The About Staffing Blog

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04
Oct 2019
Individualism vs. Collectivism in the Workplace

by Sharlene Massie

There is a new divide in the workforce; a trend as some may call it.  This divide is becoming more and more relevant as companies evolve and adopt to the new trends of the workforce. This trend is evident with companies who have a combintation of remote-based and office-based workers.

As Masters at Matching Culture, it is my duty as the founder to keep a close eye on what is happening in the workforce and by looking at my own team, I often gain clarity into what is going on. You see, within the last several years, I have hired several employees who work from home. These employees in combination with my loyal office-based staff have created an interesting dynamic for About Staffing.

This is the Divide: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Remote-based workers tend to live in the realm of individual-based thinking. Their contribution to the greater good is through their individual roles and responsibilities. They tend to work from home, run their own schedule and touch base physcially when the group needs to come to together.

Office-based workers are often collective-based thinkers. They are connected to the daily happenings of the business and contribute to the greater good by bringing everyone together.

And so the divide is created...

Perception is everything in the workforce and it is through this perception that the divide is created. Remote-based workers are perceived to do what they want, when they want. Office-based workers perceive remote-based workers to lack teamwork because of this.

In the past, and still operating in some businesses and industries, employees were expected to work a set timeframe, in a distinctive location, with specific tools, and very set hours.  Of course, there are some fields where this type of work is still required, like healthcare, retail, distribution, and others.  But, for many businesses, they started with a vision and methodology where teamwork, friendships and a collective purpose to work together to achieve something was part of the soul of the business. There are other businesses that started with a completely individual contribution and performance-based structure, like old school commission incentivized companies, I.T. companies like Google or incubation types of organizations. 

The frustrations and disconnect in organizations today are coming from the morphing of these two. Office-based workers characteristically believe in the original company purpose, the collective culture around achievement for the overall good, the big picture community within the organization and the people. Remote-based workers tend to be tech savvy, flexible workers who place a high degree of important lifestyle balanced work.  

Remember: One is not better than the other! This is just how the workforce is evolving!

There is absolutely no right or wrong with either type of worker.  What is important is how the company adapts and evolves. This trend is here to stay and there is a need for both types of workers.

  1. Listen to what the employees are talking about.  Are the words teamwork, understanding, learning, knowing, feeling, selfish, caring and purpose coming up in general conversations or any types of communication? 
  2. Create a way to communicate the issues to the people in the organization, and tend to the concerns so you can retain the teams during the transition.  Even just an acknowledgement that you hear the people and welcome their differences.
  3. Loyalty and history is just as important as new ideas, creativity and production.  Collectivism and individualism can coexist. You may need to create parameters that include creating job descriptions, policies, and most importantly respect and boundaries regarding what is acceptable or not must be created and communicated.  This step is a priority once the issue has been recognized.
  4. Update the company guts to reflect the forward working plan of combining the two. This may involve a rework of the company vision, mission and purpose as well as compensation models. The very brilliant individual who is motivated by freedom, remote working and who is productive offsite should be rewarded for their contribution. The loyal and engaged employees knowledgeable on the inside workings of the company should also be rewarde for their collective contribution.

The gap between the collective and the individual is widening. The understanding of what teamwork means is becoming a challenge. The rigid office-based workers do not understand the remote-based workers and vise versa. Finding a way for both to live in harmony will become the necessary way to retain both and will become the new way of doing business.