Your Company as a “Neighborhood”

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As a human resources specialist, one of your responsibilities is working with procedures and policies that pertain to corporate culture, the values and goals of the company and how they can be best achieved by employees.

In doing this, human resources should lead the way in fostering the idea of the company as a neighborhood, according to business and psychology professor Art Markman.

Some companies promote a market environment, the idea that each person is paid what according to the value he or she brings to the company,, and that the individual and his or her performance takes precedence. But Markman argues that it is difficult for a company to really function with a market mentality. This kind of arrangement really does little to develop loyalty to a company among employees. It mostly just promotes their loyalty to their compensation.

Markman says companies should promote environments that are combinations of neighborhoods and hierarchies. In a neighborhood, people don’t share things equally, but there is an impetus toward equality. If you have a problem at your home, removing some large tree limbs, for example, a good neighbor is likely to lend a hand. And if your neighbor has a problem sometime, you would lend a hand.

Most people are familiar with hierarchies – everyone has a position, with those at the top getting more privileges, while those lower on ladder usually just take orders. Most companies take the form of hierarchies, where the higher ups take on more responsibility for running the company and get more pay and other rewards in return.

But the idea of a neighborhood gets less emphasis at companies. If you are walking down your street and you see that a neighbor’s trash can has fallen over, you probably pick it up. You do this, Markman says, because you think of your neighborhood as an extension of yourself. You are part of a larger community and you do what you can to help that community.

A company should work the same way. A business really cannot be its best unless the people who work there think of themselves as part of something bigger. People might go the extra mile in their job if they see their boss hovering over their shoulder, but they are more likely to work hard if they feel a part of the neighborhood that is their company, and feel that everyone is pitching in for the good of the neighborhood.

But it’s a two-way street – the company needs to also support these neighborhood values. It can do this, for example, by helping out workers who are having personal problems or providing educational opportunities for employees. Fairness also is important in helping to develop this loyalty.

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