The opposite is true these days, that workplaces seem to only want yes-employees around them. It’s fairly simple to figure out--it makes life easier for everyone, especially management. But it may not be a smart management philosophy in the long run. There are several reasons for that, which the speaker above touched upon. He meant that it was necessary for employees to speak up in order to prevent a workplace from disintegrating, to prevent it from self-destruction. When I think about it what he said, it makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, there is too much of the opposite—employees who simply agree with the boss when asked their opinions about a specific issue. If you are asked your opinion, and the only thing that preoccupies you is figuring out what management’s stance would be so that you can parrot management’s ideas back to your boss, who will be pleased that you are in agreement with them, then you are a good employee, at least these days. To voice the dissenting opinion, to talk against a specific management philosophy or dictate, to relate the problems associated with the aforementioned, are death knells for your career advancement. If you are direct, honest, willing to debate and discuss, have a sense of an organization’s history, bring up problems, or otherwise ‘bother’ management, you are not valued, or not valued as highly as those who nod and agree with the boss. And of course from a boss’s perspective, the path of least resistance is to promote the employee who agrees with you and your business philosophies and strategies. I get it. I just don’t agree with it. And I cannot see how this makes for a healthy workplace. But I’m of the old school, and grew up during a time when honesty, directness and loyalty were valued.
Some types of managers will tell you the following when you bring up a problem that exists in a workplace: that you are too focused on how things were done in the past (when you bring up historical references for how that problem may have been dealt with previously), that you need to forget the past and focus on the here-and-now, or that you are too direct, or that what you bring up is really not a problem (even though it really is), to name a few responses. They like to talk a blue streak about conflict resolution and the rampant belief that all problems can be resolved; my answer to this is that not all problems can be resolved, just as not all people can truly get along, and in fact to believe so is remarkably naïve and possibly dangerous. Of course, if all employees simply nod their heads and ‘agree’ to a particular resolution, regardless of whether they agree with it or not, then ‘conflict resolution’ has been achieved. But it’s not honest resolution. In the long-run, this type of agreement is not healthy for an organization. Because the result is that dissension rather grows in the corridors. Employees talk about and against management’s philosophies and strategies instead of talking directly to management. There are a lot of rumors and gossip. Management for its part thinks that all employees are happy with the status quo, and so on, and are free to proceed with their plans. But there is a reason for why employees play the yes-men role: they are afraid for their jobs. If you are not in a protected position (where you cannot get fired, e.g. civil service jobs), you can find yourself without a job when the first round of budget cuts comes along. Because the name of the game now is to save as much money as possible—that is the current management strategy—and you put yourself first on the cut list if you are a ‘dissenter’.
It seems to me that loyalty is a dying virtue in the workplace in any case. There is no objectively good reason to be loyal to a workplace anymore, because that workplace will not be loyal to you in return, not in the age of budget cuts and streamlined efficiency. There is no contract between an employee and his or her workplace anymore, the way there seemed to be in my parents’ generation. The workplace has changed enormously during the past thirty years. It would be unrealistic to assume that it would not. The changes may be for the good in some ways; I am in a wait and see mode. There are certainly long-term employees who have abused their positions, just as there are companies that have abused their long-term employees. But at present, there does not seem to be much point in sticking around in one workplace for years anymore; in fact, it may be a liability to do so, unless you find a workplace that values loyalty. Younger people coming into the workplace at present know that their prospects of landing a permanent job (cannot be fired) in an organization are few to none. Companies will not offer such positions now; young people know this and know that they will be out of a job after four or five years, after they have fulfilled training courses or reached the limit in terms of how far they can progress in one position. There is thus no real point in getting too attached, too involved, too dedicated or too interested in what goes on in your workplace; you won’t be there for more than four or five years. You know you will be moving on. The workplaces of the future seem to be places where mutual utilization of each other will define how things are done. Loyalty will be reserved for the personal arena—loyalty to family and to friends. Perhaps this is the way it should be. But a part of me still feels that it should not be necessary to comment on an employee’s loyalty at the end of a long work life—that this type of loyalty should be more the rule than the exception. My guess is that the workplaces of the future will be defined by short-term employees working on short-term projects that are led by short-term managers; employees and bosses will be project-dedicated but not necessarily workplace-dedicated or workplace-loyal. They know they are dispensable, that they can be fired, replaced at will, or rehired, but also that they can move easily from one workplace to another, without the feeling of attachment that long-term workers often feel after many years in their workplaces. The white collar workplaces of the future will be more like factories—producing what they produce without much attention paid to those who are doing the producing. But in return, the employees will receive training and a good income, but no more. Expectations of career advancement within one company will taper off, especially if an employee reaches an income level that is non-sustainable for the company. It will be cheaper to hire younger workers without much experience. In this way, loyalty will be discouraged and eventually obliterated. A glum scenario, perhaps, or perhaps not. Time will tell.