Updated: Apr 1, 2022
We are embarking on a new era of work. The organizations that get this right will thrive. The ones that don’t change? Well, we know how that story goes. A lot has been written about how to create a revised version of our work lives post-pandemic. But why would we use the prior model of work for our new design? Work life wasn’t working. It wasn’t working because it wasn’t human.
People were told when to work, because face time and online time was viewed by unskilled managers as a gauge for productivity and commitment. Even worse, people were viewed as less than high performers or as not having high potential if they wanted to set some boundaries for their health, their families, and their other passions in life.
People were told how to work. Telling people how to work assumed two things: first, that there is one right way to get things done, the boss’s way; second, that employees are not capable or creative enough to figure it out for themselves.
People were told why to work, and why they were the lucky ones. People were told by leaders why they should feel proud to work at their organization. They were told why they should feel motivated and lucky to have their jobs. That narrative about how great the organization was to work for was often at odds with how it actually felt to work there.
People were told whether they were valued. People were told this with titles, ratings, forced performance reviews, and others’ definitions of their potential. Their value wasn’t innate. Their growth potential wasn’t always considered malleable. People felt they had to keep giving more and more of themselves to be seen, heard, and valued.
People were mistreated. Bosses reigned supreme, and sometimes with an iron fist. We let them. We let them because they determined what we got to work on and whether we had a voice, were paid, were promoted, or were seen at all.
Worst of all, people were meant to feel disposable. They kept being asked to prove their worth to the organization. As a result, people conformed, fell in line, and crossed moral lines, because nothing could be worse than being let go. So, people gave all they could give, and organizations took what they could take.
What was the ultimate result of this organizational design? We were stressed, overtired, frustrated, disconnected despite being overly available, and feeling unfulfilled and maybe even unworthy. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We, the individuals, and we, the organizations, can co-create a more human organizational design model together. We can create it together because we actually want the same things:
We want to think, create, and build.
We want to make a meaningful contribution.
We want to be deserving of making money.
We want to learn and grow.
We want to stay relevant.
We want to be valued.
We want connection and collaboration, to feel a part of something bigger with others.
We want to thrive and feel alive.
And, dare we say it? We want to feel joyful and free.
Let’s come out of the darkness and create something amazing together.
Heck, what’s the best thing that could happen?