My father, William Finley, and I recently compared views of the world of work. When Dad was the President of SCF of AZ, the workers’ compensation agency of the State of Arizona (he retired in 1987) there were certain “rules” that everyone in the workplace lived by. They were the “laws” you followed if you wanted to get ahead. A few of the beliefs that dominated the era were:
- The Food Chain -You went to your boss with an idea or a concern and you didn’t go any higher up the ladder unless you were given permission to do so. Chain of command was respected.
- Formality – My dad was referred to as “Mr. Finley.” Men wore ties and women wore skirts with panty hose.
- Work Ethic – You arrived on time and were ready to go when the proverbial whistle blew. “Work ethic” meant you gave 40 hours of work for 40 hours of pay.
- Motivation – You worked for pay and benefits and that was good enough. If you had fun at work, that was a bonus.
Don’t get me wrong. Dad was a progressive manager. He actively promoted women to leadership roles and endorsed extensive professional development opportunities for all staff members. He was highly respected and well-liked as a leader in his industry. Still, my conversation with him reminded me of how things have changed. Here are a few of the “new rules” as I see it:
- Success comes from building relationships. Often that means that the chain of command may not be as relevant as it used to be. It’s who you know and who trusts you that allows you to get things done.
- The world is less formal and more relaxed today. We rarely call people by their surnames and in many organizations we observe casual dress. Still, we must be professional, which is defined by the organizational culture. Those who are most successful today are acutely aware of the cultural expectations of their organization.
- The concept of “work ethic” has morphed. “Because I said so” is no longer a good enough reason for expecting an employee to do something. Workers today demand to know the “why” behind a request and often won’t be motivated to tackle a job until they see the big picture.
- The Gallup Organization and numerous other research organizations have shown that today’s workers come to work for pay, benefits, and a whole lot more. Recognition, affiliation, challenge, and opportunities to acquire new skills are all on the list of motivators for today’s workforce.
I challenge you to consider how your workplace is different now than it was in the past. While my Dad was a successful leader, even he admits he’d struggle to lead in today’s new environment.