I am following changes in employees’ lives in the corporate world for a very long time now. It started with my own story when I asked the hard questions at my first corporate job: “How come everybody says ‘family comes first’ but we don’t have time to spend with them, when we are clearly expected to spend long hours at work?” “Why is it so hard to take a long break in the middle of my work day to catch my son’s play at school?” “Should I stay at a job that pays me well and have great perks although I know in my heart this is not what I want to do with my life?”
I felt alone when I made my decision to quit that job. It felt like I was spoiled to ask “what matters in life”, asking for a job that I want to love and to leave a job that many will feel lucky to have.
When I finally discovered my passion and calling, I felt alone again to pursue my dream. Am I doing something wrong by not following the path that I inherited? What if I fail and people around me say “this is what happens when you don’t follow the path”? How can I explain why I choose to live like this so that others understand me? I just did not have the language at the time. It was hard to explain to others all my whys, when it all made sense in my gut. I knew I wanted to live a life that is aligned with my priorities and my values. (Now I have a better explanation of my whys, but I also know I don’t need everybody to understand it.)
As I listened to my clients - many professionals who hated their jobs, their bosses or their companies (or all) - I started to see everybody felt the same way when they questioned their status quo; alone. They all struggled with their given path while seeking for balance and meaning in their lives. Years later I noticed many companies also started having problems with these unhappy employees and they had no idea what to do with them either; especially as the number of unhappy employees (which also translates to being “disengaged”) and those who leave their jobs started to grow exponentially. At the same time some executives watched in total shock when they saw some new companies can create environments that make their employees, their clients, their shareholders andeven their communities happy. I guess we forgot going through Industrial Age and embracing some of its mindset that this is possible. As in other big changes in the world, we needed dreamers who believe companies can be successful by doing the right thing for their people, the consumers and the communities. I am so happy to see there are many more real influential leaders who believe this is possible like Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington.
New generations of employees and entrepreneurs (Gen X and Millennials for the most part or those that have the same mind set no matter what generation they belong to) started asking BIG questions much earlier in life. This is what I see as a great movement. It is very promising. We are trying to get back to where we all started before the Industrial Age mindset took over (the part that says the employees are mostly dumb, need to obey and have to work 8 to 5 to be successful) when we had to think what our strengths are and what we want to do. We did it all our lives as long as we stayed healthy. We did not “go to work” with the hope of having some time off when we “retire”. We did not even have those concepts at the time. We were connected to who we were. As Chuck Blakemansays in his book Employees Are Always a Bad Idea, which explains so well the Industrial age mindset, “to separate work and play is not normal and is not human.” Now new millennial parents do not want to miss any of their children’s important events. They choose to live by their values. We cannot blame them for that.
When we decided to sell our soul to big corporations and factories, we slowly but surely started getting disconnected from what really mattered to us. We accepted the fact that as long as we get paid in regular intervals it was fine not to like what we did 40-60 hours a week for 20-40 years. (That is a lot of hours by the way.) We had that great carrot to get to, the best award at the end; retirement. But we did not question if we can make it to that age, what if we die before we can even retire? What would be the purpose of our lives then? Work at a job we don’t like, don’t see our children grow because of long hours of work and pay the bills? Spending most of our lives doing something we really did not care about? We did not question how we can allocate a big chunk of our lives to something that does not excite us (except all those professionals who were lucky to love their jobs). I don’t think we came on earth to live like this. Don’t get me wrong Industrial Age was not all bad, I just don’t believe the mindset that came with it that keeps employees in control, creates jobs just to pay the bills and accepts tolerating everything to make money; I don't see this part as a great advancement for humanity.
It is hard wired in all of us to be purposeful and to lead meaningful lives even if we are not consciously aware.
Since we forgot about it for 150+ years we don’t even question it and live OK lives. There is nothing wrong with that but we have so much more potential to be really happy and excited about our lives. Many clients I meet don’t have answers to the simplest questions about who they are and what they want out of life. Talking to more and more people in the last 10 years though, I am so hopeful and happy that at both sides of the equation (employees and entrepreneurs), people are looking for more meaning and are willing to listen to their hearts at least as much as their minds. I know work as a fellow at an institution created by great thought leaders who are trying to help people make more meaning in their lives. I am thrilled. As Simon Sinek mentions in his book “Start with WHY” corporations and people who know their purpose get to be more successful. Look at all the people who achieved their dreams; they all say we should listen to our hearts, even a serious looking tech guy like Steve Jobs.
In some communities I belong they call me a futurist. I care about the changes happening in all areas of life not to follow trends but to see the good in all. What I see happening in the work place is a longing to go back to our roots (still keeping all the great advances we made in technology and science) to who we really are and what makes us real human. We are trying to do the same in what we eat, how we grow our food and that is all good for our planet. I love the consciousness that is spreading over many fields.
We owe it to ourselves to ask what matters in life and live a life that aligns with it. I am thrilled to see so many people think the same way and I definitely don’t feel alone anymore.
As also published on my LinkedIn profile.