LMX theory suggests that due to limited resources, time, and money, bosses segregate their workforce into in-group and out-group members – favored sons/daughters, and those considered hired hands. In-group members are the beneficiaries of a host of organizational benefits, not the least of which is boss attention.
In his article Eleven Things that Make Workers Happy, Mielach explains managerial communication motivates employees to do more [because it makes them feel happier and more secure]. Favorites have the manager’s ear. In other words, all they have to do is say “boo,” and the boss comes running – even if opposing viewpoints have information that contradicts the pets’ version of events.
The exchange between boss and pets is utilitarian, in that pets allow themselves to be used for reporting purposes – gathering information on other people in clandestine surveillance missions. Employee expropriation works best with the most dependent – e.g., contingent workers, the lesser tenured, the unaccomplished, and in some cases the low self-esteems. These people are in the greatest need of protection, and the ones most likely to follow orders.
Pet owners do the organization a grave disservice. They (1) send the message that pandering is acceptable, and (2) provide an inappropriate role model for aspiring leaders. A pet tucked into boss purpose learns that agreement is what earns perks. Only in companies where individuals experience autonomy will you find the free thinking necessary for a firm to remain solvent. This occurs in organizations that frequently query their employees on issues pertinent to their happiness – free form questions that ask “What are qualities you ascribe to a great manager?” and “How can I fulfill that function for you?” Soliciting this information (and acting on it) makes everyone feel like a co-owner, as opposed to a disenfranchised lot who peer wistfully at boss pets.
Consistency in policy enforcement creates a cohesive cohort. As the saying goes, if you take care of your employees, the employees will take care of the customers, and the business will take care of itself. For full participation to occur, it’s essential that managers care for all of their employees, and not simply a chosen few. In his blog “HappinessisEssential.com” Giacalone shares the following sentiment regarding our impact on other people: “…remember to leave a lovely reel of film each day for others.” This is great advice for managers making memories in the mind’s eye of their employees.