‘Individualism’ At The Workplace: Is It the Need of the Hour? Should Companies Encourage it?

‘Individualism’ At The Workplace: Is It the Need of the Hour? Should Companies Encourage it?

The word ’employee’ is commonly referred to as a collective concept of groups divided, if at all, by units, teams, departments or titles. It’s the easiest way to think of employees as collective, isn’t it? However, each employee is a unique individual who wants to be recognized for their own skills.

According to the Mercer Global Talent Trends Survey 2017 – 5400 respondents want to be regarded for their individuality and unique skills. In fact, enthusiastic employees who report to work with full vigour, state that their companies recognized their skills and interest by placing them at the right roles. On the other hand, disenfranchised employees did not feel their companies recognized their individual talent.

Why should employers even care for employee individuality? As a new hire joins your company, the position may be apt for one aspect of the newcomer’s skillset, but is it their most significant expertise, main interest, and passion? If those unique skills of the individual are not recognized or left untapped at work, the employee will want to look outside for options.

What is Organisational Individualism?

Every employee carries an individual personality to work with them. Even when performing work in a professional capacity, the person’s natural temperament and traits come to the forefront and reflect their attitude towards work.

Organisational individualism takes into consideration the unique personality and skill set of the employee. It leverages on the right opportunity to find the right match for them in the organisation. Organisations that have adopted individualism as part of their culture tend to have higher employee engagement. This is because they accept the uniqueness of the individual as an asset rather than a burden.

Collectivism Vs Individualism

Collectivism vs Individualism… 

Much of the corporate world is like a football team. Each person has a unique set of responsibilities with well-defined duties and the coach or the boss takes the call of the plays. All work for the good of the team, irrespective of the personal cost.

The stark opposite, individualism, upholds the rights, beliefs, and responsibilities of each person. It provides freedom for employees to explore their own ways of completing their tasks. That does not mean – individualism will eventually devolve into chaos without central direction.

With a focus on the end result, individualism in a vertical direction can be very effective wherein each team member is eyeing to move upward. It’s more like a track team and here, individual accomplishments account to the points of the team.

Should You Encourage Individualism At The Workplace?

In an organisation that preaches teamwork, individuality might seem like a dogmatic approach. It can put you into enough trouble to remove the “I” from your vocabulary altogether.

But, is it really necessary to remove the “I” from your career?

Companies that cherish and nurture the individuality of its employees can still collaborate and work together to create powerful teams. Here are the benefits of encouraging individualism at your workplace:

1. Promote Creativity

Even the most rigorous business model need lateral doses of problem-solving and creative thinking to dig out the trenches. When unique individual ideas and opinions come into play, it brings the most creative side of the business to the fore.

In a study published by the University of California in 2006, two professors decided to contest the notion that collectivist organisations are more productive while individual structures breed conflict. They divided two groups of students into collectivists and individualists and instructed them to come up with ideas on how to use a commercial space vacated by a restaurant.

The individualist groups came up with a variety of ideas and twice as many non-restaurant ideas as the collectivist group.

Organisations conducive to creativity will definitely benefit a great deal with an individualist atmosphere. Companies that support individualism reward personal achievements and allocate more resources to innovative activities.

2. Better Collaboration

One popular misconception is that promoting individualism will lead to conflicts within the team due to diverse ideas and skills. However, organisations can promote their employees to be great collaborators who arrive at goals by incorporating variable points of view. The secret to effective collaboration is individuality.

While collectivism unites around a single purpose, ignoring the alternate paths to achieve a common goal, individualism builds upon the ideas of many to get things done.

Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer advised fellow engineers and inventors to “Work Alone…Not on a Committee. Not on a Team”. You want everyone on the team to feel free to contribute their own ideas and take up ownership. This is the best way to increase collaboration and engagement.

3. Power Of Personalisation

It can be as simple as letting your employees furnish their own cubicles the way they want. Individuality at its best cherishes personalisation at a fine level. Honouring the individual at its simplest and most superficial level will appeal to employees the most.

Personalisation is one of the most efficient ways to increase employee satisfaction. You can also recognize and reward your employees for their contributions to the company beyond primarily doing the job. This will help you ascertain those special skills of employees and value them.

How To Encourage Individualism

4. High Performance

Exercising freedom of expression can turn the employees into over-achievers. It gives more flexibility to employees to perform their best and gives way to abstract constructs of thinking and problem-solving.

This does not mean disparate ideas irrelevant to the company goals has to be encouraged. The managers can reinforce collaboration by letting the individuals know that they must cooperate and coordinate with each other as well. It will enable your employees to contribute their brains as well as their brawn.

Balance is the Key…

Today’s employees should not be merely seen as members of the team. They want to be seen as individuals and recognized for who they are, what they contribute and how they perform. Suppressing individuality altogether will not let you be in the good books of your employees.

The key is to find the right spot at which individuality integrates seamlessly with teamwork and collaboration. As a result, it will make the whole workplace vibrant and powerful. If the companies strategic goals are aligned with smaller personal goals, you can access high productivity along with nurturing the well-being for your own employees.

This can only happen when you let your employees step outside their comfort zone, speak their heart, interact at an inanimate level and sketch the future they envision for the organisation.


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