The Double-Edged Sword - The One That We Forged
A dialogue was opened this week that challenged the work culture at one of the most globally-recognized and wildly-successful companies ruling the online marketplace today. Public opinion continues to weigh in from both sides of the fence, sparking a microcosmic look at corporate America and begging the question, what is our work culture supposed to look like?
A dizzying idea was tossed into the conversation. Isn't this company operating within the culture that we created and continue to perpetuate as a society? Didn't we forge this sword?
Has technology created the perfect storm for choking the human element out of our workplace? Are our demands as consumers and employees hypocritical?
By today's standards, free two-day shipping is now an expectation, not a luxury. When we purchase something online, we want it delivered yesterday. This moment, right now, simply isn't good enough anymore. Drive-thru fast food doesn't even cut it these days. Now to save time, you can order ahead or even forego getting in the car altogether, by having the most popular fast food delivered to your doorstep.
Gone are the days of enjoying a relaxing cup of coffee. We'll take our caffeine concentrated, please, via energy drinks, power boosts and espresso shots. We even communicate rapidly - forget shorthand - we are all fluent in text speak. Get to the point. We push to turn back time with countless anti-aging creams and plastic surgery that promise to reveal the fountain of youth, all while pushing for time to move faster, harder. Can we have both? Should we have both?
How do we meet these consumer expectations? OUR consumer expectations. Who makes those expectations a possibility? Isn't it true that today's employees bear the burden of the economic culture we have created? A fast-paced purchasing culture requires a faster-paced work culture. Anything less and we're left waiting, high on public outrage.
We have sandwich makers running down the street to deliver food within a promised time frame. We have frantic warehouse managers packing inventory for long-haul truck drivers to make sure today's 6 p.m. purchases are on your doorstep tomorrow by 11 a.m. We're considering drone drops to take out the human element entirely to make delivery instantaneous. If we want to receive at the speed of light, we have to operate at the speed of light. With technology opening an avenue to foreign marketplaces that were previously bound by standard business hours, the clock is always ticking and we're infinitely on call. Gone are the days of "the early bird catches the worm," having been replaced with "the bird that doesn't sleep gets the commission."
Who I Was - Everything to Everybody is Nothing to Everyone
I was that salesperson. Driven, ambitious, focused, successful. I was climbing the corporate ladder with ease, breaking corporate sales records and shattering the glass ceiling left and right. I could always go higher, harder, faster, stronger. I was aggressive, opinionated, brutal, merciless, intimidating. Always on call, I never missed an opportunity to close a sale. I was a force to be reckoned with. Competitive and power-hungry, I crushed the competition and left a trail of burnt-out assistants in my wake. I was making it. I was making bank.
Whose needs was I meeting? I was working hard for my family, right? Or was I working hard for my ego? Somewhere along the way I confused what I thought my family needed with what my greed wanted. What my family needed was...me. Suddenly the award-winning saleswoman who was everything to everybody was nothing to everyone. At least, everyone that mattered.
I found myself divorced, on anxiety medication, with disappointed children angrily clamoring for my attention and love. But at least I had my bank account, right?
Who I Am - A Mother, A Friend, An Entrepreneur, A Partner, A Human
It began as a series of baby steps away from the busy of corporate work culture. The passion behind my business became service, not sales. Along with that, I took a good piece of advice from author, Kim Buck's book, The Thriving Woman's Guide to Setting Boundaries, and reevaluated my priorities and my personal boundaries. I implemented simple systems to make sure I disengaged from work to be fully present with my family. I refused to link my phone to corporate email and communication. If I was out of the office, it was out of my mind. For my personal business ventures, I set strict business hours and communicated clearly with the clients so they knew when and how to reach me. Setting these expectations placed valued on my family and my free time.
By learning when and how to say no, I suddenly found myself being everything to everyone. Everyone that mattered, that is. My children had my undivided attention, my door was opened to friends and family, and I found myself refreshed and rejuvenated. And it showed. My business flourished, even where I was seemingly doing less, and the relationships I cultivated were grounded in trust and authentic interest, not dollar signs.
I was happy. My children were happy. Life felt meaningful. I took one more step and leapt off the corporate ladder completely. I developed a new vision. Instead of standing at the top of the ladder in victory while others looked on in defeat, I was empowered to encourage and support others as they pursued their own dreams. My business continued to evolve and I continued to journey towards my mission. To get my children off of the school bus. Not to make millions, not to take 4 vacations a year, not to buy my children anything and everything. I dream of being the working mom who gets her children off the bus at the end of the school day. So long corporate ladder...I'll take the bus this time.
Slaying the Beast - Redefining Our Culture's Quality of Life
Critical conversations are a catalyst for change. When an opportunity presents itself to explore our culture, nothing is gained by going back and forth over what was or even what is. Our best course as a country is to open the dialogue to what should be. What are we learning here?
Has our society created an environment that provides an avenue for businesses to overlook the quality of life for their employees as they scramble to hang on to market share and meet our lofty expectations day in and day out? Probably so. But the great thing about identifying our problem areas is that they can change. They don't have to stay that way. We have the collective power to demand better for ourselves and our society.
And thus, The Modern Femme Movement was born. Offering support and clarity for female entrepreneurs and working women from all walks of life, The Movement challenges us all to reclaim the quality of life we deserve - where our professional dreams are attainable and encouraged, while we also find balance and joy in a fully present personal life. The Movement isn't just about working women. It's about challenging society as a whole, men and women, to redefine what it means to be successful, embracing and valuing family and our needs as human beings over the almighty dollar.
Achieving a new status quo for corporate America does not mean holding the professional world to new standards of care while also expecting the same rushed level of service. We, as consumers, need to take a step towards compromise as well. We need to collectively reset our expectations and acknowledge the importance of our employees by allowing businesses to operate in a way that provides adequate, even exceptional service, at a pace that is healthy and realistic. Slowing the clock down isn't just about our looks, fine lines and wrinkles. Slowing the clock down means a dramatic shift in our expectations, both for ourselves and others. Claim quality over quantity. Service over sales.
The future belongs to us. It will be what we make it. When you envision your life, what does it look like? What part do you play? How do you contribute? Are you a taker or a giver? Are you everything to the right everybodys? We can only be responsible for ourselves. When we truly embrace our own mistakes, only then can we move forward together as a focused community.
Society today is a product of our own making. Society tomorrow will be the same. What sword will we forge this time?
Author, Katy Blevins, is the writing mom behind the blog, Chaos & Kiddos, and co-founder of The Modern Femme Movement. A newly single parent to twin toddlers, social media manager and small business consultant, Katy is no stranger to the busy of entrepreneurship and the importance of claiming a well-balanced, fully present life. Committed to supporting other working women and small business owners, Katy strives to authentically engage and encourage the world to redefine success by embracing the value of family in today's society.