The current Zeitgeist in business suggests that workplaces should be inclusive environments that encourage all employees to offer up their thoughts and opinions. The hope is that by doing so, such workplaces are likely to get the best insights and fully utilize the skills they have at their disposal.
Alas, a recent study suggests that such an approach may not be welcomed by all employees (and it isn’t the managers that I’m talking about!).
Do We Want to be Involved?
The study examined how employees felt when given the platform to express their opinion on the direction their company was taking. The authors were particularly looking to test whether having this platform encouraged employees to contribute more things that were outside of their job description.
Now, on the plus side, it did indeed appear that giving people a platform to contribute encouraged them to contribute in a variety of ways that sat outside of their official job role.
This boost can largely be attributed to the social exchange that this fosters. When we contribute, we feel obliged to then support are colleagues, and the paper does indeed highlight a number of clear benefits to taking such an approach.
Not a Gift for Everyone
But, this inclusive approach was not found to elicit such a response from everyone. The study examined the response to an inclusive atmosphere alongside measuring the levels of intrinsic motivation and neuroticism amongst employees.
When people had a high level of intrinsic motivation, they didn’t regard being invited to participate as a gift, and therefore didn’t tend to contribute more outside of their job description.
A similar response was observed amongst neurotic individuals. For them, being asked to contribute to wider discussions elicited a nervous response, with the platform being seen almost as a threat rather than an opportunity. As such, for them, this was very much a negative thing that was not likely to elicit a positive response.
To Include or Not
Suffice to say, this isn’t to say that inclusivity is a bad thing—not at all. What it does remind us however is that not all employees will respond to such an environment in a positive way. This may help managers better evaluate their own attempts to foster an inclusive environment by giving them fresh insights into why certain employees may not be participating.
The authors contend, however, that rather than fine-tuning their efforts to better appease such personalities, they should instead focus their efforts to attract input to those personalities that are more attuned to such an inclusive approach, i.e. those with low levels of neuroticism or intrinsic motivation.
In other words, groups that have quite boring jobs are likely to respond particularly well to the offer of involving them in decision-making, whereas those with highly engaging jobs may not.
All of which hopefully provides food for thought when you’re looking at developing your own employee participation efforts.