Time for a new compact

In the good old days there was an implicit compact between management and staff. The staff was supposed to show up at the office, put in their time (40, 50 or 60 hours depending on the time of year), do what their manager asked them to do in the way their manager asked them to do it and in return the staff would be rewarded with pay increases and eventual promotions into management. That compact has been destroyed by a number of events – companies that no longer “guarantee” employment even if an employee performs well; the rise of single parent and two working parent households; and technology that has dramatically changed the way work is done.

As a result there is a lot of buzz these days about two major demands from employees. The first is that with employees being responsible for their own career, they want and expect assignments that grow their skills and make them more marketable. The second is that employees expect and demand better balance between the demands of work and the demands of life.

I have talked in previous blogs about the idea that balance is achieved over time, not in every day, but without a new compact between management and staff, today’s technology makes it too easy for work demands to interrupt life anytime and anywhere. So here are my suggestions for a new compact between management and staff:

  1. Management needs to stop managing by face time. Just because one employee is in the office and another is not, doesn’t mean the one in the office is a better performer getting more done.
  2. Management will let staff know when they are on call after hours. Life is not a constant emergency. I doubt someone will die before the end of the day if that tax question from a client isn’t answered at 9:00pm or that reconciliation isn’t performed until the next morning. Management needs to pick and choose when extra effort is required and let staff no about it ahead of time.
  3. Management still needs to tell staff what needs to be done, but not necessarily how to do it. Many younger staff have great ways to use technology to dramatically change the way things are done. If management is always telling their employees the how as well as the what, the organization will never be able to use their talents to make things better.

In return employees need to realize that moving from staff accountant to CFO in two years is not going to happen and not every decision about the direction of the company will be run by them for their approval. What else do you think needs to be part of this new twenty-first century compact?

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