The statement, “In a democracy every nation has the government it deserves”, originally attributed to Joseph de Maistre (1976), is true. Those with voting rights choose or elect those who run the country. If the people become unhappy with their choice they can make a different selection in a subsequent election.
The same cannot however be said to apply in the case of those in positions of authority in organisations. This is simply because, in the majority of organisations anyway, managers are appointed not elected. Employees therefore cannot be blamed or congratulated for the calibre of those in charge. But leaders absolutely should take responsibility for the nature and characteristics of their workforce.
One way to describe people at work is simply as “givers” or “takers”.
The “givers” are those who consistently give more than they take, are productive, responsible, committed, treat the company as if it is their own, take initiative, stretch the boundaries of the job, and go out of their way for others. There are givers in any organisation – wonderful human beings who are just this way, always have been and always will be, irrespective or even despite those who lead them.
Those who consistently take more than they give, on the other hand, do the bare minimum, barely make an effort, lack energy and enthusiasm, are not prepared to help and support others, have a sense of entitlement, are often aggrieved and demotivated, and put their own interests first. Like the “givers”, every organisation has its share of “takers” – unattractive specimens of humanity who are just this way, always have been and always will be, even under exceptional leadership.
The actual ratio of “givers” to “takers” in a business however is not a matter of providence or something beyond the power or agency of those in charge. On the contrary, other than the rare few referred to above, both “givers” and “takers” are largely manufactured by those in charge of them. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, “givers” beget “givers” and “takers” beget “takers”. What employees are like, in other words, is on the whole a reflection on those who exercise authority over them.
Whatever the ratio of “givers” to “takers” which leaders inherit, there is work to be done. This is because people at work do not become “givers” simply by wishing it to be so. To increase the number of “givers” requires leaders to give to their people. In due course the leaders’ ‘give’ produces or manufactures “givers” simply because it is human nature to respond to a sense of being given to by seeking to give back.
Reducing the number of “takers” on the other hand requires leaders’ resolve to deal unequivocally with the “takers” in their midst. To confront each and every “taker” and hold them accountable for their taking.
In due course leaders’ actions will alter the size of the two groups. Leaders will ultimately get the people they deserve.