I was networking around recently and catching up with chums old and new. The one thing that struck me was that the world of work was proving to be a huge stress. Well beyond the normal range. It was a rare bird who was enjoying the world of work right now. I’ll share some quotes from people down below.
It wasn’t always like this … in the last decades of the last millennium most people I knew enjoyed their work. Although a lack of economic growth is certainly a contributory factor I believe it masks some underlying one-off shifts. The world of work has changed forever.
I wondered how I could help… and so here we have a three-part YouTube presentation. I felt that people – especially those so overloaded that they didn’t have time to think it through (which is most folks these days) – could do with succinct summaries from three perspectives: Educational (“what on earth is going on?”), Analytical (“why is it going on?”) and Inspirational (“we live in a unique time of opportunity”).
Onto my research findings. If you can relate to any of these comments then the talk is definitely for you 🙂
Folks in work were complaining about “always being expected to work at 120%”. Another friend was seeing a neurologist. Another had managed to quit antidepressants only recently. Another critiqued the approach in his megabank as “everything is sliced and diced into such tiny chunks that no-one is managing the overall picture .. the only ones who see the big picture are too high up to do anything about it”. Another had started a gig at a different megabank and described it in a whisper as “an awful place”. Another said he was feeling good right now only as “some complete pain is on holiday for two weeks”. Two (at different megacos) were, like many, on short-term contracts and had received emails cutting their pay by 10% (which of course would be illegal if they were full-time employees). Another said that his business would be disintermediated in a few years and everyone there knew it but were just too comfortably paid to go out there and do it for themselves.
Folks out of work were as stressed – just in a different way. Some, many years out of college, had yet to get a real career ignited. All were used to sending out “tailored CV”s only for it to land alongside another 400 applicants’ and get less than thirty seconds of “attention”. Many had noticed commoditisation going on – jobs get more and more square-peg (and uninteresting) and the rates get lower. Chums around 50 felt that the only -ism permissible in the modern world is ageism – under the guise of “oh, you have too much experience” – which is universally translated as “you know too much” and “we want cheaper”. Someone said “all that are required right now are ‘cheap non-boat-rockers’ “. Another that “we designed a system in my last place that required cheap, lowly skilled people to operate. Not only that but it worked better the less they knew”. In these days of cost-cutting the paradigm of “get the best employees you can” has clearly leapt out of the window.
Folks with kids were anxious about what on earth the world of work would look like when their kids reached employment age.
Everyone was unclear about where this was all leading to in the medium term. In the short-term all felt “more of the same” was the only option. Kind of ‘imprisoned’ if you like.
Underlying all this was a common emotional theme of unhappiness and stress. Much/most of this is never publicly shared – people felt open speaking to me but rarely mention any of this to colleagues. Instead in the office they felt obligated to put on a mask of “commitment” and “cheerfulness” lest they be the next one for the chop.
This was the background to the back of my brain whirring and clicking away as to how could I help them?. The final straw was a friend (who knows I am fascinated by the new paradigms of the 21st Century) calling me and asking if I could “send some links” for his son who was interested in design and manufacturing. Generally I always send such emails straight off – I didn’t this time. The sad truth is most of the times people get “some links” they just never get the time to open them. Plus if the do a link or to lacks an explanatory context to make sense of it – it becomes another “info bite” along the zillion other that week. Even if there is an antidote waiting in their inbox it just becomes another source of stress, another thing for the brain to remember (“ah must read those links from Mike”). In this way even emailing the perfect antidote would just augment the condition it was intended to remedy.
So at 03:00 one Saturday morning my brain woke me up to busy itself thinking … many hours later here are some thoughts, ideas, answers, pointers that might help you and others. If so please like/share 🙂
If you only have time for one part I suggest Part 3 as it’s the most inspirational and positive and it seems to me the world needs a lot of that vibe right now. It covers the “good news” that, although the media trains us to focus on the negative, right now underneath all of that I believe we actually live in a unique Age of Empowerment and a new Golden Age of Creativity 🙂
Part 1/3 – Hey Man What’s Happening?
Part 2/3: Factoryisation Proceeds Apace
Part 3/3: A Golden Age of Creativity