Dare to care
During a recent conservation with the leaders of various business units in a multinational corporation it became clear how different leaders are used to perceive and treat their employees. One of the participants told the following story: One of his employees was undergoing a difficult personal situation in her family circle. Finally she could no longer carry the burden; so she told to the manager that she was no longer able to perform in her usual manner as she had to unexpectedly take care of a problem in her family. The manger who esteemed this employee and her extraordinary performance decided to support her. Therefore he suggested that she could give priority to her personal problems for a certain time. He restrained from giving her a time limit or any other kind of specifications and restrictions.The reaction of the employee was overwhelming. She voluntarily informed him how she resolved her situation step by step and she was obviously even more devoted to her work after this experience than before. The manager himself decided that in the future he would encourage his staff to be open to him regarding their personal situation.
This story is probably not an exception but it confirms important insights we can gain out of studies that are done in the area of “work and care”. People are more motivated to work if they are respected not only as a human resource but as a human being. Doing business is not a purely economic affair but also a human one. And finally, considering employees as human beings provides not only positive effects in motivation but such employees are more than 30 % in a better physical condition, 25 % have a reduction in stress, 5 % are sleeping better. Due to their improved work-life balance an increase in productivity of over 30 % could be ascertained (see for example Bright Horizon (2010). Enhanced Employee Health, Well-Being, and Engagement through Dependent Care Supports).With respect to a systematic approach to motivate employees and other stakeholders to contribute their resources for a firm’s value creation, it is important to keep in mind that stakeholders are ends and not means. This was emphasized by an interviewee as follows: “Employees as stakeholders play an integral role because if you treat employees as interchangeable commodities that can just be switched in and out, you're never going to get the transfer of knowledge; and you're never going to achieve the real efficiency that you can with the development of knowledge and expertise” (see chapter 6 in Sachs, Rühli 2011). Last year the annual meeting of the Academy of Management was guided by the motto “Dare to care” to explore new approaches in the field of strategy and organization. Based on the above stated experiences and studies I suggest that one of the guiding principles for new narratives of leadership should be “Dare to care”.