It is common to think of corporations as entities separate from ourselves – as “things” with no human characteristics or motives. They are just profit making machines, the deadening instruments of distant and terrible masters. We are dragooned into service from the local villages, and all of us – we and our communities, in our ignorance, destitution, and dependence – are held hostage to the mysterious rulers of the silent keep in our midst.
Or so it sometimes seems. But the truth is that our workplaces are themselves, like our communities, social settings. It is inevitable that they be so, since we are social creatures. All of the things that occur, and all the dynamics that drive behavior, in other social settings will also happen in the workplace.
Moreover, as individuals disperse from one social setting and reassemble in different groupings in other ones – family, friends, religious gatherings, recreational events – the workplace inevitably becomes bound up in the identity of the wider community. It is thus but a component, albeit a major one, of our individual identities as well.
So it appears that workplaces aren’t just places where work is done. They aren’t even merely, in and of themselves, self-contained societies. Rather, they contribute some elements to individual identities, and serve as one of many venues where social needs are met and individual aspirations pursued. This has the additional effect of further diminishing their distinctness as separate entities, intertwining them via the lived lives of their members into the myriad other groups to which they belong, a part of the fabric of the larger community.
This carries two implications for companies. One is for their managers. The phenomena just described are, to one degree or another, at the bottom of all employee empowerment theories of management, and are studied in order to help managers draw more productivity from employees by giving them more reward and value from their work.
Maintaining good relations with communities is also an inescapable necessity for managers due both to the need for reciprocal cooperation and to further strengthen the good will and loyalty of employees. For the most part, this is neither controversial nor inconsistent with the principles of capitalism.
The other implication of the above discussion is for owners. It is an interesting subject. It has a lot to do with recent and current crises, the general issue of corporate governance, and certainly with our overall discussion of capitalism. We will look at it tomorrow – see you then!
This post is a part of a series. You can learn about and link to the other articles here: Conceptualizing capitalism
Today’s tips: The current posts on the question of stakeholders’ relationships with corporations is prompted by a strong general case made for the concept by Wally Bock, of Three Star Leadership. He also, however, agrees that there is a lot of “nonsense that marches under its banner.” (See his comment, here, to yesterday’s post.) Please see this piece, from The Economist, for a sterling contemporary example of one of the three groups Wally identifies as falsely flying that flag.
Such behavior distorts the perception and operation of capitalism – enough to prompt policy initiatives to counter these excesses. Please see this piece from The Sidney Morning Herald, which presents the case against such distorted versions of capitalism, and reports on calls for another: a “new era of ‘social capitalism.’”
Have you noticed the blue “Sphere” icon, below? When you click on it, it will produce a window offering you content related to today’s item from other blogs and the regular media. Give it a try!
And, while you’re clicking around down there, don’t forget to subscribe, by email or RSS reader!
Technorati Tags: corporation, profit, machine, instrument, master, village, ignorance, destitution, dependence, ruler, workplace, social setting, social creature, community, work, manager, employee, empowerment, management, productivity, reward, value, cooperation, good will, loyalty, capitalism, owner, corporate, governance, stakeholder, corporation, Wally Bock, Economist, policy, initiative, Sidney, Morning Herald, social capitalism