A Broken Social Contract

 When I was growing up, calling a person on the phone after 10:00 pm was just something you didn’t do. Nor did you butt ahead of people in line or call an elder by their first name without being explicitly invited to do so. There has always been some form of social contract governing individual behavior in society and people who flouted that social contract were to others, outcasts.

There has always been a social contract at work.

Just as there has always been a social contract between individuals and their government and in society, so too has there been one in work. Before the ICT Revolution, there were things that you just did not do in a working environment. There was a way that the corporation as represented by one’s manager behaved in relation to each and every employee. There were acceptable modes of behavior and unacceptable ones.

But for some reason, the social contract has been broken.

The net result of all of the change at work due to computerization is that the social contract that existed between workers and their employers has been broken. We need to either return to the old social contract and change our behavior or we need to develop a new social contract to recognize the impact that technological change is having on our lives. While firms have done an excellent job developing mission and value statements, they need to work to develop social contracts with employees and state these directly so that everyone can understand what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable.

Mentorship – Pay it Forward

I heard an interesting story from someone who was patient enough to listen to my mentorship for several years. One of the things that I had emphasized was that: Responsibility is taken, it is not given. The point of this blog though is not about what I had said but about how it had travelled. The individual I was mentoring told me how she had passed it on to someone who she was mentoring and this individual had passed it on to her husband who was then trying it himself at work. It proves the point that:

When you mentor someone the mentorship doesn’t just stop there.

Instead, if you have meaningful mentorships, the knowledge and experience is passed down through many people and hopefully for many years.

It takes a community to build a leader.



Building a Team

You know how you tend to surround yourself with people just like yourself? While it may be fun, it might not result in the best team. James Standen’s approach and his comparison to the Irish potato famine is insightful.

You’re an idiot – Work Harder

How did that feel, being told you’re an idiot and then being told to work harder? Great motivator wasn’t it? Frankly some people can take criticism but most people can’t. It’s no good for their self esteem. I don’t mind criticism and I have one good friend who really likes it. So guess what? He dishes it out all the time. Earth to reader:

People don’t like being criticized.

I sat at one boardroom table, full of prominent people and wondered how they had all been successful, really successful. Then one day it hit me. You left every meeting with one of them feeling better about yourself. What was the key? They didn’t criticize. They still managed to get the point across that you had screwed up. So how did they do that and how can you?

Motivate by setting a higher bar.

Don’t criticize. Set higher expectations and let the person know that better results are possible and thus expected.

Why aren’t you the CEO?

Do you ever look at your CEO, your boss, or perhaps a politician and wonder, Why isn’t that me? After all, you’re smart, talented, and funny. You get along with people and get results. I do this from time to time, particularly with politicians, wondering why it’s not me giving that speech. Then I remind myself; that wasn’t one of my objectives.

Your CEO has that job because it was her goal.

Simple to say and frankly the difference between you and the CEO. It was her objective and it hasn’t been yours. If you want to be the boss, a politician, a writer or a movie star then you have to step up and make that an objective. Set that as a goal. No one’s going to give you your dream. You’re going to have to figure out your dream, set it as a goal and diligently work towards achieving it. Every day you have to ask yourself:

What is your goal and what can you do today to get closer to achieving it?

Your Personal Life Comes to Work

While taking work home was commonplace years ago, allowing your personal life to intrude on the office was not something that was tolerated. It was very uncommon for people to take personal calls at work and spending time doing household related chores at work was not acceptable. The advent of the working couple changed that dynamic in that it forced people to have to use working hours to get personal tasks accomplished. Perhaps the social contract has changed to accommodate this in that work is generally acknowledging that the requirement to get some work done at home is balanced by the right to get some personal chores done while at work. While this change may have been accepted in some work places however, the feeling is not prevalent and there are still those workplaces that promote workers getting work done at home while denying them the right to get personal work done during the work day. Unfortunately, firms will need to specifically address this imbalance if they want to maintain good relations with workers.