all it can to keep you happy, and many companies do their best to do that. Their purpose, however, is to make their organization as successful as possible. The employees responsibility is to give their best effort in the job they agreed to accept.

When someone comes to an interview with a clear understanding that it’s not about them, but rather about filling a want or need the company has, they immediately stand out from the crowd.

What impression do you create when you interview?


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