The Age of Relationship Has Come of Age

The Age of Relationship

“What kind of workplace do you want to join?”

I asked this question to many people I meet. I ask the millennials,  gen Y’s, the gen X’s, the boomers, even those starting high school that I call the gen F’s (the Facebook crowd…)

What Do You Want?

The kind of organization that people want to be in emphasizes these aspects:

  • Self-development
  • Quality of relationship
  • Meaningful activity
  • Cooperative effort
  • Combinations of individual space and group connectedness
  • Balance between time to work and time to play (without a twist of guilt thrown into the mix)
  • Blending of diverse people and ideas without polarization

What Do You NOT Want?

The kind of organization that people DO NOT WANT to be in reject these aspects:

  • Worker separateness
  • Workplace silos
  • Competitive struggle for success
  • Boring old repetitive office politics

Organizations have gone through changes just as technology and society have changed and evolved. Workers from bygone generations are not the same as the ones in today’s workforce.

In yester-decades, relationships and social networking where not as pronounced as they are in today’s work environment. Consequently, attitudes about work and organizations have changed.

So when and how did these changes occur?

Historical Context

In this time of shifting economic and social values, attitudes about what is important to large numbers of people have shifted.

Q’s ::

Were they the result of the rapid rise of social media?

Did this new paradigm begin with the peace and love movement of the ‘60’s, underground until now?

Was it from the forgotten “command-and-control” organizational structure that permeated post WWII workers that has since evaporated?

A :: Yes to the above.

And we can go back even earlier to find the stirrings that have led to more and more demand for a better way to work together. When the Holy Roman Empire, the church was the dominant institution throughout Western Europe. It told everyone what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

If you disagreed, well, it got ugly.

At some point the Industrial Revolution caused a new way to thinking. However, the rules were not that much different. A small group of men at the helm of the work wheel told people what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

Bells rang at specific times, made the workers salivate and take action.

There were only three options: clock in and move into work areas, clock out and go home, or go to the place designed for a meal and eat your sandwich.  Not much individuality there. Sadly, that sounds like most of the schools in this country.

Ah well, that’s for another blog.

Today’s Context

The business world is still king. With all the technology and social media at hand, the workplace hierarchy is in the process of deep change. Leadership is no longer just a function of the person or people at the top of the organizational chart. Taking a systems’ perspective and a relationship view leadership can contribute from anywhere in the organization.

This is the time and the place for everyone in every company to become a relationship expert.

It’s not that hard. We have permitted this realm that impacts all of us, be the sacred space of “the experts” for way too long.

Think of It This Way

We are all born from a relationship, through a relationship, into some form of relationship, often called family.

We take what we learned there with us into school and then to work. All we need to do is learn the skinny on how relationships work at work. Then off we can go to create, collaborate, celebrate, and make work a place we can’t wait to get to rather than a place we want to get away from.

This is vital for all organizations right now!

So how are you doing at adapting to the changes in technology, attitudes, values, and generational forces that appear in your organizations? How are you balancing the shift in expectations from the people on your teams? Are you adapting well to these changes, or do you find then annoying or difficult to handle? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Sylvia Lafair, PhD. is President, Creative Energy Options, Inc.
She does Workplace Relationships, Conflict Resolution, Exec Coaching & Consulting

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One response to “The Age of Relationship Has Come of Age

  1. I can’t believe there aren’t tons of comments on this.

    Excellent, though-provoking post Sylvia!

    I think the lack of comments says a lot about the state of our organizations. I love the theory you describe here, but I wonder how/if these ideas are actually getting implemented.

    As a member of the military, the turning of such a huge ship is taking much longer than I hoped. The industrial and efficiency mindset has even contributed to the financial standoff between the dems and reps that ended last night!

    Until we realize that systems thinking is limited and relational thinking is what will inspire the next generation, the longer we will spin our wheels and curb our potential.


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