Monday, July 5, 2010

Losing Trust Is Now a Good Thing

When I read this excellent post from Tammy Erickson about the evolving nature of the employer/employee relationship--which she characterizes as a loss and then an attempt to regain trust--I couldn't help but wonder how the generation now entering the workforce will react to this changing landscape.

After all, it was a wholesale loss of "trust" between the employer and the employee during the layoffs in the 1980s that has been pegged as responsible for the now infamous Xer cynicism. Back then, employers dropped their obligation to provide lifetime employment and loyalty-building benefits, and as a result, a generation of employees learned to fend for themselves, and all the while were chided by their elder colleagues for abandoning their loyalty to their employers, hopping from position to position like gadflies as it suited their own interests.

But now that all seems like ancient history. Listen to how Erickson describes the new equation that she says will form the basis of trust between corporations and workers in the decades ahead:

The organization will provide interesting and challenging work. The individual will invest discretionary effort in the task and produce relevant results. When one or both sides of this equation are no longer possible (for whatever reasons) the relationship will end. So if the organization no longer has interesting or challenging work for the individual to do, or if the individual is no longer willing or able to engage in the work — to invest the levels of discretionary effort required for excellent results — it is in everyone's best interest to part ways.

Sound familiar? The painful trail of independence that was blazed by Xers will now evidently be held up as the model for everyone--employees and employers--to aspire to. It's not just a reflection of the difficult times we have lived through. It is the better way for employees and employers to conduct themselves, bringing them both into closer alignment with the realities of the modern workplace.

And how, I wonder, will the Millennials who embrace this methodology be treated? Will they be called ungrateful and selfish and cynical the way their Xer colleagues were? Or will they instead be lauded for the foresight and savviness and entrepreneurship? Let's wait and see.


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