Could ‘going the extra mile’ put you at risk?

It’s increasingly fashionable for employers to want their employees to ‘go the extra mile’ (GEM).  Employers assume that GEM will benefit the organisation in terms of increased competitiveness, reduced staffing costs and increased productivity.  Indeed, those heading up the Government’s own Employee Engagement Taskforce may have you believe that GEM is the best thing since the proverbial sliced bread, but what if they are wrong?  What if by relying on GEM employers are putting their business at risk?

GEM might be about workers taking on additional assignments, voluntarily assisting colleagues, continuing their professional development, promoting/protecting the organisation, maintaining a positive attitude and tolerating inconveniences at work, but in most cases it’s interpreted as employees working beyond their official hours.

When GEM becomes the norm in an organisation it can be because of underlying problems.  Workers may go beyond the call of duty out of fear – fear of having their careers derailed, fear of not being seen as a team-player, fear of not getting a pay increase, and even fear of being made redundant.  Workers will give in to excessive demands, compete with co-workers to demonstrate their dedication, and adopt technology to guarantee their availability 24/7 rather than complain of being understaffed, under-resourced, subject to unfair demands, and having to cover for inept or absent colleagues.  Rarely does the employer go the extra mile in return.

An over reliance on GEM can put employees at risk of work-family conflict, stress, exhaustion and mental health issues.  Indeed, a long term study has just reported that white collar workers who worked 11 or more hours a day had a 2.3 to 2.5 fold risk of the onset of a major depressive episode compared to those who worked 7 to 8 hours a day.  Obviously this is not good for the employee, but neither is it good for the employer when the consequences include absenteeism, attrition, and possibly litigation for not maintaining their duty of care.

Surely instead of expecting employees to go the extra mile, employers should focus on enabling their workers to effectively do the jobs they were recruited to do during the hours they pay them for?  For help with this contact gill@unisonmedia.co.uk



4-Consulting., & DTZ Consulting & Research (2007). Employee engagement in the public sector: A review of literature. Scottish Executive. Accessed 10/04/12 from: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/176883/0049990.pdf

Bolino, M.C., & Turnley, W.H. (2003). Going the extra mile: Cultivating and managing employee citizenship behaviour.  Academy of Management Executive, 2003, 17, 60-71.  Accessed on 10/04/12 from: http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/B/Mark.C.Bolino-1/AME%202003.pdf

NHS (reviewed 2011). Redundancy fear. Accessed on 10/04/12 from: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Onabudget/Pages/Redundancyfear.aspx

Simply Health. Going the extra mile.  Accessed 10/04/12 from: https://www.simplyhealth.co.uk/sh/pages/media-centre/going-the-extra-mile.jsp

Virtanen M, Stansfeld SA, Fuhrer R, Ferrie JE, Kivima¨ki M (2012) Overtime Work as a Predictor of Major Depressive Episode: A 5-Year Follow-Up of the Whitehall II Study. PLoS ONE 7(1): e30719.  Accessed 10/04/12 from:  http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0030719




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