I have been pondering since reading Steve Denning’s on Fighting the Kool-Aid of Stock Based Compensation and Umair Haque’s Harvard Business Review’s The Economic Roots of your Life Crisis about perilous journey that we might be on. Take a step back for a moment and consider some cause and effect.
When my parents worked it was pretty much considered a job for life. Most of my friends around the same age had similar experiences for their parents.
When I entered the permanent workforce in 1997 this mentality was beginning to peter out. Big organisation after big organisations that I worked for all went through regular retrenchment periods. Some were as short as every six months, others in two yearly cycles.
They called them different names – offshoring, outsourcing, departmental restructure, voluntary reduced hours; but the intent was always the same – cut the bottom line.
Does anyone else think that this is crazy? What is the point of ever being a permanent employee if you cannot feel safe (naturally excluding performance issues)? At least a contractor knows when their date is going to end. The rest of us that were after secure jobs to pay our mortgages and support our tribe of kids wanted something that we could depend upon. But we cannot depend upon it. We are like a character of “In Time“, our clock is ticking down, but we have no idea when the timer is going to reach zero.
Because of my parent’s experiences within companies I was raised with the belief “You look after your company because your company will look after you.” Extra hours was sometimes part of that deal. Towing the company line as well. But what I was experiencing was something considerably different. It didn’t appear like the organisations cared about its most long term employees (they were commonly the first ones to go). It shattered my illusions. It left a void in my belief system.
I am not the only Generation X person who has been left feeling like they are in the Matrix. Companies no longer care about their people, they care about the almighty shareholder seemingly above and beyond any other competing priorities.
So as anyone with a dysfunctional belief system does, they find a new belief to fulfill this empty hole. We believe that if the company doesn’t care about us then we need to care about ourselves. What behaviours and patterns emerge from this?
We appear selfish. It is all about what we can get right now. We want recognition right now. We don’t feel obliged to have to stay at an organisation for too long (especially if the organisation loves to retrench frequently). We see no problem with being headhunted. We see no problem with doing the work for the hours that we are meant to be paid and no more. This makes us look lazy.
Does this sound familiar? Take a look at the wikipedia definition of a Generation Y:
Studies predict that Generation Y will switch jobs frequently, holding far more than Generation X due to their great expectations. The UK’s Institute of Leadership & Management researched the gap in understanding between Generation Y recruits and their managers in collaboration with Ashridge Business School. The findings included high expectations for advancement, salary and for a coaching relationship with their manager.
Is this singularly minded focus on shareholder value turning us all into Generation Y thinkers?