Sunita is a smart MBA student and lands her first assignment with a multinational company. She is excited by the world of opportunities in front of her. After the first two months in the job she is disillusioned by what she sees. People don’t seem to be as authentic as they looked when she interviewed, her role changed multiple times, the organization had several restructures and she faced challenges getting work done with stakeholders and her peers. Moreover, her manager made work difficult by asking her to come in on weekends and also attend office outings that she wasn’t comfortable with. Sunita is at a loss. What was she doing wrong? How did things go downhill so soon? She is contemplating looking out for openings in other firms. Will that work? She isn’t sure. If she stays, does she have a future? She doesn’t know either.
Tanu joins a workplace which is regimented and expects each employee to give up their personal traits and be aligned with the organization’s rules of engagement. He has interests outside of work including an entrepreneurial streak that helped him create a few apps and gather patents. His organization sees that as a risk and a conflict of interest that can mean potential damages through information leaks They make him sign an agreement which prevents Tanu from engaging in any form of activity outside of work unless he has explicit permission from his manager and leader. He feels frustrated by this lack of trust and autonomy from his organization and wonders if he made the right choice in joining this new workplace.
Landing a job is easy. Understanding yourself, learning to navigate the culture and having a plan that keeps you on track is tougher. These skills are much needed in a highly complex and evolving world of work and life. Every year, millions of graduates (management and other domains) enter the workplace to make an impact to organizations and add value to their careers and lives. Over the next few posts I plan to share some thoughts on what new joiners need to consider while starting out at a workplace.
I recently met a bunch of MBA students to listen and share perspectives on what they can expect and how they can be better equipped to handle work and life. In a pre-session exercise I asked the group to reflect on their strengths, how they anticipated the workplace would treat them, their personal and preferred style of working, their personality traits, how they thought they handled stress, their values and their ability to perform. From the responses I gathered, there were gaps in their understanding of work and life in the real-world. Most importantly, they had limited understanding of how to transition to the corporate world, learn the ropes and stay on track.
As the future of the workplace is shifting to working from ‘everywhere’, driven by technology and expectations of a flexible mindset (hot-desking, bring your own devices, operating virtually etc) the need for the workforce to adapt to these changes has never been more critical. They need to learn newer skills such as sense making, design thinking, new media literacy, cross-cultural understanding and social intelligence. Organizations are getting re-organized to work in clusters and smaller, self-managed teams that deliver results. In such scenarios, often there are no leaders and everyone is expected to play their part and be flexible. Likewise, changes at the workplace can be unsettling for many new comers; re-organizations, new performance systems, leadership movements, new focus areas, acquisitions, downsizing and mergers among others.
What do you think Sunita and Tanu can do in their new workplaces?