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Dealing with Great Expectations

I’ve read in many different places about (primarily) younger generations of workers wanting to find meaning in work. I believe this is positive and should promote job satisfaction throughout industries. Everyone should feel a sense of accomplishment and meaning in the work they do, regardless of what it is. We should be able appreciate in most settings that we’re a part of a bigger picture no matter how small our role—whether it’s in a production environment, service industry, retail, medical or whatever, even if our job doesn’t directly relate to the outcome.

What I haven’t seen as much media about is the expectations that society has also been set up for. With generations coming to work growing up with social media and “reality” shows, it can seem like most people are living the high life, making lots of money, traveling, and not necessarily having to work hard.

I’ve read articles and listened to podcasts recently where younger workers lament the idea that their lives aren’t keeping up with what they’re seeing from similar age groups on social media and that they’re feeling the stress of that. Doesn’t everyone come out of college (or maybe even high school) making six figures, buying houses and new cars and traveling?

And it’s not just the younger workers. We can all easily be bombarded with the perception that we’re somehow missing out on things (FOMO, fear of missing out, has become a widespread acronym).

What does this mean to managers? Well, there’s an old adage: perception is reality. We cannot dismiss this thought process and we need to understand that it does affect our employees. With salary transparency gaining traction, leading me to believe salaries will likely be more commonly known, it’s important that we can show and be confident that we’re paying amounts that are fair and equitable.

In addition, setting goals and discussing where and how we hope to accomplish them is even more vital. These goals have to be “living” so that our employees know what they are and how they’re working toward realizing them, helping them more clearly see their future. Goals should not be focused on current roles but on next level opportunities.

We must do a better job of expressing the importance of all employees’ roles and what they mean within the organization, provide information to assure employees that they’re being paid appropriately, and work with them toward setting and fulfilling goals. These are “realities” that will hopefully work to keep us all more satisfied and better grounded.

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