Who Should Be Grateful -- the Employer or the Employee?

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One of the great things about being around the age that is considered the middle of one's life, is the fact that one has the benefit of a generation on either end of one's age. It is a little bit like standing on a hilltop, looking into the valley on the one side as the future, and the one on the other side as the past.

Generations are, of course, shaped by different experiences. The baby boom generation was shaped by the aftermath of World War 11 and a severe global recession. Opportunities were few and times were hard. Once employment was found, people tended to stick with an employer for a long time, work hard, make sacrifices, and were grateful to have a job. One often hears this sentiment expressed amongst people that are not of retirement age.

On the other side of my hilltop, in my "future" valley, there is the generation who grew up in a relatively war-free and major-recession-free environment. They saw parents and grandparents go to work dutifully year in and year out, make various sacrifices, and in many instances sacrifice time with their family for their job. This generation has an entirely different view on work and life. Very often they feel that the name of the game is life, and work is a means to fund one's life. They generally hold the view that their employer gets a benefit from their working there, they contribute towards the success of the company and expect recognition of that fact. If they feel that this is not the case, they generally leave to work elsewhere.

If you share my weakness of a slightly overdeveloped sense of righteousness, you have probably formed an opinion by now. Perhaps the one group is in need of a jab from a short sharp stick (preferably in the rear end), or the other group needs to step into the light and let go of this attitude of grateful groveling? I would like to try and cast a different light from my hilltop vantage point and gather fruit from both valleys.

I certainly am grateful that I have the privilege of a good education and am employed in an environment which allows me professional and personal growth. I am grateful that I can support myself and my family. I am loyal to the organization I work for and I work hard. But I also believe it is fair to expect of an organization to acknowledge the fact that employees are assets that contribute to their operation. Many organizations' entire competitive advantage is based in skilled people who have invested years of their lives working to build such an advantage. In the absence of these key people the organization would certainly suffer.

Furthermore, I am grateful that I work in an age and a general environment where I can insist on equity of my gender, age and other differentiating qualities. I expect the understanding that an employee is a package of gender, race, origin and culture and not just the thin slice of academic or professional knowledge particular to their tasks. In the same sense that gardens benefit from different plants growing together, the work environment benefits by various diverse inputs.

I firmly believe that the way to the future is via a model where we do not disregard the wisdom of experience, and we do not shun the passions of youth. We also need to learn to tap into skills that have not to date had prime position in our boardrooms, such as leadership by collaboration and conversation. We need to have enough conversations to understand how women lead differently from men and how that can benefit organizations. We need to learn enough about various cultures to truly translate elements of those cultures into business differentiators.

The explosion of information availability and globalization allows us to reach backwards into the past and forward into the future, and across culture and gender lines to figure out a way to tap into gender, age and cultural diversity and turn it into competitive skills.

As the sun sets over my philosophical hilltop, my final thoughts of gratitude are towards the wonderful opportunities I have to build a future that combines the strengths of the past with the diversities of the present.