The death of loyalty in the employee-employer relationship has taken a toll on us all. Well, maybe loyalty isn’t completely dead, but it’s become a rare and precious thing that is pretty hard to come by. If you’ve been exposed to any generational diversity training in the past decade, you know the story about how it happened. Companies used to take care of people. If you showed up, worked hard, and did your part, you would be taken care of until and through retirement. Then came downsizing, re-engineering and right-sizing in the 80’s. Companies broke the psychological contract for survival or greed. Regardless of reason, the message was sent loud and clear to employees . . . you are expendable.
The trickle effects of this shift are profound. No one except the delusional expect a company to take of them for the long haul. Employment relationships are “at will” legally in most places which again reminds employees that “the company” can end their employment at any time for any reason (and employees are told that they have the same right). It has gotten so commonplace for people to move jobs every 2 or 3 years, that the stigma once associated with “job hopping” has all but disappeared. Perks and benefits aren’t viewed as a way the company takes care of employees, but rather as the price of admission to the employment game. The game has definitely changed.
Some of the impacts of work in a environment where there’s no loyalty are obvious. For example, recruiting has become a critical focus for most companies because of this new environment of talent mobility. If we can’t keep people in our companies, we need to be really good at finding new ones.
But, some of the impacts are less obvious. One of the often overlooked impacts is the feeling on the part of employees, particularly your most talented ones, to hedge. Hedging is defined by www.thefreedictionary.com as:
To minimize or protect against the loss of by counterbalancing one transaction, such as a bet, against another.
Hedging is a good idea when investing or gambling, but I think it’s pretty damaging when it comes to doing our best work. Inspired work involves the heart and mind. It’s about being “all in” when it comes to our work. Over the past five years, I’ve been part of a collaboration called Talent Anarchy with my friend Joe Gerstandt. We’ve created some great content and done some really cool work that I’m incredibly proud of including writing a book together. I have always felt like Joe and I do some great work together. And, I think one of the reasons is that we are both “all in” on the work we are doing together. No hedging. We put our heart and soul into whatever we decide to do together. We don’t hold anything back. The result is inspired work that we are proud of.
I fear how much inspired work isn’t happening within our organizations because we feel the need to hedge. We feel compelled to have a back up plan in case the employment rug is pulled out from beneath us without any warning. It’s not unlike being in a romantic relationship. If you go into a relationship holding back because you don’t want to get hurt or because you aren’t sure you want to commit to the person you are with, then you will never fully engage in the relationship. The result is that your lack of engagement might be dooming any chance the relationship had to succeed. The dilemma is that our fear of being hurt causes us to hold back from fully investing ourselves in the relationships. I think this same thing is happening with our work.
When we hedge, we don’t commit-we aren’t “all in”. When we aren’t “all in”, we don’t do our best work. And we don’t do our best work, we forfeit the opportunity to find out how far our relationship with this employer/partner can go.
It doesn’t have to be this way. As individuals, we should be investing in our careers and building networks so that we have options. Having a plan B isn’t a bad idea but it doesn’t mean you can’t put your full self into your current role. But, it’s also important to ask yourself, “Am I committed? Am I all in?” If not, you are holding yourself back. It’s not about loyalty, it’s about denying yourself the opportunity to explore your full potential.
Make the decision to move “all in” with your work. Put your heart and mind into your work and let the inspiration and quality of your work create opportunity for you.