Delusions of Grandeur

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The topic we were covering in class today was organizational citizenship behaviors and proactive work behaviors.  There’s a lot of overlap between the two topics.  Both of them are positive behaviors engaged in by employees to help either members of their work groups or the organization as a whole.  The difference between the two is that OCB’s are in response to a current need, i.e. “I see that Suzy is having some difficulty balancing her workload right now and I have the skills and time to help her out so I’m going to offer to take something off her plate” whereas proactive work behaviors are more future oriented, i.e. “I see that Process C is somewhat dysfunctional and a source of problems for the organization so I am going to do a bit of research and suggest some possible changes that can be implemented.”  There are some personality factors that are more highly correlated with these behaviors, however interestingly there has been some research that has indicated that the same people who engage in OCB’s and proactive work behaviors when dis-engaged can act in ways that are detrimental to the organization (counterproductive work behaviors).  That would suggest that environmental factors can play just as big (if not a bigger) role in generating OCB’s.  While we were talking about this, I kept thinking of the work environments I’ve been in throughout the years and it struck me that one organization I’ve worked for actually managed to build an environment that did more to support and generate OCB’s than any other place I’ve worked or studied.  For those of you who’ve heard me rave about this place I can already see you rolling your eyes, and I know you won’t be surprised about what I’m about to write.  For those of you who haven’t heard about this amazing company, I’m about to introduce you the single best company I’ve ever worked for.

The Container Store’s hiring philosophy specifically seeks out individuals prone to engaging in positive work behaviors.  Their foundation principle which directs hiring decisions is 1=3, that is, 1 great employee is equal to 3 good employees.  By only hiring great employees they are deriving three times the benefit from their human resources as organizations that focus on good employees and even more than those organizations that don’t even bother to select for “good.”  Positive behaviors are further engendered through extensive training to ensure that employee’s intuition is aligned with the overall organizational values.  (Intuition does not come to an untrained mind was/is my favorite of the foundation principles, I still wish I had bought that shirt before I left!!).  So TCS uses selection to bring in employees prone to OCB’s, hones that tendency with training to ensure that those behaviors are of maximum impact to the company and finally the company ensures that it’s all tied to together by assessing for those behaviors.  When you complete your annual evaluation you are evaluated based on your overall contributions.  1=3 is simply average….all employees are expected to meet that baseline.  Employees aspire to be 1=4, 1=5 or at the highest level 1=6.  Each of these levels has clearly articulated competencies and each is associated with a different merit increase.  I remember when I had the conversation with my store manager for my one year evaluation, I as extremely proud to be at a 1=5, but even more motivating to me was the fact that I was so close to a 1=6, which is extremely difficult to do in your first year.  I loved that I was told exactly what was necessary to get to that next level and given a clear action plan to achieve it.  It was the most relevant review process I had ever been through and I think the transparency and obvious congruity with our daily activities was what made the process so positive and motivating.

By hiring for excellence, training so that employees have the tools to give excellence, maintaining an employee-centric culture that drives engagement, and assessing achievement of excellence The Container Store does an incredible job of building a culture of organizational citizenship.  The company serves as a model of how effective management of organizational culture pays out in multiple ways.  While I no longer work with TCS (honestly the evening schedule simply wasn’t sustainable with the needs of my family) I will always remember and appreciate the lessons I learned working with them.  Their success is proof that it is possible to take care of your stakeholders and still be successful. I hope I will be able to apply these lessons to improve other organizations as I move forward in the pursuit of my PhD in Organizational Development and Leadership and in my career in general.



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