Peer pressure

Healing our nation of corporate lemmings

July 9, 2012: 9:30 AM ET

Getting people to identify with your company sounds ideal, in theory. But business leaders need to work on releasing their employees from corporate peer pressure.

FORTUNE -- With a disappointing June jobs report, news that U.S. manufacturing is slowing, and the stock market below levels of a decade ago, it's time to put on some fresh goggles and reevaluate our economic condition.

Certainly, Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz deserves applause for his persistent attempts to push the conversation on our economy and address our need for jobs. And Gary Hamel is right that bosses need to look in the mirror to deal with the sorry state of employee engagement today. Both of these problems are related: one a macro example, the other, on a smaller scale. And both have dragged on for a very long time.

To address these issues, we'll need to appeal to some upside-down thinking and consider solutions that fly in the face of conventional wisdom. And Tim Phillips, author of Talk Normal delivers just that. Rather than discuss employee engagement in the usual way, or simply encourage it as many might, he pinpoints a major culprit of corporate malaise: when workers identify with their corporations.

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That sounds a bit counter-intuitive. After all, it would seem to make sense that if you get people to identify with the company they work for, they would be more engaged, which should be a good thing, right? But far too many people hinge their identity and self-worth to the organizations they work for. Because of this, Phillips argues, many succumb to corporate pressure to fit in, their ideas are swallowed up by groupthink, and they are less inclined to blow the whistle when they should. More

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