There is unrest spreading across America. People don’t want to drone anymore. Our tanked economy underscores what we already know: You’re a cog in a machine and it doesn’t matter what kind of unique talents you may have, you will just get ground down to nothing until a new cog comes along to replace you. Or a new machine comes along altogether.
An article on CNN Money this week reports that according to a recent survey by job-placement firm Manpower, 84% of employees plan to look for a new position in 2011, up from just 60% last year. This means that if you have 10 co-workers, probably 8 or 9 of them are preparing to unleash their resumes. Job-hunting is about to explode among the already-employed (great news for the long term unemployed: more competition).
The article is in the same tune as most economy-related reports – firms aren’t hiring much right now, but hiring will pick up this coming year, and more people are preparing to look for better opportunities. I’m a bit suspicious of the foregone conclusion that everyone is simply looking for “a new job.” Consider these two quotes from the same article:
… “a lot of people will be looking because they’re disappointed with their current jobs,” said Paul Bernard, a veteran executive coach and career management advisor who runs his own firm. [emphasis added]
Douglas Matthews, president and chief operating officer for Right Management, a division of Manpower, called the results “a wake-up call to management. … This finding is more about employee dissatisfaction and discontent than projected turnover….” [emphasis added]
I’m suspicious because I can’t believe that if a whopping 84% of employees are contemplating a change, it is to just do the same thing somewhere else – jumping out of the proverbial frying pan and into the fire. If (A) people are “disappointed with their current jobs”, and, (B) this represents “employee dissatisfaction and discontent,” I think that employers might want to consider that there is a HUGE population of workers who are ready to take a chance and do something completely different.
It would seem that while the unemployed might want ANY job, the employed are so disillusioned that they may want any job besides their own. Even though they somehow came through the last two years with job intact, the big lesson here may be this: Get out of the machine NOW. Do something you love before it’s too late. The internet is literally full of people who are doing their own thing, who are itching to do their own thing, who are reading about others doing their own thing, who are inventing a whole new thing, who are writing about how they plan to go about doing their own thing…are you listening, corporate America?
Now I might be ranting, but “we” have done everything we were told to do – go to college, get a job and become part of the Great American Business Machine (read as: Make money and spend it). The college education is expensive and undergraduate degrees are increasingly outmoded. We incur sizable student loan debt just to fight for a miserable job that can barely make the payments, let alone cover the costs of the house/car/gadgets/lifestyle that we’re told to pursue.
This brings me to the second article. City Newspaper recently reported on a study that challenges the conventional thinking that rewards and punishment drive motivation. WHY do we go to college? To get a good job. WHY do we try to get a good job? To get paid more money. So, MONEY is the greatest motivator? That’s what we’re going to challenge.
University of Rochester psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan have over the last 25 years developed the Self-Determination Theory, whereas the greatest motivator is, essentially, found within. All human beings, they theorize, have three core needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness. If we are allowed to choose work that interests us, our creativity overflows and we are far more productive. We need to feel like we’re good at that job we choose and that the work we produce matters, to ourselves and to others. This is a recipe for HAPPINESS.
However, conventional wisdom holds that success means wealth, fame, power, or all three. But if our core needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness are unsatisfied, attaining wealth, fame and power will bring only brief satisfaction. Then it’s back to the machine to get more (which will also disappoint, so you go back for even more, and so on.) All because we collectively agree that these are the greatest rewards. Never mind if it means facing a lifetime of hollowing disappointment.
Time to tie this up neatly: The American Dream as we currently define it is withering. Every one of us plays a little part. Our grandparents, the Greatest Generation, endured the Depression and WWII to modernize America, for better or for worse. Our parents, the Baby Boomers, were the first to give the finger to convention, and now they rule it all with an iron fist. If that 84% of restless employed are about to self-motivate and break out of the machine, it’s going to leave behind a whole new machine.
We do need to make a living, for basic needs and for the new basic needs of modern life, so I’m not suggesting that money is evil and you don’t need it. But if you are someone who has a job and you think you want a new one, ask yourself, “What do you really want – a different job, or something completely different?” Whatever it is, motivate from within.
All very true, although money does drive some people, no matter what. But it really helps to know if it’s your personal driver. The best self-assessment I ever did was a matrix of what I valued in my profession/job. The top answer for me was “learning,” which was actually a surprise but helped explained A LOT about why I’d been dissatisfied in many of the positions I’d held.
The moral of the story: Self-awareness is key. Armed with that, perhaps we can contribute more to society by being a more willing participant. Would LOVE to know more about the matrix you mention!
Robin C. Larner
I like the premise of core needs–they seem to work for me. But as I reflected on other premise, I am not so sure that the families or individuals in our country who scrape by to prioritize their children’s needs, families with both parents working, who have little voice in government and know it, and feel powerless in the face of sickness or loss would say they are not successful. I bet the “vast majority” do feel successful. When you ask a person “is your life a success so far?”, you ask a very personal question. Success is not necessarily demonstrable. It seems a very small visible vocal percentage who idolize celebrity, envy wealth, and set their life’s work at gaining power. The grossly rich, sensational (Lady Gaga-like & Jersy Shore flotsam), and powerful are the freaks of humanity. Especially so in a world of war, hunger, oppression, and poverty. We gawk at them awhile, then get back to real life. For a third of the world, their core need is daily sustenance. Why are they less compelling than the freaks? How can we awaken the need of relatedness in usl?
Success is, indeed, a deeply personal and subjective question. As such, it is an important question to ask, no matter where you are in life. The individual carrots that each one of us chases are liberally seasoned by external pressures, and seeking fame, wealth and power is set on a sliding scale – a humble station in life does not make one immune. You raise a much broader world-view in your contemplation. Thank you for your comments, Robin.