World famous business consultant and author Peter Senge has written in his best-selling book ‘The Fifth Discipline’ that:

Real commitment is rare in today’s organisations, 90% of the time what passes for commitment is ‘compliance’.

Is he right?

What does ‘compliance’ look like in a business?

  • People merely ‘going through the motions’ to get through the day?
  • Too many employees clock watching and ticking off the time until the coffee breaks, lunch and eventually knock off time?

In my personal observations of a large number of businesses over an even larger number of years I believe there is truth in what Peter Senge is saying. And he has the facts to prove it.

So, what is the problem and what’s causing it?

Firstly, I define commitment as: once you have either promised to do something or been given an opportunity, you will carry out the actions necessary to see it through, and not simply give up somewhere along the way. (Or you can check the definition on Wikipedia.)

Therefore commitment implies demonstrating a level of:

  • Determination
  • Perseverance
  • Willpower

What could be some of the reasons real commitment is missing from our organisations?

Causes of low commitment can be created by management

Many of the causes come down to the business leaders not being able to give employees enough reasons to be committed and stay committed. For example:

  • The business has no real vision or strategic direction that is either documented or been shared with the team.
  • The business has not identified its Core Values. Or the values are not alive in the business. This could be interpreted to mean ‘I don’t know what this company stands for nor what it values’.
  • There are no Job Descriptions. So people are not clear on their role and is responsible for what.
  • There is little or no feedback on performance which makes staff think the work they do does not matter.
  • Even worse, if there is feedback, it’s only negative and given when something goes wrong.
  • The company does not value staff, demonstrated by high staff turnover (like a revolving door, as the saying goes).
  • It is rare for staff to receive recognition and appreciation for the work done.
  • Work is boring and repetitive.
  • The company says one thing and does another, leaving staff to question their integrity.

… The list could go on but that’s enough to paint the picture.

To be clear, I do believe that some leaders receive a ‘bad wrap’ in this regard. They get the blame laid at their feet when clearly the real causes are more widespread.

Many causes stem from the employees themselves

As an employee can you recognise any of these factors in yourself or your colleagues?

  • For whatever reasons, are you simply not giving your employer ‘a fair go’?
  • Are you adopting an ‘entitlement mentality’ where you simply expect things to happen, benefits and rewards to accrue simply by being on the payroll?
  • Are you waiting for the employer to discover your ‘hidden talents’ rather than you making a concerted effort to bring them to the fore through your own efforts and endeavours?
  • Are you making an effort to understand and buy into the culture?
  • Are you making an effort to discover and understand the challenges faced by the business owner? Is there something you could do to assist?
  • Do you consider ‘it’s up to someone else on the team’ to do something first or do you take the lead?
  • Do you have a difficult relationship with another employee, or your manager, and that’s affecting how you feel about the whole company?
  • Do you believe that traditional values like Loyalty, Empathy, Commitment, Dependability, Fairness and Gratitude are old fashioned and outdated, or do you believe they still have a place? If you were an employer would you hold the same views?

How can you be more committed?

Check yourself, or your business, against the points listed above.

As an employer ask yourself “How are we doing?”, and “What actions can we take to fill the gaps?”

As an employee first consider if you really want to stay with your present employer. I hope the answer is yes. Then reflect on the points above and think of one thing in the next 24 hours you can do, two things in the next week and three things in the next month to improve your level of engagement and commitment at work.