Good question man, and good insights.
I know a few people that love their jobs, but not many. A lot of people I know tolerate their jobs, some truly hate them. I have personally experienced all three. We have seen numerous articles about how incredibly low employee engagement, satisfaction and loyalty are right now. The economy is still in a funk, politics, healthcare and education seem to be incredibly dysfunctional, and it seems to me that most businesses are not even seriously trying to adapt to the profound changes taking place.
I do not think that the sky is falling or that the end is near, but I do think we have a pretty serious mess on our hands. There are plenty of smarty pants types and smarty pants wannabes talking about the macro issues, but one of the things at the very heart of our current situation is the relationship between the employee and their work / employer. Sitting right next to that relationship is HR, and while I see a lot of evidence suggesting that HR is bringing its game up, I do not see much evidence that HR is changing its game.
We got here because tolerating a little bit more bullshit is a lot easier and safer than Taking A Stand. Individual risk for collective benefit is a beast. While I think you and I have some obligation to push on both sides, I agree with you that “the people have the power when it comes to fixing work and I don’t believe that organizations will respond until we create a circumstance where they have no choice.”
So there is probably some opportunity in efforts to remind people of their personal power, to help them develop skills toward using that power, but I wonder if something bigger and bolder is not needed.
Maybe we need a 21st century ethic of work.
Isn’t a big part of the problem the underlying truth that while we say we want and love change agents, we generally end up firing them? We say that we want people that are authentic and unique, but we generally do not hire them? We talk a great game about honesty and integrity and values, yet whistleblowers generally pay dearly for their actions?
I think that we need a new archetype.
What does a good employee do today? What does it mean to be a good employee, to be part of the solution, to be of value? Less and less of what we do today is based on what is actually of real value to the organization…instead it is based on preference, ideology and status quo. People that never rock the boat, that never challenge their peers or their boss or themselves, that never take risks…should be seen as lazy and self-serving. Because they are. But these are often the folks that outlast the rest of us and end up in the big chair. Can we change that? Can we change how we talk about and view staying in crummy jobs? Can we change how we talk about and feel toward people that do take risks…that tell the whole truth…that make mistakes?
The management wing of the business world is not going to save business, they are too well compensated to take any real risk. This is not something that is going to be worked out in B school. If a movement is going to take shape at the bottom of the pyramid, which I heard you talk about yesterday, I think it has to aspire toward new ideals of “employee” and “work,” built around what creates real value.
So, what words, values, images would these new ideals be built of?