thalib Engineer/Designer

Prisoners vs Free Persons - Type of Employees


I came across a interesting article Prisoners & Free Agents by Nirmalya Kumar

According to Nirmalya Kumar, Employees can be classed as free agents versus prisoners. An employee’s availability of alternatives to the present employer can be conceptualized as how long it would take to find another acceptable job and how much it would pay relative to the current compensation. Clearly, the faster one can find another job at a salary higher or similar, the less dependent one is on the current employer. This led him to place all employees in two buckets those with high availability of alternatives whom I dubbed as free agents versus those with low availability of alternatives or prisoners in his terminology.

In simple words Prisoners are those who had negotiated too high a compensation have little choice but to make public displays of loyalty to the organizational leader.

NEVER negotiate too much on compensation, too attractive a compensation package would turn you into a prisoner.

Meanwhile Free Persons are intelligent being who are fearlessly, open minded. They are free to say YOU ARE WRONG when the managers, are wrong. Free Persons will query why should they do what they are being asked to.

One should have the feeling that I could walk out any day if I did not like my JOB. This will make you feel who you are and fearlessly share what is on my mind

Prisoners can be managed with CARROT AND STICK approach

  • CARROTS are rewards, STICKS are threats or punishment
  • Carrots may be used to motivate Free Persons may work, but these methods will not be as effective as they are for prisoners.
  • If the employee complies, there is a cost to the organization that is Carrot (price of fulfilling the promise and giving the reward)

Prisoners never point out the flaw in the design/process, they won’t be team players, because they are already Prisoners.

  • Sticks are extremely effective against prisoners, at least in the short run
  • Sticks are USELESS when deployed against Free Persons.

Free Persons will simply leave the organization if their managers ask them to obey under the threat of punishment.

It will look like Sticks will have no such explicit costs associated. so it seems free, but

Sticks have negative side effect on organization on long run, it costs in terms of DECLINING MORALE AND FOSTERING A CORROSIVE CULTURE.

Most MANAGERS prefer to be prison wardens rather than viewing themselves as coaches of star teams.

When sports teams do not perform, it is the coach who gets fired rather than the players. Coaches are easier to find, but not the talented players.

To be successful an Organization has to retain talent. Also it is necessary to have blend for Free Persons and Prisoners, the percentage is based on the organization business model.