Jeff Pfeffer: Why Are Employees More Loyal Than Their Employers?

Jeff Pfeffer: Why Are Employees More Loyal Than Their Employers?


[MUSIC] The wildly recognized phenomenon is that
organizations are on a pretty regular basis, walking back on the
promises they made to their employees. So they cut pension benefits, retiree,
healthcare. Oftentimes, people come in to places being
promised things that and those implicit psychological contracts are broken and
that’s not really news in some sense. On the other hand, there is this idea of a
very powerful and longstanding social theory, social idea, which talks
about the norm of reciprocity. That when you do something for someone,
particularly if you do something nice for someone, that, that person ought to repay
the favor. So, if I give you a ride, you ought to
give me a ride. If I invite you over for dinner, you
should invite me over for dinner, things such as that. And so you have on the one hand this
wonderful, this continuity between organizations that
seem to be breaking promises and breaking their, their, you know, not
really rewarding the hard work and good efforts of their employees that put
in. On, on the other hand, there’s no
reciprocity. [MUSIC] The intuition that we had is that as soon
as you put people into an organizational context, you told them
as opposed to a personal relationship, they were now an organization. Instead of a favor being done for them by
a friend, it was being done by a coworker and things
such as that. But that would change the dynamic in some
fundamental ways that would cause the favor, the person who receives the
favor to feel less obligated to repay the favor simply, because it was delivered
in an organizational setting and that’s essentially what we found. Now there’s some mechanisms that underly
this, one mechanism, if you think about a reciprocity. Means if you’ve done me a favor in the
past, I should, following the normal reciprocity, repay
that favor. However, organizations are not about the
past, they’re about the future. And so therefore, to the extent that you are not gonna be
useful to me in the future. Or not gonna be helpful to me in my job or
career, then I won’t feel as obligated to repay the favor in a in an
organizational setting. Because organizations are, are very much
about thinking about the future. Organizations also prompt a more
calculative or strategic mindset where you’re always thinking about is can
somebody be useful or not. Can they be helpful or not. And so when you get a favor done for you
in an organizational setting, you’re less likely to attribute that kindness to some
trait or disposition of the individual. And more likely to attribute it the fact,
well, they were just doing their job. And that also then diminishes the
pressures or the the likelihood that you will repay
that favor. Because it’s not really a favor, it was
just part of their job. [MUSIC]

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