Thank you to all who came to meet and hear Blaine Donais at our most recent Workplace Fairness Luncheon on September 9. Blaine spoke to the science of Workplace Fairness. I wanted to share his Head Down Theory with you because it really resonates with me, and every time I hear him speak about it, I understand it a little more fully.
The Head Down Theory goes to the culture of engagement. Why do people stay, and in fact push for deeper engagement? Why do they leave? Blaine reached his conclusions after extensive study and research in the US and in Canada.
There are four quadrants to describe behaviour in an unfair workplace. The distribution of people within the quadrants reflect the workplace culture. A quick survey of your own organization, or in fact department, may reveal much about the culture of your own workplace.
Those with high confidence in their skills, and high loyalty to their organization, will challenge for positive change. Unfortunately in many organizations those challenges are perceived as negative influence, and are not encouraged.
Those with high confidence in their skills, and low loyalty to their organization will walk away and find more work.
Those with high loyalty to their organization, and low confidence in their own skills will assimilate. In an organization with a dysfunctional or unfair culture, those in this quadrant will assimilate possibly perceiving it as the only way to advance or to stay employed.
Finally, there are those who have low loyalty to their organization, and low confidence in their own skills. Those in this quadrant will internally exit, with the unenviable result for the organization of increased presenteeism, increased absenteeism, and low engagement.
The majority of employees in most organizations rest in the Head Down zone in the middle, where they focus on the job to be done and possibly, their own survival. They are not loyal or stupid enough to challenge, and not desperate enough for an internal, or an external exit. This is a place of passive disengagement.
How does your department plot? Where do you sit?
For further reading, see “The Head Down Theory: Understanding and Mitigating the Cost of Unfairness in the Workplace” wfiJOUNRAL, Fall 2010 page 47. Other publications from Blaine Donais include Workplaces That Work (2006, Canada Law Book). Visit www.workplacefairness.ca to purchase and for further information.