Organizations no longer talk in terms of lifelong employment. The individual is for himself and the organization is for itself. The organization is focused on business outcomes and the individual has to worry about his own outcomes in life. So there is alienation between the individual and the organization. This is the foundational idea.

How can one prevent this alienation from taking away the need for both the individual and the organization to work in harmony?
This is necessary because the individual needs fulfillment for the 8-10 hours of work that he puts in, in a day. On the other side, the organization needs to have people who are committed to business outcomes. Otherwise things won’t get done.

This is the challenge space.

A short detour into the human personality

To design a solution to the challenge outlined earlier, we need to first recognize that there are two aspects to our personality, namely, being and function.

A response at a function level is fundamentally transactional in nature and connects the business goals of the organization with the roles and rewards at the individual level. A response at the being level demands much deeper engagement – it connects the collective purpose that binds the organization with the need for fulfillment and meaning at the individual level.

The transactional relationship between individual and organization
The transactional relationship demands that the organization must pay for capacities, and reward when people deliver business goals. This converts employment and careers into a marketplace where people trade or sell their capacities to deliver certain things to organizations, who pay them accordingly.

This has an immediate impact on ‘salaries’ – the price for these capacities. People get drawn to those organizations who pay more. Organizations may ‘temper’ this transactional response with a ‘bouquet of benefits’ which together lead to adequate remuneration for the output given.

The fully-engaged relationship between individual and organization
The engagement relationship is based on creating fulfillment within the work rather than allowing it to arise as a consequence of work. This, in other words, means that the act of working should itself become a source of joy.
When does this happen?
This happens under two conditions:
– When individuals transcend themselves (evolution)
– When individuals truly experience the joy of enabling others (enablement)

When individuals are thus ‘engaged’, they overcome the sense of alienation and psychological tiredness they feel at work. Instead they feel deeply validated and energized as individuals and as members of a collective.

When the purpose of work is contribution, then individuals are fulfilled and organizational outcomes are met

The organization needs to function as a commercial entity and it must also thrive as a collective of human beings. Similarly, the individual needs to be paid for his services and at the same time must find deep fulfillment and meaning at work.

The answer lies in a reframing of the purpose of work from material targets to creating contributions at three levels – to self, to organization and to society. When an individual is a contributor, he is contributing to the larger good through the medium of the organization. Thus, he finds both personal meaning and career success.

An organization which nurtures contributors receives (i) value/contributions from employees, and also (ii) provides a framework of shared purpose that enables contribution by each member of the collective.

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