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May 5, 2013

Get on the bus, or get off…

I recently read an article on LinkedIN, titled When it’s time to go: A look at the psychological contract. The article in itself was a good read, and I can definitely relate to what Dr. Marla Gottschalk points out.

But what caught my attention was one of the comments (which appear to be removed). It said something along the lines of:

Get on the bus, or get off. But don’t stand at the busstop complaining.

While I completely agree with this, I do believe there’s more than one side to this view.

First of all, there’s the golddigger aspect. I lived through that kind of jobmarket back in the 90’s. Back then, there were a lot of golddiggers on the market. “Hey, I’m dissatisfied, I’m changing jobs !”, was actually heard a lot. And because of that, later on, people earned flawed reputations – some had a hard time getting a job, because their previous employment history put their mentality on display.

Do we really want that type of mentality, in the long run ?

Then there’s the security aspect, in a market that doesn’t necessarily have too many jobs to offer. And what an unfortunate timing that is. One trend growing stronger, the “right” to being happy in your job, and all the focus on being able to do what you feel purposeful. Clashing with times where the jobmarket is the employers market.

I think this sparks a lot of incidents where people learn to handle the evil they know, rather than cut the chords and run. While I know from experience how hard that is, I also know that being forced to learn how to handle things where you are, can be a good experience. It can be a growth opportunity, can’t it ?

There’s also another aspect, which I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, which I see as kind of a middle road. The ones staying on the bus, but trying to change things. The rebels. The intrapreneurs. Those who might complain, but who also act. In more or less obvious ways. But they act.

Those who put up a fight.

I’m very aware of the leaders right to lead, even if the kind of leadership is sub par.

I’m very aware that the organization has a right to get rid of the ones trying to hack the system, behaving outside the established norms.

Because, isn’t that basically what any organization is ? A system of rules, norms and values, which should gather people around achieving goals, and making results ?

As with any system, it can, and probably to some extend should, get hacked. At the very least, the systems boundaries should be regularly tested, I think.

Because, times change. People change. The world changes. And the system, the organization, doesn’t change unless the people in it is making an effort to change it. The leaders in it, don’t change unless they’re challenged to do so.

Change is great, and it’s needed regularly, if you want to stay in the lead. Being challenged, is also a growth opportunity, wouldn’t you agree ? There may be timing issues. It may be uncomfortable to the one being challenged in particular. Especially if you’ve built your leadership role on the principles of control.

What I’m wondering about is, why do a lot of organizations equal challengers with troublemakers ? As we progress further towards networked organizations, open enterprise governance models and wirearchies – control does not work, and there’s a different set of skills required to “make it” and create value.

In these types of scenarios, it is my belief that leaders should start seeing these challenges as opportunities to create values. The challengers should be seen as dedicated employees, who want to make a difference. And are not afraid to fight for it. Those are very strong traits in a person. But only if the organization can handle it. The good ones can.

Getting on or off a bus, is a very employee-oriented view. And I would like to turn that view around:

What if the organization made an effort to harness the challenges ? Made a serious effort to evaluate the challenges potential for growth, profit or improvement. And actually showed sincere gratitude towards the people who want to make a difference. The people who obviously, on some level, have feelings for the place they work. Otherwise, would they make a ruckus ? Would they not just get off the bus, and go for the better job, with the better pay, and the better chance of making a difference ?

Leaders always talk about the responsibility and accountability of their employees. But isn’t it the leaders responsibility to pinpoint areas of improvement and growth, and isn’t accountability a two way street ? Is it not the leaders responsibility, to identify those who want positive and beneficial change – and create shared accountability towards implementing this change, to the benefit of everyone ?

So, next time you encounter a troublemaker, stop. Hold up your mirror, and think twice before you crack the whip.

The whip may get you across the finish line, but will it ever win you the race ?


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