3 Trends Behind Worker Dissatisfaction
Editor’s Note: We are honored to run a mini-series called The Values Revolution authored by our very own leaguer, Dana Theus. This is article 2 in the series. Be sure to check out the rest of the series HERE.
In Part 1 I outlined a growing problem leaders in large organizations face today, which is the fact that the greater majority (74%) of their workforce would bolt out the office door if they had the chance. But what’s really going on? Is this just the recession’s residue or is something deeper at work? As you can probably guess, I believe it’s the latter.
I hear executives tell themselves stories to deflect responsibility for the dramatic worker dissatisfaction trends. First, “it’s the recession making people unhappy, not us.” Second, “doing more with less is the ‘new normal’ that workers haven’t fully adjusted to yet.” Third, my favorite fiction – is focused on women leaving the workforce and starting companies at twice the rate of men – “because they want to have kids and put their priority on family over work.”
There is a misalignment of values between employees and the companies that employ them.
While there is some truth in all of these stories, I believe there is a deeper and more disturbing reality. Namely, there is a misalignment of values between employees and the companies that employ them. These aren’t values like integrity, teamwork and excellence, which we claim in business fairly regularly. The revolutionary values look more like integration, alignment and impact, which we don’t often see, though we can all feel their absence. This values gap is growing thanks to the following three trends.
- Compartmentalization RIP: With technology connecting us to our work and our play 24/7, people are now able to work at home, enjoy personal pastimes at work and are beginning to integrate what work has traditionally demanded that we compartmentalize. This blending of time and definitions of self is struggling against the typical informal system for valuing a corporate employee, which is to divide their work product by the number of hours they sit at their desk. And yet this trend goes deeper, too. As workers begin to value themselves as integrated, creative human beings, the fact that their companies don’t recognize that same value becomes painful at the level of personal identity. Being unfulfilled at work bleeds over until they are unfulfilled in life. And if they actually do value themselves more than their employer does, leaving to put that value to work for themselves becomes a no-brainer decision.
- Lazy Leadership: The requirements of leadership are changing faster than our corporate leadership cultures. Legacy definitions of leadership, born out of the industrial revolution, call for functional expertise and technical process mastery, and yet today’s ideal senior leaders perform better when they are masters of socio-technical complexity, entrepreneurial/agile thinking and culture creation. Leadership characteristics like creativity, empowerment and mentorship are highly valued by the people who are led, which makes sense since it is this leadership style that is best able to coax excellence and productivity out of the integrated human beings they are managing. Yet these mature and emotionally intelligent leadership characteristics are often given little more than lip service by many corporate leadership teams and only 3% of our corporate cultures reflect such management on a company-wide scale. In fairness, changing leadership and corporate cultures is hard work, and busy managers may also be lazy leaders who are not up to the task.
The revolutionary values look more like integration, alignment and impact, which we don’t often see, though we can all feel their absence.
- Profits Plus: Employers and their employees have very different definitions of success. While markets continue to reward short-term profits above all other standards of achievement, employees and customers are looking for more. Employees in particular want to spend a majority of their waking hours working for companies that value pleasant work environments, support the communities they live in, encourage honest communications and diverse thinking styles, offer fulfilling personal growth opportunities and provide market value that results in profits, long-term growth and satisfied customers. The irony of this schism of values is that studies show that when companies live by the values their employees appreciate, they are more profitable and more successful in the market.
In Part 3 I’ll look at a specific group of workers who give us great insight into how and why these trends are affecting the workplace. We’ll look at how and why educated women are leaving to start their own businesses at twice the rate of men.
For context, be sure to check out Dana’s previous article, The Values Revolution.
Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive The ExchangeGain Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!
Image credit- 123rfkasami / 123RF Stock Photo