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Mirrored Reciprocation: the principle driving great Employee Experience

To understand how EX works, let’s reflect on the laws that govern our world. Let’s start with Newton’s Third Law of Motion: "For every action, there will always be an equal and opposite reaction.” In the inorganic world, this law looks like this: you push a wall with a force X and the wall will push back with an equal force Y. In the biological world, the same principle applies: the more forcefully you pull a cat by its tail, the more painful the resulting scratches from his claws will be. In human relationships, the same idea holds true: when you disrespect, ignore, trick, manipulate, discriminate against, or disempower someone, the chances of receiving anything different in return will be slim. In personal relationships, also the same: you’re looking for someone you can completely trust, with principles and courage, who is smart, kind, loyal, understanding, forgiving, and unselfish, and once you think you’ve found them, you spend all your life probing and testing them to make sure they are real, which, after a while gets old and irritating. 

The exact same laws of mirrored reciprocation apply at work. 

Let’s start with hiring. You look for the ideal candidate out there, and in your image, they have to be someone trustworthy, smart, loyal and dedicated to everything your company stands for. You court them and convince them your organization is the best place to work. She might have some inklings of discomfort with the not-so-glowing Glassdoor reviews, and she may experience some cognitive dissonance during interviews while meeting with the hiring manager who seems hurried, stressed, and overwhelmed, and she might not like the low-ball compensation offer, but she still accepts the position. 

Then she walks through the door and starts seeing reality: systems are outdated and not integrated (slows down productivity, increases errors, and leads to frustration, especially when contrasted with our external consumer experience), and getting anything done requires dozens of approvals (lack of trust in employees and big bureaucracy), and making a suggestion for improvement is frowned upon (fresh thinking is discouraged, status quo is preferred), and everything is done to attain unrealistic or meaningless targets (focusing on the process and not the outcome), and all the decisions are made in the context of increasing shareholder value and satisfying customers, at times at the expense of other stakeholders like suppliers (“oh, we squeezed all we could from them"), employees (“they are on H1B visa and can’t go anywhere”), regulators (“how can we do some financial engineering here to pay less in taxes"), environment (“there is no global warming"), and the communities in which you operate (“ it’s too expensive to do business here"). How can she continue to stay trustworthy, smart, loyal, and dedicated to everything your company stands for the long haul? 

You might say: But our company is different. Take another look, on the ground, in the trenches, when the targets are missed, when a person quits “for better opportunities,” or when she goes and posts about your company on Glassdoor. No judgment… 

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Your article is especially insightful in pinpointing the Achilles heel of today's highly engineered (i.e., read obfuscatory and manipulative) talent recruiting and hiring practices. However impersonal the process and consideration are to the employer, they are always highly personal to the candidate.

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