Be the change you wish to see — at work
The surprising power of staffers to build a better workplace
By Robert J. Flower
Millennials are now the largest group contributing to the U.S. work force, according to census data — but to look at many workplaces, you’d never know it.
Despite the urgent need for young talent as more and more Baby Boomers retire, employers have been slow to adjust to the preferences of the next generation. And while this resistance to change is fairly typical from any one generation to the next, it also suggests that millennials may fail to recognize their own power to reshape how work gets done.
Achievement expert Dr. Robert Flower wants to shine a light on that power. “When young people first enter the workforce, they feel they don’t have the leverage to make demands. That means that many wind up accepting work arrangements that aren’t in line with their priorities at all.” says Dr. Flower.
“For instance, studies have repeatedly shown that Millennials value flexibility and work-life balance over higher pay,” he says. “But in uncertain economic times, asking for those kinds of changes can feel too risky for workers who are relatively low on the totem pole. So they put up with the trade-offs and keep their dissatisfaction to themselves.”
That’s a mistake, says Dr. Flower, author of Creative, Organizational and Action Life Skills for Success. Here’s his advice for making work, work for you.
Adjust your outlook. It’s tempting for workers to just keep their heads down, complete the tasks on the desk in front of them, and try to stay out of trouble. But in essence, this is a fear-based approach that will only hold you back, he says.
“Employees who don’t feel like they’re part of something larger are less engaged — which makes them less productive and ultimately less valuable to the employer.” In other words, what you perceive as playing it safe is actually the riskier move, he says.
Recast the relationship. “Assume the role of your manager’s ally — even if the boss doesn’t treat you like one yet,” Dr. Flower says. “Find out what your supervisor’s goals are, and make them your own goals. Find out the obstacles to those goals, and come up with creative solutions.”
If you do this consistently, you’ll accomplish two things: Your boss will come to recognize the value you bring to the table and become more open to your ideas — and that in turn will give you more confidence to continue to speak up.
Self-assess. Every worker has strengths and weaknesses; it’s up to you to take an honest look inward and determine yours. Dr. Flower says it’s your own responsibility to develop and highlight your best assets while continually working to improve your shortcomings.
“Try to look at yourself and your work habits from your manager’s point of view,” says Dr. Flower, who has written several books on self-improvement techniques.
Make your case. Once you’ve done the work of finding your larger purpose, adopting a managerial mindset and making yourself a valuable asset, it will become much easier and feel quite natural to demonstrate why the workplace changes you seek for yourself will ultimately benefit your supervisor and the company as a whole.
“If what you want is a flexible schedule, you’ll be well equipped to be able to show all the ways that flexibility will improve your own performance and advance the goals of your employer,” Dr. Flower says.
Dr. Robert J. Flower is founder and director of The Gilchrist Institute for the Achievement Sciences, based in Bronxville, NY, a non-profit Human Potential Research and Development think tank established in 1982.
Robert J. Flower, Ph.D., Director, The Gilchrist Institute for the Achievement Sciences | Bronxville, NY (914) 779.6299 Toll Free: 1800.414.4135
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