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  • Writer's pictureAnushruti

Mutualistic, Commensalistic or Parasitic! What describes your employer-employee relation the best?

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

Mutualism is a symbiotic relationship in which both the species involved benefit.

Commensalism is a symbiotic relationship in which one species benefits while the other species is not affected by the relation.

Parasitism is a symbiotic relationship in which one species benefits (the parasite), while the other species is harmed (the host).

An ideal employer-employee relationship is a symbiotic one in which both the parties expect to benefit, which is essentially mutualism. And before I embark on the journey of controversial comparisons of the terms to workplace, we need to ask ourselves what qualifies as benefit. The employee expects salary, job security, conducive environment to perform, grow and recognition for good work. The employer and the organization in turn expect commitment, loyalty, hard work and return on investment from the employee.

Considering that most of the employees spend far more time of the day with the organization than they do with their family, remaining at a gig that isn’t fulfilling takes a toll not only on their time but also energy and spirit. In short it is closing towards parasitism! During these professional ebbs and flows all they ask is- If the benefits still outweigh the risks?

Here we will try to explore what transforms the relationship from mutualism to parasitism. Know where to intervene:

  • In one of my previous articles, I had explained the innate desire of human beings to be appreciated and recognized. Employees dedicate the biggest chunk of their day to their work and what is the point of going the extra mile if no one notices. Recognition for good work is critical to employee happiness and honestly, it does not even consume a lot of resources.

  • In the model of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, salary is a part of deficiency needs. It is a no brainer that employees work to get paid so that they can fulfil their basic necessities. Expectation of an exorbitant pay might not be the most important criteria for an employee. But given that the turnover cost is a big hole in the pocket for an organization, maintaining a fair pay standard is not a bad idea.

  • Nothing repels a good employee from the organization more than a toxic environment. As stated before, employees end up spending more time in the workplace than with their families, and if that time is spent with co-workers and bosses you despise, you will hit the wall sooner than you know. Focus more on creating an office environment that one looks forward to after waking up.

  • Everyone wants to learn, grow and create meaningful work. Chances are that if an employee is stuck in the same monotonous work for years, without any career growth or learning opportunity, they would feel cheated. While career advancement might be a function of employee output, providing learning opportunities is the responsibility of the organization.

  • Giving a channel to vent emotions is not enough. People want to see their feedback being taken seriously. While it may not always be feasible to implement every feedback given during forum discussions and surveys, communicating the rationale behind not implementing wherever possible is a responsible act. Majority of employees don’t think performance reviews and engagement surveys are useful solely because managers fail to take action based on these.

Lastly, I would like to say that it is not unheard of losing customers to another brand with inferior product quality, just because your superior product came with poor service quality. Employer-employee relationships also work on the same principle. Too many other variables might overpower the basic proposition of good role or good package or literally any other offering when viewed individually. The question will always remain if benefits still outweigh the risks. And in asking that, you can determine the nature of your relationship as either mutualistic, commensalistic or parasitic!

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