The future has already passed.
The increasingly temporary nature of job assignments in part-time and full-time roles is destined to increase. Statistics have not been revealing how common this form of employment truly is. Many leave this reality off their resumes and try to present what recruiters are looking for than state the truth. But it is already statistically known that Millennials have already experienced an average of 20 jobs. 20 before midlife. Is this not a gig economy for the majority? Surely some trailblazers among Gen X and emerging Gen Z also relate. And this data does not represent the reality of most job GAPS, with most of Gen X and younger unable to afford to buy homes in the USA. Most still live with their aging parents as adults, and no provisions are in place for the majority to know how to financially get by once their parents eventually pass away. Even the uncapped unregulated passive income of rent is atrociously unaffordable for most Americans. What is happening here?
The business climate change induced by employer norms over the past 30 years is far more compelling and alarming than how technology decisions have been impacting the natural environment of the planet. As if the latter was not startling enough.
Specialization, specialization, specialization. There has emerged a new dynamic in the human experience that no one seems to be talking about in depth – until now. This subject of job hopping, instability and burn-out is nevertheless a pervasive concern too many face and have not found answers despite the pressing need.
So often one is pressured to present a strong, compelling and focused image to their prospective employer, that the individual is not operating from their composed center. They’re looking to recruit passionate archetypes, superheros, more than real human beings (who are innately more well-rounded and moderate). The employers increasingly demand what are often nearly neurotic forms of task fixation and specialization which frankly, most cannot sustain for too long. It is not their true natures but only a facet of their individual expression and type of experience they can contribute.
Perhaps Hollywood has it right. There are so many unrealistic “roles” one can take on until the show ends and you need something new. How can employers offer more authenticate job descriptions to curb the excesses of overspecialized, hyperfixated high performance which inevitably leads to short term projects and potential toxic burn-out without right livelihood social, emotional, and financial rewards?
It is like eating your favorite food – perhaps, it is blueberry cheesecake. You are offered the cheesecake, which you really truly savor – yet are required to eat more and more and more until frankly you’re sick. It’s become toxic, too much of a good thing. Same with any talent, no matter how much of a genius virtuoso you may be.
THE GREAT CONTENTION
The most diligent, talented, productive, high performance workers tend to experience the greatest job hopping, and shortest durations at jobs. Those who are allowed to work at a minimal, slow, or moderate pace actually last much longer. We see them in the workplace everyday. They know the manager through longtime associations, or their father worked for the corporation years ago and already gave their lifeblood to the current CEO, so they’re set. They’re socially in. They’re part of the new professional aristocracy that gets to sit back and soak up the benefits of having a longlasting job, – the few among the many – based on the balance they’ve achieved between education and networking success of attaining belonging. Yet again, those who last actually produce the least in terms of intelligence and technological and labor value, and more it seems in shared corporate emotional “belonging” instead.
It’s the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise has been winning, and the hares have been struggling in what seems to be an inverted, unjust rewards system for years. The harder and more productive the hares work, the less “belonging” they may discover when surrounded by too many slow paced, moderate tortoises. Most hares get booted soon after new project milestones have been attained. An establishment versus temporary hired help mindset kicks in.
[In the enneagram, it’s like a virtual war between the 3’s i.e. the ideal yet short-lived selfless achievers, and the 6/9’s as the passive self-security-oriented flow goers.]
This dynamic division between two axis – two basic types of workers at cross-purposes – need not persist. Individuals and employers can learn to heal this great divide of extremes by rethinking how to rebalance the entire scene back to one of general moderation and the spirit of inclusion, as well as task load rebalancing when it comes to project ownership and contributions.
The basic model of what’s been happening is fourfold: imagine an X. At one pole, one practices steadfastness, acceptance/rejection, and temperance. At the counter end, one experiences a sense of right livelihood (being supported eg emotionally, financially, and socially belonging to the group with a sense of general passive resonance, “just going along with everybody, upper and lower”). This axis represents the tortoises who experience job longevity, perks, etc – yet those who stay the longest are actually not the greatest energy asset “producers” and achievers. The greatest producers and achievers – that is, the hares – are hired in and out constantly, asked to perform new and novel feats often more complex and specialized in scope to enable the organization to summon new reservoirs of fresh high charged energy to reach final objectives to meet new organizational performance levels. Once these projects are fulfilled, they pass on.
How do we reconcile the two axes to overcome this scenario of the have’s (tortoises) and have not’s (hares), with better integration for the good of all concerned?
What is the formula that has created this trend, and how do we work within it to create healthy, longlasting job security, profitability, and prevent burn-out for everyone? How can employers being longterm investing in the livelihood of their talent pools staff again? Can they learn to commit via more intelligently designed roles and workplace cultures which enhance the quality of life fairly and peaceably for everyone? What behaviors ought employees practice to abide within these conditions?
THE ACTIVE & RECEPTIVE POLARIZATION
Let us step back a moment and consider an elementary principle.
In Chinese cosmology, the essential natures of a physical man and woman are yang and yin, respectively. The yang is dynamic, assertive and projective – while yin is receptive, fluid, and adaptable.
Women did not heavily enter the workforce in the full multitude of all professions somewhat normatively until the 1980s. Since then, women are known to change jobs more often than men OR likewise have greater longevity at jobs than men, statistically. (Figure that one out. The reported stats vary!) It has been known for decades that when most employers see a woman of childbearing age, they are reluctant to hire her because they assume she might have a child that costs the business money via health insurance and time off, or might leave the job. In other words, they just see her and fear “change/lack of longevity/higher cost”. Yet the dynamics of the workforce over the last 25 years or more show these fears to be unfounded in most cases, as it is the employers and not the women who are reluctant to commit and give value. Women still earn significantly less than men in the same roles despite similar or greater training and performance. So the fear is clearly unbiased and projected here in terms of how much value she can add to the work environment. And oddly enough, the blind spot is that if the average employer sees a man with a family, they feel they owe it to society to give him the position to help him out. Single women, and those who are the responsible ones in their marriages to bring home the fully supportive income, get passed over and are still viewed as needing to be dependent on the man to provide. Yet since Gen X, most men have been reluctant to provide fully for a wife and if they do marry a woman, expect her to earn more. So single women anticipating marriage with low incomes struggle the most amid these unworkable social norms, as if she innately had nothing to offer. Go figure.
In fact, in some cultures it is joked that a woman is so profoundly capable of multitasking more than the typical male that she can perform what might require 5 men to do by comparison in modern tasks. Yet American norms often ignore this, or exploit it. In ancient times, it was the men outperforming women when thousands of years ago, most labor was hunting and agricultural – heavily labor intensive depending on average innate bodily strength norms. Certainly, times have changed.
One not need to physically be a man or woman, though, to discern how the basic natures of yin and yang can describe ones primary mode of operation in the workplace. One can in fact be the other despite their physical gender. Let me explain.
The yin passive role are the tortoises in recent decades. They do not hyperspecialize or tend to introduce force or much change in the workplace. They are passive and receptive, accomodating, and emotionally reactive people on the job – for better or worse. They experience greater job longevity.
The yang active role are the hares who mostly struggle to find job security per market norms in more professions than ever. The roles they pursue, for whatever reasons, have been more focusedly intense and specialized, taking on the new challenges that others in the office are reluctant to undertake. It has been an illusion for many that if they just take on one more big project and prove themselves, creating big wins for the company, that their employer will be overjoyed with a sense of loyalty and finally accept them into the herd longterm. Yet it doesn’t happen, no matter how successful and amiable one was.
In fact, the harder and more distinct ones contributions, the less likely the group accepts them as part of the establishment. One is treated as an outsider, given minimal provisions (salaries) for right livelihood (adequate pay) nor concessions for moderation and temperance in the execution of new projects. The hare eventually starts to burn out, too, and once the employer instinctually senses this dissatisfaction of the hare’s essential personal needs not being met in recompense yet, still awaiting their due and sense of authentic group inclusion – or perhaps the group is complaining simply because they feel a job security threat from the hare and fail to support them – at any rate, instead of rewarding what is due to the hare, instead the tortoise/manager cuts the cords and the employer runs with the ultimate profits, redistributing them back to the predominantly passive herd who remains “in” mainly monitoring the status quo.
For many organizations, this passive herd is limited to those in upper organizational management and the shareholders. Everyone else is rendered exploitable talent, with no economically sustainable commitment to the true needs of today’s employee livelihoods, who often accept lower pay than they require out of desperation for income. Whatever one is willing to work for in effort to try to “prove” themselves as the vicious cycle sets in again, they recruit below market rates; the common billionaire industry including extremely well-paid recruiters from contract houses further skim temporary talent salaries even 50% or greater what the employee brings home; minimal benefits are rendered to the real producer (hare) who is investing the most in the entire venture, heavily dependent on an enduring yet comparatively lethargic system in order to shine, and then the project is up. Time to look for another job again, in a market whose online algorithmic application criteria for winning an interview is 180 degrees from the historical trends the employers create.
PROBLEM ROOT CAUSES
The two biggest problems are the basic conditions which employers have set up: 1) not allowing task moderation with new talent (hares) anymore, expecting everything done “yesterday” at what would be nearly neurotic levels of obsessive performance to meet their ideals, and 2) not permitting and enforcing enough real social integration and fostering inclusion in the visions, goals, and ideals of the organizational subculture, nor ensuring that staff is accepting and supporting the new hires as required in lieu of sufficient understanding of human natures in such scenarios. They often draw strong social boundaries between the tortoises and the hares, allowing minimal shared emotional enmeshment opportunities between the two. The class divide in how one is treated is enormous. The division is exacerbated by enduring employees, who tend to be reluctant to accept anyone new within their fold out of a sense of competition and fear of being outperformed, or outright disinterest and uninvolvement, leading to resistance in detailed training, cooperating, supporting, and various forms of discrimination on top of that (gender, race, perceived cultural religion compared to their ultra limited or distorted understanding) – any excuse.
Problem 1 – not allowing task moderation (or true talent implementation!) for new hires – leads to employee burn-out. When an employee (hare) becomes exhausted from overdoing (or underdoing!) what was required, when that liminal threshold of toxicity is reached, others in the the workplace – especially management – feel it. They perceive – “this employee suddenly seems uncharacteristically unhappy. They no longer ‘seem’ dedicated, because they had to (temporarily) detach and let go from the wheel. (Perhaps they even seem ill.) If they are not happy here with us, then they should leave.” And so the employer lets them go instead of giving them the needed break, increased emotional group inclusion and support, the change of pace, and the nourishment of financial and social recognition rewards among others in the establishment that any human would need to restart the next productive cycle.
Problem 2 – inadequate emotional subcultural group acceptance – leads to isolation, exploitation, and emotional starvation, and possible task/performance invalidation. Committing to the employer and tasks, and knowing the quality policy, is culturally not enough. It is one-sided, an emotional investment of the hare. The hare cannot be made to feel like one of the group simply for wearing a uniform or following a standard time clock and lunch routine. What they need is inclusive cross-training and true emotional acceptance within the organization so that respect can be built up. It’s like expecting someone to come to dinner who knocks at your door all day, yet you do not go to the door to accept them in, no matter how well they’ve dressed for the occasion or what side dishes and desserts they’ve brought along for the feast. Pretty wearing, emotionally, when trying to fit in and find job permanence.
Remember when this was more common back in the 1990s? Yet how many initially considered it to be a threat – for one to be able to do others’ tasks too, and fill in where needed. Yet, in those days, there was something about the reality of shared expertise, flexibility, moderation, and adaptability which enabled workers to co-exist. Camaraderie was real. Managers did not retrain and oust past personnel. Workers empathized with others including management vice versa because so often they had in fact “been there, done that,” and so had a shared, humane sense of a unique workplace subculture among them. It fostered more mutual respect, productivity in teams, opportunities for process improvement, and an overall positive and lasting atmosphere. The team-building in that decade was real, and financial returns including benefits were typically more humane. It was not some uniform cookie cutter factory labor of the 1950s (I can only imagine), but there at least existed threads of organized data/knowledge base commonality – and thus regard, respect, reward and longevity.
FACILITATING NEW EVOLUTIONARY SOLUTIONS
If you are an expert, who finds yourself more of a hare than a tortoise, bringing in unique talent and experience and perhaps increasing yet again more new specialized training, consider the following: a) practice more moderation on the job to counterbalance the power demands placed upon you, if you can, so you can take care of your own basic needs without giving too much and being disappointed at the inevitable rejection from your employer after giving too much and being exhausted (both emotionally and task-wise); b) try to see how you can be allowed in more of the administrative aspects of the organization rather than just talent performance – volunteer to absorb more of such routine tasks, and do them well; c) do not view the situation as an “us versus them,” but try to socialize and integrate more with those who have been there longer and moderate their contributions with patience and ease – emotionally blend in more than trying to impress or emphasize differences or what is unique about you (which may seem counterintuitive). But don’t overdo it either – watch others, anticipate feedback and work with it more. Curb your enthusiasm and drive, to maybe 1/8th and 1/8th of the time to fit the real norms of the group. If you reach resonance, see how increasing your performance might set a new pace that others may respond in kind with, to raise the overall tone if needed/possible in raising the standard in accessible rather than non-threatening ways.
Ask to be included in project management meetings because you want to learn about the values and visions and contextual details for assignments, and learn more about other’s roles too, even if you remain quiet during the meetings. Be somewhat more emotionally receptive too, if you’re used to being too sober and detached or initiating the “light” of internal values. Be yourself more, with professional discretion and composure than striving after those job superhero archetypes you think they will cherish. They really don’t.
Be centered. Show that you are more flexible and multifaceted than they first thought, yet relevant. Being emotionally reactive – even sharing when you disapprove or are disappointed – is actually one of your keys to survival in this context at this phase. Too many specialists falling into the roles which become shortlived and/or toxic are in fact “too positive” to their own relational detriment. Strike a balance. Emotionally receive others more versus being only straight up cold and sober aloof or feeling like a lightsaber, or they will feel alienated from you as if you are only a brain/skillset to tap rather than a fellow human. Finding this balance in your own expression on the job might help some of these who are used to operating from the axis of moderation/stubbornness and emotional content/discontent, to help you potentially build rapport with the tortoises so they begin to remember that you are human like they are too, with needs and sensitivities and not just only some virtuoso “star” for a quickie hire until the next project supernova strikes. Yet you cannot force them to meet you halfway, no matter how worth it you are. This pervasive dynamic requires a new evolution. The situation is not easy. Perhaps even awareness more from the other side can invite positive change for the better.
So many career and success strategy stories over the decades have emphasized qualities that too many have overdone and taken to heart, which has created a big imbalance between those who adopted these “positive star talent” paradigms and those who prefer to adapt (ironically finding more longevity and uniformity) and just go with the flow without trying to prove anything to anybody, by comparison. For all the gig performers who have been suffering, consider – how can you find emotional social resonance again with others in ways you also truly wholly value, that can accommodate all your ways of being instead of being forced to toxically hyperfocus in one direction? Try looking for jobs with more balanced job descriptions you can truly stomach for the long haul, and find out during the job interview exactly what all the expected job duties and requirements will be in advance so they do not surprise you later with a completely different set of expectations, as sometimes occurs. It’s not easy out there. Good luck.
As for the tortoises and the employers, perhaps this article helps casts light on the economic and social impact your decisions have been making by not committing to many of your best talents you keep on temporarily and fail to socially include in your corporate subcultures. A return to former methods such as cross-training while committing to a full staff would probably save you way more money at this point than the costs you’ve been doling out to recruiters and contract houses who have been known to skim even 80% of a worker’s salary – a worker who has previously tried proving themselves to you and win a place among your permanent staff, even and especially if these means a new or additional form of roles that can increase perseverance and holistic room to professionally breathe in.
To some extent, the more role balance you offer employees in how tasks are defined – among dealing with people, ideas, data and things – the more likely someone can thrive and last in that position, acting as a stable force within your enterprise.
Cutting corners on necessary training is not wise. Applications which have been around for years with various revisions were much easier to hack through as a new user to learn how everything is structured than newly navigating what many of these excessively patched, illogically organized monsters have now become. You have to invest in committed employee training when its required than expecting any newbie to master the systems always just hacking through on their own. It is not the most expedient path, if support from others is lacking. Supervision to ensure authentic training is being conducted may be required to counteract false or contradictory reports on how progress is being made – who is really mastering or not, who is really helping or not. Assuming the more longstanding employee is more honest is just plain unrealistic in today’s competitive job market, unfortunately.
Validating new employee input on what dictated old methods are no longer working would help bring you back down to Earth than falsely crying insubordination. Involving your employees in goal meetings with various levels of management also adds far more value for everyone than most these days realize. If you allow too many tortoises to passively run the ship, less will get done, more hares will burn out, and the bad moods, internal competition and discontent instead of genuine teamwork will be so pervasive they can only negatively affect the reputation and wellbeing of your financial bottom line, eventually.
To build customer loyalty, you need to commit more to ALL of your employees first before wondering why account management experiences so many reflexive gaps in echoing response to the patterns of high employee turnovers you set in motion. Also, it is much wiser to take the time to get to know your “hares” as fellow human beings as you would a neighbor with more common values than dissimilar, rather than jumping to rapid false conclusions (even negative unfounded fears) about their lives and lifestyles and characters as often occurs, or believing unfounded rumors from unsupporters. Accept diversity, share consensus. Taking time to genuinely bond with newbies will help blow away those scary cobwebs and shadows that your unfamiliarity would inevitably otherwise breed. Remember everybody is only human, so keep your expectations realistic and humane with the big picture in mind.
Also, it is likely that the more predictable routine tasks you give new employees which they also find emotionally fulfilling in pure ways from giving them a sense of security – in addition to whatever showcases their talents – the better chances exist for routine job longevity, by anchoring their talents with simple acts of increased accounting put to memory. The use of standardized forms and processes used by both tortoises and hares jointly in your organization would achieve a LOT in promoting group mind, mutually humane camaraderie and potential productive longevity by re-implementing more of these basic rituals again which so many businesses have done away with. Routine data structures immensely build organizational including staff stability, especially when they are relatively easy to use by all employees. Examples would be daily project reporting forms that are common, or things of that nature. You would be amazed at how much something seemingly insignificant as this would resolve many of these relational career problems. Rather than giving a complete exposition on the map of the human mind, consider trusting that it works, implement more of it, among these other suggestions, and see how many pieces of the puzzle fall back into place to make American professional life more functional and happy again for everyone.