By AUDREY TONG
I recently read that staying in the same job for a duration of time may actually be hurtful for a person’s CV.
It apparently shows a lack of self-development and is indicative of someone who isn’t pushing the boundaries of his comfort zone. It seems the norm to move companies every couple of years and many young talents are also finding it simply more beneficial to not be committed to a specific organisation.
Why limit oneself to one company when it is more possible to thrive on the “gig-economy” and be selective about what projects and work to invest time and skills in? Furthermore, if one were to put in so much time and effort, why not pour that into one’s own company? What’s the point of enriching yet another business tycoon?
However, I personally belong to the minority group of Gen Ys who have remained with the same organisation (Leaderonomics) for more than five years. People generally are curious to know what motivates my reasons for staying. It further intrigues folks when they find out that it’s my first job and has little to do with my undergrad degree. Well, the short answer: I like it! I enjoy what I do and I like my colleagues and my leaders. The longer version will take up the next few paragraphs.
American Psychiatrist, William Glasser, theorised that every person is motivated by five basic needs: survival, freedom, fun, power and love and belonging. In his book, Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom, he describes how we make choices and behave in ways that brings us closer to fulfilling these needs. He also talks about how the work environment would have to be needs-satisfying for employees to produce quality work. If the work you do and the place you work allows you to fulfil your needs, it would be a place you choose to remain at.
A key reason why people choose to work is to meet their need to survive. To be able to earn a living and to maintain security over a chosen lifestyle. Other factors that affect survival would also have to do with safety. If a job threatens my personal health or the safety of my loved ones, I would actively be figuring out ways to get myself out of that job. Which means that the opposite is also true: that I seek out work that guarantees the safety of myself and those I love. Many talents move jobs because they are offered better benefits and a higher salary package, which in this case, means that they are offered more security to meet survival needs. My security needs are met, so I stayed.
The need for freedom is about autonomy and independence. A person needs to feel a sense of control and choice over the work that they do. So many times, people leave jobs due to overbearing or micromanaging supervisors, they feel like they don’t have a say in what happens at work and are forced to follow orders which they may not fully agree with. It infringes their rights as a person.
Working at a place that gives weight to one’s input and allows for opinions and feedback would increase the satisfaction one finds in what they do. Having further influence and authority over certain tasks also adds to the sense of freedom and control that people enjoy.
We spend so much of our waking hours in our jobs that it can profoundly affect our overall well-being. The number of career-related health problems has steadily increased over the years, many with fatal consequences. Having fun and finding pleasure in what we do is so important to our state of being. Do we laugh at work? Do we have opportunities to learn and grow for our self-development? Do we enjoy being where we are? The element of fun needs to be present in the workplace because people not only learn best when they are having fun, I believe they also deliver their best and most creative work when fun is present.
Power isn’t about lording it over another person, but it has to do with having the sense of purpose and achievement. We all define success differently and for more and more people, it’s about having the platforms to give back and to make a difference. The work we do then needs to be meaningful and contributes to our feelings of self-worth. I find that this quote by Martin Luther King Jr. sums it up pretty well, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ ”
It’s not about what I do, but the meaning and worth that I derive from it that matters.
Love and belonging
No man is an island entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were;
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
We are hardwired to form connections and the desire to be with other people. We search for a sense of identity and belonging. Much of who we are is also tied up with what we do and with the communities we are involved in. Our jobs give us an identity and our community helps us belong.
We might not always like the company or the work we do, but that matters less so long as we like the people we are with.
So why do I stay where I am? Because my needs are met. I found work which is meaningful and purposeful and it gives me a sense of security. I have the freedom to contribute in the workplace and have my opinions heard. I’ve made great friendships and it is exhilarating to work with people who are talented, creative, witty, and are of great calibre. Sometimes these skills manifest in the form of ridiculous office pranks but more often than not, it is made apparent in the design and delivery of our programmes, publications and productions. It makes me feel like I am part of something much bigger and greater than what I alone could ever achieve.
You can read about Leaderonomics here.
Nothing is perfect of course, but I firmly believe that the grass will always be greenest where it is watered. I just have to choose to tend to it.
Roshan Says: I personally spent more than 13 years at one organisation, General Electric (GE). Similar to Audrey, these five key areas were covered. Additionally, an important area that kept me at GE for many years (in spite of the numerous offers to leave) was growth. I was continually challenged to grow and develop as a leader. This significantly convinced me to keep staying as there was ample growth opportunities. Organisations that take care of an employee’s survival, freedom, fun, power and purpose will always be employers of choice. And if they build the infrastructure to ensure their employees’ growth and development, even Gen Y’s will be tempted to be committed to that organisation.