Dehumanizing the Employee


In my last post, I rang the bell about the gap between human development and the advancements of technology. The disharmony is evident to many. Within the large and mid-market organizations, there is another disturbing trend afoot. We are witnessing the dehumanization of the employee.

Dehumanizing the employee occurs as many employers are looking to advance efficiency and innovation. It’s a false belief that those twins can move human development the way technology does with automation or research.

One area worth looking at is the process many organizations use to hire talent. Keep in mind that the talent is made up of flesh and blood. I realize this can also be a source of real frustration for those in talent recruitment. Technology has convinced many senior leaders that vast problems are solved in the hands of inventive software.

The idea of using screening software has a place. However, it’s proven, the folly of hiring based on keywords. The old saying, “we hired your resume, but what we got was you” is on mark here. More critical thinking in this spot is what we need. Seems like that would remedy the incongruent state of the talent recruitment processes.

So the dehumanizing continues. What do we do now that the horses are out of the gate?

  • Put on your big boy pants or big girl skirt, and be a leader with integrity and vigor
  • Change the culture. This is not for the faint of heart, but if you do the first bullet it will increase the odds in your favor
  • Stop listening to the marketing
  • Trust only those who’ve been hurt deeply. They will be honest and real
  • Close it down, quit, move on, if that’s what it takes. Better to live to fight another, than die while still breathing

The Changing Face of Work

In December of last year I caught this article on creativity. Specifically, how creativity is viewed in the work place. I found it rather ironic because of the changing face of work today. In a work world where so much is being turned upside-down, you’d think the creative would be more valued. I carry a bias toward the creative. I belong to that tribe, with great energy and vibe.

Between coaching clients, conversations with decision makers (small and large companies) and the written word, I get a strong sense of how work is changing. The following is not based in theory, and gives a sense of what is here and what’s to come:

  • Employees will soon (1-3 years for the individual and the mid-market) be buying their own health insurance. The employer will contribute an annual dollar amount, but the buying part will be up to you
  • Engagement in the work place will continue to drop until workers feel they have an equal say in what’s going to happen in their specific work function. The millennials are the catalyst here
  • Fear will be a driver of innovation
  • Knowledge transfer is a bigger deal than many think
  • People who are looking for a job should pay attention to disruptive technology. It will either eliminate your job or create a new one. This is good advice for the employed as well
  • For obvious reasons people will need, and maybe forced, to truly manage their lives with an “on-purpose” approach

The bullets above are sobering. Don’t lose you soul navigating the waters.

Going in With Eyes Wide Open

Every human has emotional, mental and spiritual needs.  And certainly those differ from person to person.  The trick is who or what you use/ask to meet the needs.

One area that I have observed that is way out of whack is our use of work in meeting needs.  Many folks have expectations of their employers that are totally unrealistic.  One of the best examples is unspoken (unwritten in most cases) agreement when a job is taken/filled..Often the employee sees it as a statement of worth that "xyz" employer would hire him or her.  Conversely, the employer assumes the employee knows that the relationship is conditional.  Conditional in that the job remains as long as the economic output justifies it. 

I belieive you're responsible for yourself and not your employer.  My point is the necessity of going in with eyes wide open.  Doing and creating great work doesn't hurt either.

The Career Divorce

Scales of Justice 
First, this is not a post on marriage.  But it might help your marriage/relationship.

Have you ever considered filing for divorce, from your career in this context?  I don't mean resigning or changing employers.  Though that could be a good thing.  But I'm speaking of putting your career back to its rightful place.  The ending of allowing this segment to dominate the others.

What if your career can only be great when it stays its proper size/dimension?

What I'm advocating is counter-culture and is very difficult to pull off-especially in places where work is an altar to be worshiped at.  The secret is to get the "divorce thing" early or get hurt.  I didn't get it early and I got hurt.  My hope is I'm catching you at that early stage or in the midst of your hurting.

Here are some things to consider regarding your career's place in your wheel of life:

  1. Very rarely will you find an employer that REALLY wants you to have life-balance.  Though it flies in the face of proven research, employers are still drunk on profit-first.  Nothing wrong with profit, but getting drunk can and does kill.  Given this, why not stop being in awe and work on becoming irreplaceable.  That way, you won't fall into the trap of being in a slave/slave-master relationship with your employer.  You really are helping the organization when you have this mind-set.
  2. Start practicing total life management.  We can help here.  I have found that way too many people feel they can leave parts of their lives on auto pilot.  It's not a case that people want to do this, they're either afraid or unsure of where to turn.  I wrote this piece last week about our issues around trust.  Think of it like your car; all cylinders need to be working properly and together to get you to where you want to go.
  3. Small is a very big word.  Start small and end great.  Set small goals, conduct small expeiments, find celebration and victory in the small things.  What you're actually doing is moving yourself toward your "big" thing.  Most confuse thinking big with the process of getting there.
  4. It's not too late for a turn-around.  Unless, you don't think you're worth it.  Which would be crazy to think considering your DNA.  This is very important if you're further along in the race.  See #3 for further encouragement.
  5. At some point, sooner or later, your life will have the final say.  Listen to your life.

Do You Know What Your Work Is?

Worker bees 
Do you know what your work is?  Most people could rattle off a list of things related to their career.  For example, a title, an employer's name, annual sales, deferred compensation, etc.  But those things are abstract compared to what your work is.  If you want a starting point in finding an answer, then the following question must be asked:

If you lost everything related to your career and I asked you to help my mission/movement, what could you offer?

Now notice, I didn't ask about your credentials, your experience, your references or what companies you worked for before.  I focused my question on you.  You!  That's where the answers begin to come into focus.  I know that may make you uncomfortable for a host of reasons.

Some people got their work from their parents, from their religion, from peer pressure, and it's all wrong.  Some people followed a path they couldn't fully see unfolding and stayed on it, and it's all right.  Regardless of which one represents you, the game is not over.  Unless you've fully surrendered and choose to look the other way.  What matters most is where you're going, not where you've been.  There's no greater a story than the person who says and lives out. "I need to make a change."

The following outlines some ways to get to that place of a fully-defined work:

  • Compile a list of what makes you come alive, makes you satisfied even when it exhausts you, makes you want to talk about it.  There could be other examples, but just start compiling.
  • Stop the negative self-talk.  You've made some mistakes, I've made some mistakes, everybody has.
  • Be vulnerable.  This opens the door to courage.  It will help you when you have to tell the world you need to make a change.
  • Before you rush into making a change ask yourself if your current setting is suited for your work.  Your current business, employer, etc., may be a great fit.  The main thing is to define what your work is.
  • If a change in career, for example, is necessary, then start small and build to the big.  Most people run out of gas because they go to fast and too far at once.  Patience is a virtue.