PAYnotes on corporate values and management behaviours

In our reward consulting work we tend to see that in most corporate businesses there are strongly hierarchical structures based on the best Weberian principles. Position power predominates and the value attached to the individual occupying the position is driven in large part by the level in the hierarchy that the position occupies. 

A manager commonly earns more than the people reporting in and a director earns more than a middle manager. This is reinforced through pay benchmarking practices that focus on the value of roles based on the concept of “job size”. In itself this might not be too much of a problem. As Elliot Jacques might argue, all forms of human organisation are essentially hierarchical and this extends to most forms of organisation found amongst mammals. 

Perhaps the problem comes when the people who hold the more elevated positions in the hierarchy start to confuse the value and status of the position they occupy with the value and status they attach to themselves as individuals. So is it the position of CEO of a business that is important, or is it the individual who holds that position that is important?  

Unlocking this question has fundamental implications for how people occupying positions of power and authority can behave. Arguably once a role holder believes they are important because of the position they hold they start to exercise power to preserve their current position and to enhance it further. But is this exercise of power in the best interests of the organisation that has bestowed that position upon them?  Almost certainly not. 

Next time you are driving, slow down a bit and take a look around you. What you will see is a direct reflection of what is going on in many organisations, reinforced by reward strategies that overly focus on individual short-term performance. The UK company car culture means that the car driven can be seen as the outward expression of where the driver sits in the organisational and maybe societal hierarchy. 

For the most part the drivers of the newer and more expensive cars are middle to senior corporate managers. The behaviour they exhibit can often be aggressive, show lack of concern for others, display a lack of manners and courtesy, and on occasions be downright reckless. The very behaviours that they may well be displaying in the businesses in which they work. This is arguably because they have attached to themselves the status and importance of the role that they hold. They believe they are more important than those around them and have little regard for how their actions affect other people. 

This phenomenon is not restricted to business. It applies equally to politics, religion and in my experience even to voluntary groups.

Perhaps we would all do well to take a little time to reflect that every person in an organisation is equally important as an individual. And that being given a position where we can make a difference is a privilege we should make the most of in the interests of everyone who is affected by our actions. Or perhaps we are just too busy being very important to really care?

By Paul Hajduk