Reciprocity: Culture Shifting for Greater Good

by Kawel LauBach, MA

Reciprocity logoTo truly grasp the power of ‘reciprocity’ in the workplace, we first must reflect upon the traditional organizational tone. Organizational behavior begins with the recruiting process which serves as the organization’s customary approach to developing a relationship with applicants. It then persists through every facet of the employee/employer relationship… the Talent Management Life Cycle. You’ll discover that in most cases, it’s a conformed rigidity as to how to behave.

Think about when you’ve applied or interviewed for a position and then received a standardized email or letter of decline. “As you could imagine we had an enormous amount of interest in this position and decided to pursue other applicants.” Or my favorite… “You were not selected. However, if you wish to monitor our job site, other positions may come open that interest you.” What did you feel? Consider the style… it exudes arrogance that is subconsciously expressing to the applicant (or future employee) “why would we hire you?” Misguidedly, it presumes that the organization holds all the power and the key to letting you in and it’s up to you to impress them.

Without question, organizations must ensure they are hiring the right talent. What needs to be scrutinized is the profound importance of setting a humble, respectful, and appreciative tone with individuals who are considering (or are already!) working for our organizations. We need to be creating a behavioral experience that facilitates mutual respect, passion for our mission, connectivity, and alignment of values.

Don’t applicants today have equivalent worth and abundant choice as do ‘Level A Customers?’ Typically, customers are treated with deference. Without them, there is no revenue or survivability, right? Would you ask a customer “why do you want to do business with us?” Or, even worse “why should we provide service to you?” But, in an organization that expects team members to drive customer loyalty, revenues, and profitability year over year, does it not make sense to appropriately treat individuals who work for us or desire to work for us in an equally appreciative way?

Defined by the globally recognized “Godfather of Influence,” Dr. Robert Ciadini, Reciprocity occurs when “people are obliged to give back to others the form of behavior, gift, or service they have received first .” Think of a time that’s happened to most of us… you unexpectedly received a gift during a holiday. How did you feel? Did a feeling of guilt and the need to rush to the store to purchase a gift of ‘reciprocal’ value to immediately equal the relationship quickly wash over you?

Imagine… an organizational culture where employees receive exceptional interpersonal interaction from the time they are interviewed and hired. How they are treated causes them to sense a feeling of want and/or being obligated to reciprocate. This unspoken, persuasive tool, and underlying difference in organizations is consistently found among the “Best to Work For” and “Most Admired” lists. They have achieved a relationship of reciprocity with their employees who in return feel a moral contract to provide exceptional commitment back to the organization (e.g. high attendance, engagement, performance, service standards, etc.) which then conveys to the customers.

If you construe the Spirit of Reciprocity into all dimensions of the employee life cycle (Talent Acquisition, Training, Development, Employee Relations, and Total Rewards) and reduce a disciplinary tone used to derive organizational accountability, you’ll quickly tap into a floodgate of unrealized potential in your organization and gain greater accountability and performance than you had imagined.