In the 1990s it was called empowerment. In the 2000s "intrapreneur" was the term for a workaday grunt who nevertheless acted like an owner without an ownership stake in the company.
And if author Martin O'Neil has his way, in the 2010s the term will be "internal franchisees," which he defines as people who "take personal ownership of the company's success as their own."
You can have O'Neil's book about "How Your Business Will Prosper When Your Employees Act Like Owners." I'd rather read a book on "Why On Earth Owners Would Think They Can Get Employees to Act Like Owners Without Offering Either a Piece of the Action or a Modicum of Job Security in Return."
At the frigid pro-labor demonstration in Madison last month, we took a break to warm up in a coffee shop just around the corner from the Capitol building. Paying the good-natured barrista for my coffee, I cheerfully theorized, "I bet all these demonstrations are great for you guys."
"Yeah, it's been going on for two weeks," she said. "But the owners see most of the money. For us, it's mostly just an extra pain."
Is she wrong to say that?
Or am I wrong for blithely expecting her—especially in the context of a union demonstration—to put on the Stepford Wife show, "Oh, yes, sir, we're all just so happy to have all these customers all the time!" when what it means for her is a few extra dollars a day in tips, and a ton of extra work?
If owners want employees to act like owners, they'd better find a way to make them feel like owners. How? That's up to the owners.