What's your organisational default? Stay or leave?

There is a joke I'd like to tell:

>> CTO and CFO are talking about their staff.

CFO: "Imagine, if we educate them and they leave."

CTO: "Imagine, if we do not educate them and they stay." <<


I like that one, because it easily shows a big conflict in organizations.

Whenever I am thinking about this joke I am asking myself: What is the default in the organisation? Do people stay or leave? And furthermore:

Why do good people leave?

Usually good people leave, if you do not educate them or if they don't work in an educated environment. Both is interdependent and depends on each other. Both is closely connected to intrinsic motivators like status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness (scarf).

Educated people

If you educate people you raise their status, because people are feeling good in self-development. On the other hand, if the skill of those people is at the mercy of a jackass who has no idea, but gives instructions, people are feeling threatened. They feel less important which is a drop in their status.

Take this example and inspect from the perspective of fairness and autonomy. I guess you will easily find more social threats and opportunities. Reflect about your organisation: How do we educate people, so that they would like to stay?  

Educated environment

An educated environment gives people certainty and autonomy. Both is a reward for people which increases ability of complex problem solving and minimises social threat. An educated environment gives power to the people and power usually is information. Information produces certainty and enables autonomy.

It increases certainty, because people are able to predict behaviour of others, which minimises social threat. Moreover people are more certain about their near future. To be able to predict the near future is very important, because our brain is forecasting all the time. In an unstable environment we loose too much capacity in relation to this function. It is simple: People are overwhelmed with concerns in an uncertain environment - they don't like to feel insecure, don't you?

Frascati Rugby by f/orme taken from Flikr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Frascati Rugby by f/orme taken from Flikr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you grant autonomy you have to buy it with information and trust. You will earn cheap decision making and self-confident people. Think about the last jackass who made your decision. Did mean a threat to you? Did your inner voice say: Once again and I will... quit? Overruled people will never be responsible nor will they stay for long. 

To me, relatedness is another aspect of an educated environment. People like to work with others they know. They like most working with people they like, but working with strangers is perceived as a threat. Mixing people frequently around and assigning them to new "teams" is a threat to people. Again, they do not feel safe and get annoyed and angry.

Constantly loosing connections is an high attractor to change the workplace because of a drop in relatedness, fairness, autonomy and status.

My perspective

I think there is a lot of benefit if in self-reflection about threat, social interaction concerning education and environment. But to me real value lies in an educated environment, because everybody is searching for that kind of environment. But it is rarely out there.

The biggest struggle is how to create it. First steps might be an economic framework for teams, a clear set of rules and regulations concerning decision making and a shift of decision making from management to people. Information should be no longer a currency of a few, it should be the budget of the whole organisation shared between each other. Management should provide as much information as possible to enable decision making. People should get feedback about their decisions, there should be open discussions without status threat. Transparency could be used as a tool to share information.

While everybody is searching for an environment where safety and relatedness isn't "words on the wall", you could step forward to create it. Be humble, be brave! 


Title picture "Church Knights Templar in Chwarszczany (Quartschen), Poland" by Jan Jerszyński (Own work) is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chw...