Switching Back On the Light

While the world in general seems to get tougher and more and more focused on individual power, wealth, and success – rather than the old idea of helping each other to prosperity – I thought that it could be interesting to recap and search through the memories of a long working life, listing the things that actually worked well despite being out of sync with today’s rougher working conditions.

It seems to me like the new style is, in fact, just being the pendulum swinging back towards the conditions of the beginning industrialization after having briefly touched a more humanist approach. The darkening is again becoming the goal, after many years of enlightening. The light has been switched off.

Utopia

I imagine a world in which each potential employee/job seeker writes a list of tasks and conditions that would suit them – and then employers can bid in on it with an application. This is, of course, the exact opposite of the world as we know it, hence, an Utopia.

My list

General company terms:

  1. Flexible hours – if work can be done at any time, then why insist on fixed hours?
  2. Possible to work from home – gives flexibility in life and easier time management
  3. Stress free environment (not “we are always very busy” or “you thrive with tight deadlines and rapid changes in goals and conditions”)
  4. Overtime is fine, occasionally, but in general the work can be done during the hours agreed on in the contract
  5. Values: Respect for the individual + knowledge sharing
  6. No performance management – control and cooperation are rather based on dialogue and mutual assistance. Any measurements are for the purpose of understanding, not for punishing
  7. Physical surroundings suitable for the job, i.e., if car is needed there are parking spaces, if meetings are part of the job there are meeting rooms, etc.

Characteristics of the job itself:

  1. There is a defined area of responsibility
  2. Tasks cover end to end, allowing for an understanding of the value of each step and being proud of having completed it – also when several people collaborate to do this
  3. Plans are made carefully but with flexibility to allow for new understandings and learning to be utilized and new needs to be included. No panic reactions and sudden, unexplained changes of course
  4. Knowledge sharing and communication is part of the job
  5. Goals are reached through people, processes, and technique – in that order
  6. There is feedback on the work, showing that it is important to some
  7. No matter the job type and level the employee is part of a team that has a main focus on helping each other to make good decisions and, simply, to ensure a systemic approach to solving the tasks

Some features of the boss:

  1. A human being, not an archetype – the HR approach to standardizing leadership is taking away the human aspect and should be used with caution
  2. Team oriented – is helping their employees rather than commanding them, allowing them to create their own successes
  3. Coaching, but in a human way, like a colleague – not “coaching for performance”
  4. No treatment of employees as types – they are individuals and must be treated as humans
  5. No micro-management
  6. Good at filtering tasks so that employees will not be given such that are meaningless or counter-productive
  7. Ensuring the correct work environment, suitable for the tasks

The culture and colleagues:

  1. Polite atmosphere – “Good morning”, “Have a nice weekend”, holding the door, etc. makes it pleasant to be together
  2. Friendly but not intimidating – understanding that being colleagues is not automatically the same as being close friends
  3. No mocking
  4. Learning and personally developing
  5. Accountable and taking care of their duties, showing responsibility
  6. Helpful
  7. Adult people, serious about their work – but all of them individuals

Myself – what would I need to bring in:

  1. Dedication and enthusiasm (of course, in a ping-pong with the surroundings)
  2. Strategical, visionary thoughts about tasks, working place, business area
  3. Observant, analytical and improving, participating and developing
  4. Accountable and taking care of my duties, showing responsibility
  5. Flexible
  6. Helpful
  7. Another individual – broadening the scope of thinking and problem solving capabilities of the team and the company

Mix and match

Headhunters and recruiting agencies as well as internal HR departments are often a lot more focused on matching than they are on mixing – meaning, they do not appreciate the extra competencies and additional experience a job candidate may add. They are even tightening in on a few treats and mostly considering everything else as noise that should be kept out of the company.

However, the ability for an organization to adapt to changing conditions and develop a pleasant (and thereby efficient) work environment depends on mixing various experiences and competencies. It is not enough to find the “best” candidates for selected areas. An example:

I started in a new job, many years ago, where the focus was systems development based on Microsoft tools and platforms, so these skills had been asked for. However, a few days into the new job a customer asked for a Crystal Reports consultant – as I happened to know about this product too, we got the assignment and it became the beginning of a long and important collaboration with this customer around their reporting needs. Without my extra and not-asked-for skill, this would not have happened.

The switch

Can we change the job market to the reverse, as I fantasized about? Or are there good and sound reasons for not being much interested in the wishes of the employees?

Can we similarly reverse the development, the pendulum movement, to again focus on what actually works in terms of delivering what the customer’s need, which is a collaborative and both analytical and goal-oriented approach, making use of thoughts and skills of individuals, rather than on the internal power structures and bonus payments?

Is it, perhaps, just a matter of switching the light back on?

—oOo—

First published at LinkedIn Pulse:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/job-search-utopia-jørgen-winther

What is Normal? Tradition?

Recent years have seen a shift in acceptance in many Western countries with regards to accepting people with different sexual orientation and allowing them similar rights as others – like gay marriages, for instance. Also some non-western countries have at times been moving in that direction, like when Nepal recently announced that they would put a third choice of gender in passports, as mentioned by Reuters/Yahoo News a couple of days ago, making it possible for a Nepalese to be either male, female, or indeterminate.

But some countries are moving in the opposite direction and most strikingly Russia seems to have moved towards an official policy about what is normal, saying that only a so-called “traditional” lifestyle can be accepted. And apart from simply showing disrespect, as has often been the case towards those who are not considered normal, Russia has made laws regulating their behavior.

A quite absurd level of this harassment by law has now been reached, as it has become forbidden for transsexual and transgender people to obtain a driver’s license. Apparently because homosexuality in Russia is considered a mental disturbance, a personal disorder, that could lead to dangerous behavior. BBC News Europe wrote about this recently.

The absurdity becomes obvious when visiting Russia and seeing how people drive. I guess that ruling out one minority from being on the roads will allow for a little extra space for the others, but honestly, if the purpose was to make driving safer, many other precautions should be considered first: the technical condition of vehicles is by large miserable, traffic police is corrupt, speeds are too high on crowded roads and there seems to be an “order of social level” applied to rights in the traffic, meaning that some people are holding back while others are making their way.

What is the most interesting here is how the world has been split – that one part is moving in one direction and another part in the other direction. But maybe there are good reasons for this – in the West, we are fed up with traditions to a degree where we now want changes, in Russia all traditions were either lost or seriously challenges with the fall of the Soviet Union, and in times of crisis people might seek back to something they can share as a common identity.

We have seen this phenomena many times through history, around the world – each time leading to trouble. The Cambodian genocide was an extreme case, as was for instance various waves of witch-hunt, and the Hitler-German idea of cleaning up the Aryan race. But the hunt for a common identity is almost always leading to discrimination of minorities.

Howling with the flock and perhaps killing odd individuals seems to be a normal behavior for the human species, while respect for the individual and acceptance of differences seems to be less normal. Or maybe each of these extremes are just end points of a pendulum, meaning that we can be certain that whatever is the rule now, will change into the opposite later?

Seeing everything clearly from a moment of observation | The No Crisis Blog

Seeing everything clearly from a moment of observation | The No Crisis Blog.

via Seeing everything clearly from a moment of observation | The No Crisis Blog.

The Other Way

Quote

Don’t be hurt or angered by what people say and do. Always try to see what lies behind their point of view. Maybe they are wrestling with a problem of their own – fighting down some secret worry, facing it alone.

If you knew the whole of it perhaps you’d understand, and instead of criticizing lend a helping hand. If you hit back when you’re hurt you make an enemy. Why not try the other way of love and sympathy.

Patience Strong in Flowers of Friendship, 1955

Incredulity doesn’t kill curiosity; it encourages it

Quote

Incredulity doesn’t kill curiosity; it encourages it. Though distrustful of logical chains of ideas, I loved the polyphony of ideas. As long as you don’t believe in them, the collision of two ideas — both false — can create a pleasing interval, a kind of diabolus in musica. I had no respect for some ideas people were willing to stake their lives on, but two or three ideas that I did not respect might still make a nice melody.

Umberto Eco in Foucault’s Pendulum, 1988