An Ever-Growing Gap Between Managers And Employees In The Information Age
William Cottringer

When we first started on the path of the Information Age in the early eighties, we had no earthly idea where it was going to take us. Ironically, here in 2014, we still don’t know the answer to this question because the possibilities keep expanding. And, there is no end in sight if what they say about knowledge doubling every few years is true.

The one thing we do know—the basic tit for tat “social contract” between people and life, people in relationships, and employers and employees at the workplace—hasn’t changed. What we don’t seem to know, is how to close the gap of one or both sides not getting “something for something” in return as an inseparable part this fundamental exchange contract.

The most fundamental, inalienable right of an any employer—In exchange for giving a person a job, paying the person to do the job, providing quality training and effective supervision and management, and offering meaningful career development opportunities—is to expect to get a return on the investment, This expected ROI is: Reasonably Responsible thinking and acting in (a) doing the job to the best of the employee’s ability, and also (b) to follow necessary work rules necessary for the private business or public agency to be successful. But let’s get real here. We don’t really know what true productivity a person is capable of in this Information Age that continues to grow at an exponential rate. It is still just all trial and error without a roadmap, unlike the previous Manufacturing Age.

What is becoming obvious, is the there is a huge gap, growing moment from moment, between the way managers think and act in managing employees, what they expect from employees, and the way employees actually think and act in being an employee trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability and follow the rules. Only managers with great empathy understand the enormity of this gap and how far we have already fallen behind in being able to keep the basic employer-employee tit for tat “contract” functional.

Empathic employers understand what is needed here—to resurrect some common sense to move from a basically competitive, win-lose model to a cooperative, win-win one. This simply means finding a way for both sides of the equation—employers and employees—to get what they want and need from the relationship. Smart employers must take the initiative to do two important things:

• Translate the real-life meaning of the basic “reasonably responsible” standard, with practical examples, that levels the playing field for all employees, regardless of knowledge and skill level coming into the job.

• Find out the important things employees want and need from the job in addition to the basics of a job, pay, training, supervision and career development opportunities.

The reasonably responsible thinking and acting standard is easy to articulate as an employee giving his or her full attention to do the job to the best of one’s ability and to comply with the employer’s work rules which help assure success. Some examples of employees engaging in reasonable responsibility on- the-job are:

• Finding usable answers to the five basic questions every employee has in a job: (1) Why am I here? (2) What am I supposed to be doing? (3) How am I supposed to be doing it? (4) What is in it for me? (5) Where do I go when I need help?
• Applying training to facilitate productivity in job performance.
• Understanding and following instructions and work rules that enable success for both the employer and employee.
• Managing the most important resource—time—to be most productive on the job, getting the results that help both the employer and employee achieve success and avoiding doing anything that hurts the employer’s business rights and interests or the employee’s well-being and job satisfaction.

In return for clarifying the above expectation for reasonably responsible thinking and acting on-the-job, employers must openly explore what expectations employees have regarding their finding an acceptable answer to the basic question of “What is in it for me?” This of course, is in addition to the basic guarantees of having a job, getting paid to do it, being trained well and fairly supervised, and being offered meaningful career development opportunities. The difficulty here is that these hidden, unspoken employee expectations are highly personal and need to be openly explored and negotiated with employees, keeping with the basic requirement of helping rather than hurting both the employer and employee from being successful in the business they are in.

Clarifying the standard of exactly what on-the-job reasonably responsible thinking and acting is, and exposing the specific expectations that help both the employee and employer succeed in win-win cooperation, is the common sense approach that will do the most in closing the growing gap between employers and employees. But, we can’t afford to let this gap grow any wider than it is.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice-President for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security, Inc. in Bellevue, WA, along with his hobbies in being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the peaceful but invigorating mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, “You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too” (Executive Excellence), “The Bow-Wow Secrets” (Wisdom Tree), “Do What Matters Most” and “P” Point Management” (Atlantic Book Publishers), “Reality Repair” (Global Vision Press), Reality Repair Rx (Authorsden), and “If Pictures Could Talk,” coming soon. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or