We have two good reasons for thinking that we need to pay more attention to the issue of responsibility in the workplace. First, an experiment from the 1960s involving electric shocks makes clear just how bad things can get if people don’t take responsibility for their actions (it’s far worse than most of us might think!). Second, it’s more difficult to display the right kind of responsibility than we might think because responsibility can be inspired by at least three figures: children, bureaucrats and leaders. The challenge, then, is to figure out which of these types of responsibility we want employees to display in the workplace.
What can we learn about peer recognition from a Nobel Prize winner in economics and a piece of advice relating to how to raise children. Two things, I suggest. First, employee recognition is likely to be even more important than we thought it was. Second, employee recognition should come not just from management but also from colleagues. How do we get from Nobel Prizes and child rearing to these conclusions? Well that takes a bit more explanation.