Willingness: A Reflection on Commitment, Organization Citizenship and Engagement from the Perspective of Albert O. Hirschman's Concept of Exit, Voice, and Loyalty

By Cusack, Gerald P. | Review of Business, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Willingness: A Reflection on Commitment, Organization Citizenship and Engagement from the Perspective of Albert O. Hirschman's Concept of Exit, Voice, and Loyalty


Cusack, Gerald P., Review of Business


Executive Summary

No business organization can be assured of long-term strategic vitality without the continuing willingness of employees to act in the interest of the organization's goals and wellbeing. The economist Albert O. Hirschman addresses the issue of the decay of organizations from the point of view of employees' abandonment of the organization and its interests (e.g., to exit the company) when it fails to provide promised security; when it is disloyal to the employee's sense of justice, and when it fails to provide the employees with the means to express their concerns (to have voice). Organizations' past promise of lifetime security and full employment are long gone, as is the assurance of equitable treatment. At no time in the history of American business has the willingness of managers to engage their subordinates been so vital to the organization's success. By responding to their employees' concerns by listening, the manager gives them a voice and thereby lessens their inclination to leave or take up a disengaged residence on the organization's payroll.

Introduction

The Phoenicians, Romans and Greeks all utilized the trireme as a naval weapon from the seventh to the fourth century B.C. The long warships are commonly thought to have been manned by slave oarsmen who, as depicted in the 1959 film "Ben Hur," were starved, beaten with whips, and chained to their benches. The typical trireme was 121 feet long with a width of 18 feet. Its prow was covered by heavy copper or bronze sheathing that extended below its waterline. Its propulsion depended on the perfectly coordinated stroke of 170 oarsmen. By ramming an enemy ship at a speed of 10 knots (11.8 mph) the target would immediately sink. In his description of trireme battle tactics Wilson states, "Advances in Greek warship design were aimed at achieving the speed necessary for successful ramming without the loss of stability. Impact theory indicates that unless the attacker reached the critical speed of 10 knots at the moment of impact, it would crumple, while the target vessel escaped almost unscathed." (Wilson, 2008 p. 1)

Both common sense and the historical record belie the notion that slaves were the key to the ships effectiveness. According to Schultz (2008 p. 1)

  The trireme was probably the most formidable ship ever designed for
  fighting with a ram. However, it had a number of drawbacks. It
  required a carefully trained and large crew. A single rower who
  couldn't maintain the stroke could cripple the ship for minutes.
  Therefore, only free men were used on triremes. If, in times of an
  emergency, slaves had to be used, they were freed before the combat.
  The whip or the lash was not used (and wouldn't have worked).

The men who pulled the 13-foot oars had to be exceptionally well trained. Wilson states,

  Athens undertook many small military expeditions just to keep the
  oarsmen fit, although as far as skill was concerned, "the majority
  can row as soon as they get aboard since they have practiced all of
  their life (The "Old Oligarch"). (Wilson, 2008, p. 3) The oarsman's
  pay was one drachma a day. A soldier in the Athenian infantry made
  one third that amount. The rowers seem to have much more in common
  with a modern professional athlete than with a slave.

"Organization" originates from the Greek word "organon" which means "tool." The trireme was a combat tool. If any of its vital components failed to function, if a single rower or group of rowers dropped their oars, then the entire ship would be jeopardized. Is it any wonder that these men were treated very well? They were a vital part of the "tool." The ship's captain depended on their strength, their rowing skill, and their willingness to do their part to contribute to the success of the boat's attack. God help him if the rowers weren't in the mood.

Just as the captain would not countenance the mistreatment of his rowers, no strategic or financial executive would countenance the mismanagement of the organization's financial or operational resources. …

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