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February 19, 2011 / W. Stanton Smith

People go to work to make a difference…but what if we don’t let them?

Humans are goal seeking. Most of us need tangible goals to motivate our selves to get out of bed and go through the guantlet of communiting to the workplace much less do our jobs. In my experience the vast majority of people want to make a difference in a positive way and that’s the motivation that keeps them going.

Knowing the above as  fact, why do we in management roles get in the way so often. What do I mean? Let’s take the disconnect between how we raised the newest to the workforce (gen y) and how we treat them once  they’re in the workforce.

Prior to entering the work world we have said to young people:

–         speak your mind,  but once in the workplace  they  are told to be quiet and get to work

–         use technology to the fullest, but their suggestions too often fall on deaf ears and they are told to put away the technology toys.

–        collaborate with others , but their work teams operate in silos

–         seek equilibrium among your life among academic demands, extracurricular activities and just chilling out, but, once employed,  there is great pressure to put work as first priority all the time. These young people rightly perceive lip service being given to career/life fit. In fact  many are under the impression that seeking too much flexibility can be a career-limiting move.

All this cognitive dissonance (disparity between what managers say and what they do) gets in the way of productivity, aka creativity, of not only gen y, but knowledge workers of all generations. And creativity is why employers hire knowledge workers. Many in management roles are highly critical of workers today and perhaps some of the criticism is warranted. However, before we go too far on this path of self-righteousness, I suggest we examine how we get in our own way as managers of people and too often thwart the very human goal of making a difference every day.



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