I’ve been chatting with friends about my recent employee dress code post. They were all pretty surprised when I casually mentioned talking with my boss, Brad, about it. Apparently my friends don’t — and wouldn’t dare to — have an open discussion with their own bosses about what they should or shouldn’t wear to the office, how they feel about swearing at the office, or what it feels like when their boss sucks at leading.
That’s just weird. You don’t do that.
I’m lucky enough to be able to have frank conversations with my boss on a bunch of work-related topics. According to my peers, this is not normal employee-boss interaction.
For me, when I talk to my boss about work and the dynamics in the work place, I get a bigger perspective and insight into the mission of the company and sometimes what drives his behavior. Because I’ve had these conversations with my own boss, I can actually bring some interesting comments and new questions to friends wrestling with issues at their workplaces.
But beyond giving advice, I feel these discussions make me a better employee. When I only consider how a situation looks or feels to me, I’m dealing with a limited amount of information. Thinking about work related issues, and talking about them with my boss gives me much more data to work with, and increases my understanding. There are tons of opportunities for bosses and employees to get tangled up in an issue when they don’t consider the perspective of the OTHER.
For example. We often hear business owners complain that their employees ‘aren’t committed’. What makes them come to that conclusion?
Gen Xers and Boomers typically demonstrated commitment with time. They made sacrifices – missing out on family or social events, or even taxing their health – so that they could STAY AT THE OFFICE. From a Gen Y employee perspective, this does not add up, since we do not believe that more time = more work. An 8am-6pm work day just feels like a prison sentence, if we know we can get the job done easily between 9 and 5. Or 10 and 4. Staying more hours just to demonstrate loyalty feels like a waste of everyone’s time – ours and the company’s.
How a Gen Y employee shows loyalty is by working hard, taking initiative and being fully engaged in the work, whether we are at the office, or commuting virtually from our living room. It is good for employers to know this about Gen Y employees, and good for the employees to understand what commitment looks like to their boss.
When we understand why the boss is frustrated because we are leaving early, we have power to approach the boss, communicate commitment, or negotiate another way to demonstrate it. The boss is less anxious, and we see we are not just a cog in a machine.
So. What am I getting at?
Since apparently you all aren’t having these kinds of conversations with your bosses (or employees), Brad and I had the idea to start a series on the employee point of view versus the employer point of view on a few pertinent subjects. We’re calling it Cube vs. Corner: Bridging perspectives on workplace issues.
Our hope is that these conversations would stimulate dialogue and foster better understanding between business owners and their employees, or employees and their bosses, however you want to look at it.
Either way, it is a win-win.
As a younger employee, I know that my vision is, to an extent, limited by my fewer years of experience in the work place. My boss, on the other hand has had experience across industries, in the “roaring nineties” and in the rather bumpy stretch of economic road that is the last decade. When I talk with him, my lens expands. My view becomes panoramic.
And to get the most out of me as an employee, he can’t afford to write-off what I have to say. Hearing my point of view helps him see and challenge places where he might be resistant to change. It helps him think beyond “well this is the way we did it” when HE was learning the ropes. It keeps his brain elastic. Which is important because things seems to be happening and moving forward so much faster than it did 20 years ago.
Now do I always agree with him? Nope.
Does he always agree with me? Nope.
But agreeing is not the point. Managing the tensions in the gray areas without making judgments that turn into brick walls – well, that’s what we’re trying to get at.