It's been an interesting week. I'm always out talking to executives, managers, HR people, and employees, and there has been this weirdness lately.
The economy is getting a little better, there is more competition for talent, and employees are a little less fearful that they are going to get laid off. So what is happening is that the same employees who would have taken a "heads down mouth shut" posture six months ago are getting a little more vocal in the workplace.
They are talking about areas where the organization can improve.
They are asking for opportunities for growth.
They are expecting that when they have something to say, that a leader will listen.
They are willing to admit it when morale is low, and they expect something will be done.
Combined with this is the reality that some organizational leaders have gotten used to the bad economy. They've gotten used to the fact that employees are just grateful to have a job, that they tend to keep their mouths shut about problems, and that they tend not to leave when things get dicey.
So what is the result? Some leaders are responding to this renewal of employee opinions (or call it entitlement) pretty harshly. "If you don't like it, you can leave." or they simply ignore the feedback they are getting.
Obviously whiny employee entitlement can be a problem. But if a leader hears an employee bringing up serious concerns about the organization, asking for support in keeping the team engaged, or asking for a chance to develop professionally, that isn't entitlement. That is an employee who is engaged and wants to make a difference.
I'm worried that some leaders might be too slow to respond to the changing environment. Employees are no longer terrified that they will get laid off. They are no longer willing to stuff their opinions and dreams behind closed mouths.
So if a leaders says "If you don't like it you can leave" I hope they won't be surprised in a year when people DO leave.
Good talent is precious. Soon, we'll be asked to do the hard work of retention again. Meanwhile, everyone is keeping score.
What goes around comes around. :)