Reciprocity

Who is giving and who is receiving?

Trust is reciprocal. Loyalty is reciprocal. Love, concern, generosity and goodwill are best when they are reciprocated. Human relationships power our lives and their run in two directions. With rights and responsibilities come obligations. Reciprocity is critical in community, in work and in life. Never forget that to receive, it is best to first give.

Wherever I roam in the future of work, I keep coming back to a few concepts. Concepts like:

  • Psychological safety from Amy Edmonson
  • PKM as Seek, Sense, Share from Harold Jarche
  • Push vs Pull from John Hagel and John Seely-Brown
  • Edgar Schein’s work on Organisational culture
  • Working Out Loud
  • Wirearchy from Jon Husband

All these concepts involve the concept of connection in networks and in particular the potential for reciprocity in relationships. I am a big fan of the potential of Wirearchy’s working definition of:

a dynamic two-way flow of  power and authority, based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology

When we start to focus on the two-way flow we are drawn into a focus on human relationships and the critical role of reciprocity. We reduce othering and the mystery of the people with whom we are working. It is very hard to see people as widgets in a machine or the enemy when you understand them, their work and their context personally and, importantly, they understand yours.

In the work I have done in social collaboration, fostering reciprocity in organisations can play a catalytic role. Reciprocity doesn’t have to be mutual accountabilities leading to mutual trust, though that is the high water mark. Reciprocity begins when people begin to share context and information. Connection and transparency are foundations for reciprocity. Human nature kicks when a sharing of information about problems, needs or challenges occur. People want to help solve those challenges even if it is not their role or responsibility. Dynamic informal responsibilities and authorities to act are the result.

Wirearchies fix hierarchies. Turning flows around in your organisation and shifting from unidirectional to reciprocal will enable your leaders and your people to learn, to share, to solve challenges and to react more quickly to the market. Employee engagement is not an abstract loyalty to an organisational brand. Employee engagement exists in two-way relationships. Real employee engagement is based in a reciprocity of give and take and the sense that shared goals exist, people are respect and valued and each person can contribute and get work done purposefully. That demands a reciprocal give and take.

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