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Is a social business a conscientious one?

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Is a social business a conscientious one?

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Social business is all about encouraging certain behaviours from employees, and indeed external stakeholders as well.  Those behaviours could best be summed up as conscientiousness.  They describe employees who strive for better, invest effort in improving and helping others, and are reliable.  Such people also tend to exceed the core demands of their job and show a keen interest in helping others, both inside and outside the organisation.  It is also common for conscientious people to speak up, expressing challenging but constructive opinions.

New research has explored how conscientious people marry the concern they have for the group, whilst at the same time fulfilling their personal ambitions.  Can doing the right thing and being forthright with ones opinions have a negative impact on your personal success?

The researchers asked employees at a financial services company to rate themselves on various measures, including how much they considered speaking up on various issues to be a part of their job.  These ratings were then compared against appraisals given by managers at the company as to how often the employees actually exhibited these behaviours.

The findings were fascinating.  They showed that employees whose primary concern was that of the group were likely to see speaking up as part of their role.  By contrast, those for whom personal achievement was their focus were more likely to see speaking up as outside of their job description.  These different outlooks translated into behaviours as observed by their managers.

The research concluded by warning how unhealthy cultures can encourage people to keep their heads down and look out only for themselves and their own well being rather than that of their peers.  The researchers recommend cultivating psychological safety can encourage the individually minded to speak out confidently, whilst more group orientated employees are all too happy to speak out, especially if they believe that doing so will make a difference.

So translating that into behavioural levers, you can look at how decisions are made, thus empowering employees to make decisions when they are best placed to make them, whilst also encouraging the more reticent to speak out by using feedback and incentives to reinforce the value placed in doing so.

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