Kristin van Ogtrop is the editor of Real Simple, a monthly lifestyle magazine for women. In a recent edition of Time magazine, she wrote an opinion piece entitled, “There’s a difference between a boss and a friend, and that’s as it should be.” In it, she bemoans a lot of research done by the Gallup organization that indicates today’s workers (millennials) want a more personal relationship with their managers than she is comfortable with. Apparently she is “old school.” That is, she seems to long for the good old days when bosses were bosses and employees were employees, and everybody understood why we call it “work.” And she’s hardly alone. Many of today’s managers cut their teeth in business during times when workplace relationships were more constrained and less personal. If you’re with Ms. Van Ogtrap on this but are willing to consider an alternative point of view, please continue reading below.
“Change with the world – or it will change without you.” ~ Paul Shay
Change is all around us. There are changes in technology, changes in our markets, changes in government regulations, changes in our competitive positions, and yes, changes in the character and complexion of our workplaces. And as managers, it’s our responsibility to deal with these changes. In fact, in one way of thinking, dealing with change is a manager’s only job. As noted keynote speaker Peter Schutz has frequently said, “If there is no change, there is no need to manage.”
Ms. Van Ogtrop describes how Gallup’s research shows that millennials want a “holistic relationship” with their managers whereby the boss takes an interest in them, not just as workers, but as complete human beings. Then she says, “Please Gallup, make it stop. I am trying so hard to evolve, but every time I hear something like this I want to get in a time machine and go back to the days when making millennials feel fulfilled was not my responsibility. Call me old-fashioned, but . . . . I thought we all went to work to . . . work.”
We are all in competition for the best available talent. Once upon a time, that competition was largely about money . . . people would tend to go wherever they were offered the highest pay and best benefits package. Not that pay and benefits (what’s left of them) aren’t still important. They are. But now there are other dimensions to our competition for talent. Job seekers today want to know that the work they are considering is relevant . . . that it matters. They want to know that they’ll be treated like a person, not a number. They want to know that their opinions will be heard and that they’ll have a voice in matters that impact their work. And this is good news for small business. When the competition for talent is mostly about money, it’s hard for small businesses to compete with Corporate America, but when the conversation turns to who provides the most satisfying, inclusive workplace environment, we’re on a level playing field . . . in fact, on that playing field, small businesses might even have the advantage.
Think of this as a marketing problem, because that’s what it really is. In traditional marketing, we’re trying to figure out how to meet customer needs better than the other guy. It’s the same deal here except we’re trying to figure out how to meet employee needs better than the other guy. So we can cry, “Please Gallup, make it stop,” but it won’t stop. Millennials are making demands on the workplaces that are competing for their services, and they will go where those demands are being met.
I can hear the “old school” bosses now. They’ll say, “Hey, we’ve got jobs for people who want to work, but if they don’t like the way we do things around here, let ‘em go someplace else.”
Unfortunately, they will, and those bosses will be left with the people nobody else wants.