Employee Involvement: Implementing Quality Change

By Corsentino, Dan; Bue, Phillip T. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, November 1993 | Go to article overview

Employee Involvement: Implementing Quality Change


Corsentino, Dan, Bue, Phillip T., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


Some of the most critical problems that contribute to low morale, stress, and high turnover in law enforcement agencies today stem from a lack of employee involvement in the decisionmaking process. This circumstance results from various factors, perhaps, the primary one being that managers tend to be more interested in their own ideas and solutions than in those of their employees.(1) This is a somewhat understandable, but potentially destructive, stance for modern managers to take.

One simple tenet holds true in any occupation: If employees are not involved, they will likely resist change. Accordingly, involvement becomes the key to effectively implementing and increasing employee commitment to change.(2)

The Challenge of Change

Changing organizations and the views individuals hold is neither simple nor easy. People tend to cling to old views and habits. It requires considerable effort (both for organizations and individuals) to develop a set routine--a systematic pattern of doing things. The same holds true when attempting to establish a new way of doing things. In other words, to make or break a habit takes great commitment--and commitment comes from involvement. Therefore, involvement represents the catalyst in any quality change process.

Of course, the downside to involvement is risk. Managers who involve subordinates in the problem-solving process may fear losing control. For this reason, many find it easier, safer, and seemingly more efficient to continue making unilateral decisions and then directing (or expecting) others to accept and follow their decisions. Because this "easy way out" of decisionmaking harbors numerous shortcomings, the outcome produced through this process generally leaves something to be desired, especially in the area of compliance. Today's supervisors must then choose between the safe and easy position of direct authoritative leadership and the far more risky, but infinitely more effective, principle of employee involvement in the decisionmaking process. The choice that they make could significantly impact on how well agencies retain employees, maintain high morale, and serve their communities.

The Quality and Commitment Formula

An effective decision has two dimensions--quality and commitment. By weighing these two dimensions and multiplying them, an effectiveness factor can be determined. For example, supervisor A makes a quality decision--a perfect 10 on a 10-point scale. However, for various reasons, employee commitment to the decision is low--a 2 on a 10-point scale. As a result, a relatively ineffective decision is established (10 x 2 = a fairly low effectiveness factor of 20). Now, consider that in the same matter, the supervisor involves employees in the decisionmaking process. The quality of the decision is compromised somewhat (dropping from 10 points to 7), but the commitment to it increases substantially (from 2 points to 8). …

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