Sifting Through The Wreckage
A large part of this week was absorbed by preparing for my webinar (well, that and shouting at the telly/radio/twitter about the UK government’s disgusting refugee bill).
I’ve almost forgotten some bits of the presentation as the slides have been around for a couple of years or more but when I revisit them, they still shock me.
Gallup’s Employee Engagement survey comes out every year, as it has since 2000, and it is consistently dreadful. Globally, only 21% of employees are engaged. Almost as many, 19% are actively dis-engaged, which Gallup say is ‘our technical term for being miserable at work’(!).
That’s despite huge amounts of money, time and effort being poured in ‘Employee Engagement’ programmes. They haven’t moved the dial a bit, in fact they haven’t even made it twitch.
Is that the best we can do in the 21st century? Less than 1 in 5 employees engaged in their work? It’s less that 1 in 7 in Europe! It’s absolutely pitiful.
And then there’s Jeffery Pfeffer’s book, ‘Dying for a Paycheck’, in which he documents the appalling levels of illness and death being caused by the modern workplace. He not only documents the human cost of this unnecessary suffering, he shows in hard numbers how it is damaging company performance and costing them money (very visibly in the US, where employee healthcare bills are rocketing as a result).
It’s coming up to 5 years since it was published. Have things changed? Doesn’t look like it, does it?
Why the fuck is no-one listening?
I’m Still Standing
In my webinar, I spoke a bit about my corporate career and the damage it did to me. I have recently posted about ‘my psycho boss’. Whenever I talk about this stuff it always provokes the same reaction. People start to share their own stories of hurt and pain they suffered in the workplace.
It turns out my story is not unique, it’s practically an ‘everyman’ story. There’s an awful lot of hurt out there.
Talking about these experiences is a vital part of the healing. Simply hearing that you are not the only one, that it’s not you that was the problem but the system you were in, that others are in the same struggle as you - this is a great comfort and a start on the road to recovery.
It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with what happened to me and to be at peace with it. Even until quite recently, it still triggered me, which was an unpleasant surprise as I thought I had put it behind me. I have now, which is why I am comfortable talking about it.
I’m happy to create spaces where these conversations can happen but it’s fairly ad-hoc and I feel there’s a need to do more - but I don’t know what that is at the moment. If you’ve got any ideas, let me know.
We Didn’t Start The Fire
I’m not a great fan of Gary Vaynerchuck but he recently said something that has been widely repeated and that I actually agree with (hey, look, even a stopped clock is right twice a day…)
“companies are worried about the Great Resignation, they should be worried about the Great NEVER apply…”
I was at a presentation last year of some research into Gen Z and was astonished to learn that 50% of them want to be entrepreneurs. OK, the majority of Gen Z live outside of the ‘advanced western economies’ and so their options for employment may be more limited, but that’s still going to be large percentage of kids in North America and Europe who are rejecting the corporate career path outright. Given the decreasing number of people entering the workforce pool each year, that’s going to make the labour squeeze much tighter.
So, as they used to say on a long-forgotten game show, “Let’s have a look at what you would have won”.
80% chance you will have a job that doesn’t engage you, with a 20% chance it will actually make you miserable
Lots of pointless bureaucracy
Meaningless meetings that bore the pants of you
As little salary as they can get away with paying you
A benefits package that is continually being salami-sliced away, reducing before your very eyes
No chance of home ownership
A real struggle to raise kids
Pension - ha, ha, ha!
Company culture and forced fun!
A lifetime of fitting in and conforming and only ‘living’ at the weekend.
Relentless, soul-destroying pressure of work.
No time or scope for self-expression. In fact, it’s positively frowned upon.
Enduring and endless stream of bullshit, gaslighting and coercion from above.
Hmmm, pretty enticing, right?! You can see why they are signing up in their droves, can’t you?
The generation entering the workforce are rejecting the offer that has been made, whilst the generation before, the Millenials, are experiencing crippling buyer’s remorse.
As usual, older generations characterise this as fecklessness, some defect of character and upbringing. They call them ‘snowflakes’ and ‘entitled’, tell them they’re ‘scared of hard work’ and ‘inadequate’.
In truth, it’s the only rational response. These ‘kids’ are smarter, more aware, more resourceful than ever. They know what their options are, they know the power that they have and they are exercising it.
If organisations want to survive and thrive going forward, they are going to have to drastically rethink the way they relate to their workforce, and rethink what they are offering. It’s time for some radical new approaches.
If they don’t, they are going to struggle to get the people they need, performing at the level required. Then they will be like a beam full of woodworm. Everything will look OK from outside, right up to the second that it collapses into a pile of dust.
The Pirates of the Golden Age rejected the society and the system that they found themselves in and created they own alternative. It was the rational thing for them to do. Gen Z are following the same path, for the same reasons - freedom, fairness and opportunity.
Thanks to all who attended my webinars this week, and to those who signed up but couldn’t make it. I’ll be repeating it next month and regularly in the future. It’s a great way to start the conversation so I hope you’ll join in at some point.
You have also been invited to a free online event about leadership, which features an interview with yours truly and with 9 other experts. Each interview is a 20-min video, delivered daily to your inbox, starting from next Monday, 13th March. To sign up for “Lead Up to Create Success!”, just click this link
And finally, my mate Paul Jansen of Trustworks is launching their next programme on ‘Moving Towards Self-Management’ with a free Information Session on 21st March (you can sign-up to that here). As well as being a fellow Punk on the ‘Work Punks’ pod/vlog, Paul was involved in bringing Buurtzorg, the poster child of self-management, to the UK, so he really knows his stuff.
Right, off to go and rage against the machine for a bit. Have a good weekend!