As Frederic Laloux tells so eloquently in his book Reinventing Organizations, our consciousness level changes every generation with the different events happening in the world. There is no one factor that changes our consciousness level. There are many. He also says every time we move up a level, the way we lead organizations change too.
I am Gen X. I am raised by Baby Boomers who have followed a formula (good schools, good job, stay there until you retire) that worked for them pretty well. According to research many of that generation was able to follow this formula and did well at least in terms of stability and financial freedom.
So it was only natural for them to teach us the same principles. That was the only one they knew.
When Gen X got to the workplace following the formula, we had different questions. At least some of us did. I have many friends who did exactly what the baby boomers did and retired from the same company after 25-30 years. There are some who had only one job, some only 2-3 in their career span. They did well. For some like me, it was and still is a very different journey.
Some of us who could not follow the old formula had various reasons:
1. Asking very early on what our purpose is and started looking at jobs as something more than a paycheck
2. Being surprised to notice the conflicting expectations and life priorities
Work and personal life had to be kept separate
Everybody said family comes first but at work they definitely made it clear it was work
Even if you were hired because of your vast experience, they micromanaged you
You had to work 50-60 hours with very little flexibility or none, missing a lot of moments in your personal life that you will never get back
3. Following the formula step by step, doing everything right, but finding ourselves laid off no matter what, with no fault of our own
4. Losing the confidence in institutions of all kinds:
Many companies started doing massive lay offs in the name of rightsizing
Some came crumbling down with unethical practices
Looking for jobs and never finding one that pays the bills
As Gen X were going through this, the new generation was watching. They saw their parents suffer with many financial issues, they saw you do not have stability in the workplace, they knew they cannot trust most of the organizations.
Then we wonder why these young ones are not willing to tolerate all the bad behavior of organizations. Or why they never show the loyalty, while there is no loyalty offered by these organizations. They want to be their own boss not willing to be in control of someone who can lay them off any minute. Why are we really so surprised they are different than us? How can you really blame them and call them “entitled”? I am sure there are those who are spoiled with parents who made them feel they can and should have everything but most of them are not, at least from what I see and what the research shows.
What they want is to have a balanced life where they have time to do things they care about:
1. Be there for their children’s activities because their parents missed out on so many
2. Be flexible to do their work anywhere, any time as long as they bring out the results (Some jobs need you to be there like if you are pilot. For many others, it is only because people do not trust others.)
3. They want to find meaning at work. They know work takes up most of our waking hours; why only make a living when you can make meaning? How can you not like or even hate your 40-60 hours spent at work? I never got this either. Again research shows people who find meaning at work are happier and more productive.
4. They care about who they work for, who they buy from or invest in. They know they can support organizations doing good in the world with their choices.
What this does is change the way we work all together. On top of all these changes, we also have to deal with the skepticism of parents, relatives from previous generations who have labels for them. There is so much judgment I see against the new generations including mine: Lazy/crazy/weird/wrong. Unless they are well versed, follow what is changing and willing to listen what the new generations are going through, they simply do not understand our life. How work has changed so far and how it will change even at a faster pace in the next decade.
Most of our relatives from other generations do not understand:
· the reason these people do not have a “job” that lasts like it did for them,
· the reason they change jobs more than other generations,
· the reason they go on their own in record numbers,
· the reason they may be suffering financially
This is the times we live in.
For Gen X it has been very, very hard to work somewhere aligned with your values. Corporations did not do the best thing for their people for the most part. Profit maximization and shareholder value being the most important criteria for being considered “successful”, they did everything possible to get there at the expense of their people. When I see so many organizations suffer today trying to attract the good talent and retain them, it almost looks like they are paying the price for what they did for the last 50-150 years not caring about their people.
For all kinds of institutions to gain people’s confidence back, especially those of the new generations Y and Z, it will take a very long time.
So keep talking to parents and relatives alike, if you want them to understand your life. But be OK if they do not. It is not easy to wrap their minds around it. We need to continue to do what is right for us, for our communities, and our world based on today’s circumstances. These are very different times. I agree with what I read recently (I wish I kept the link) “You cannot give guidance to your children anymore. You just do not know this new world.” Trust them with their choices. They grew up in a very different world, they do not have set beliefs about how the works needs to look like and they will definitely create new ways of working.
Brooke O. Erol