Leslie Anderson is one of the eight remaining finalists in The Washington Post Magazine’s @Work Advice Contest. For Round 2, we asked: What is the biggest problem in today’s workplace, and how can it be solved?
Employees just aren’t feeling the love, man.
Seriously, that’s my answer.
From ultra tech-savvy millennials to retiring baby-boomers, employees aren’t feeling much connection to the organizations employing them. Statistics to this end abound.
Lack of connection erodes employees’ spirits and consequently, an organization’s productivity. Like any relationship, once employees cease sensing connection to employers, the honeymoon is over. They become relatively unwilling to put in any extra effort to help the relationship — I mean business — succeed over the long term.
My solution in 500 words? Well, I definitely don’t think leaders can force engagement from the top down. I say: connect thyself, employee! It’s your life and career. Don’t you want it to mean something?
Take for example Wilma, a fictional software engineer in D.C. She looks up after seven years and hardly recognizes her company. Actually, the company has become the spitting image of her spare bedroom because Wilma now has a “virtual office.” Leadership has changed. Entire business lines have been eliminated. Wilma feels secure enough in her job, but disconnected from what’s happening around her. She doesn’t understand the company direction and has lost the desire to figure it out.
I say to Wilma: Wilma, step up or step out.
Step up; Take matters into your own hands. Try to see the big picture. Why is your firm going through a period of upheaval? Where is it headed under new leadership? Are you excited to be part of that? And do something! How can you make lemonade from the sour fruits of change? Call your manager; call your teammates. Call (I didn’t say e-mail), Skype, plan in-person meetings, etc.
Now Wilma, if stepping up leads you to a mental room like that underground cell in “Silence of the Lambs,” it’s time to Step Out.
The economy is lousy, but feeling secure in your current job is a mirage. To check my thinking I spoke with Kim Schulze, vice president of human resources for Earth Networks in Germantown, and she agrees. “Today you have to be your own security,” Schulze says. “No matter what the field, you must stay current and connected and keep your skills sharp.”
And according to Schulze some great opportunities await folks like Wilma and her technical ilk, especially in the Metro area. “If you’re a strong technologist and good business person, a team player, and enthusiastic about a prospective employer’s business, then you have options.”
Did you hear that part about enthusiasm, Wilma? You gotta feel the love to be engaged and productive again.
Whose advice did you like best? Vote for your favorite contestant
Read each contestant’s Round2 answers
Read each contestant’s Round 1 answers
Meet the @Work Advice Contest’s 10 finalists