There’s the light of the engaged: people who are committed into the organisation, driving it forward, valued and valuable. Then there’s the dark side: people who are uncommitted, detract from success, pulling us down. In this polarised view, It’s easy to deal with this: lose the losers, engage with the winners. Head to the light, abandon the dark. And yet in reality our problem is neither black nor white. It’s grey. And it’s vast.
The Social Contract governs the relationship between organisation and individual: it’s the trade off of security, freedoms, reward and aspiration. It’s about balances of power and control, as well as intent and desire.
In the Social Age, the Social Contract is fractured: redundancy, restructure, uncertainty and change, all conspire to make our journey more disparate and disconnected. Indeed, the only constants will be ourselves and our communities, floating through a sea of organisations on a raft of technologies and contract types. In this new space, many of the old levers of power are broken, replaced instead by reputation based authority and earned trust.
A consequence of this is that excellent organisations can attract the very best talent, but good ones can be in a harder space. Where the Social Contract is fractured, we can have people inhabiting the space, but not contributing to the evolution of the organisation. They are in grey space: quite possibly amiable and present, but not dynamically engaged and certainly keeping their options open.
It’s not a bad thing that so many people are in this grey space: indeed, they have been driven there in response to the systematic erosion of trust driven by the organisation itself, but it carries significant risk.
If we fail to engage fairly, we can drive them out. Worse, if we engage with ambiguity, we may keep them there, simmering away, neither leaving, nor fully engaged. When we are in the grey space, we are not fully engaged, but neither have we fallen away. These are people who may be dragged along, but only at a cost of energy and effort.