Executive Corner – Blurred Lines Between Our Professional and Personal Lives
Michael Clegg | 12/13/2022
Today’s workplace is all about connection and empathy. Employees need to be connected to their boss and company. We spend more time with those we work with than those we love. I tell my clients and anyone who chooses to listen in the talks I give, “the world of work has changed, and it ain’t ever going back to the way it was.” 9 out of 10 times, most agree. There is usually one person that wants to disagree. The reason for their disagreement with my statement is that a big “R” (we don’t use the word “recession” at Q Works Group) is coming, and that will reset the power back from the employees to the employer. I’m afraid I have to disagree with this thought process. When the next downturn arrives, it could be the only time in economic history where there’s a downturn, yet employment continues to thrive. The need for knowledge workers will continue to grow.
Today’s employee social contract has changed this past decade, significantly since Covid disrupted our lives. Employees are looking for more than a paycheck. They are looking for an experience, purpose, and meaning. They are looking for flexibility. The line between our professional and personal lives is more blurred than ever. Some of that began with the “gig economy.” Employees have choices.
In 1999, when I landed my first job, I took the first job offer I received. Every day that went by without a paycheck was one day too many. My focus was getting a job to get out of my Memaw’s house and to get rid of that 1986 Ford Tempo. Oh yea, I also needed health insurance because I didn’t have any when I graduated from college. My focus was straightforward: paying bills and saving for my future. Today’s employee is looking for more than just a job. They expect an experience and an overall better quality of life. The companies that can connect their purpose with their employees’ journey are the companies that will win.
There is so much written on the work culture today. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with the latest news stories about what excellent company culture is. There are some remarkable stories of companies that have changed their trajectory through a CEO that recognized what outstanding leadership is. The story about Satya Nadella changing Microsoft by using empathy is worth reading. “Ideas excite me, but empathy grounds and centers me.” Empathy is mentioned 53 times in his book, “Hit Refresh.” As many positive stories about leadership, but there are many more stories about poor leadership and the bad boss. The best leaders not only impact the performance of their employees, but they impact their day-to-day lives outside of work. I still have many leaders I work with that are old school mentalities and see their job as only about the company. To gain a connection, leaders must dig deeper.
I will assume that all the great leaders are already conducting regular 1x1s with your team. In April, I wrote about the “STAY INTERVIEW.” I conduct these twice a year. I will be running these with my team beginning next week. The depth of these conversations is significant. I discovered that a star employee is considering leaving our organization due to something entirely correctable. I learned of a debilitating disease with one employee I would have never known about. Of course, you can’t expect all of these to happen the first time you have a “Stay Interview.” If you are consistent about having it, this will naturally begin to bring trust into the relationship, which is the foundation of connection. As the lines of Professional and Personal continue to intersect in all parts of our lives, leaders must learn how to manage both and to do it with empathy and connection.