Millennials crave stimulating work that supports their professional development. Many assume that a fast-paced environment will allow them to explore diverse aspects of work that will support their aims. But many end up disillusioned after trying out this type of workplace.
A favourite cliché in recruitment must be the term ‘fast-paced environment’. The number of job advertisements using this term is simply astonishing. Used mostly to denote a high-energy, challenging and dynamic workplace, the term is very appealing to high-achieving millennials. But many end up disillusioned after trying out this type of workplace. Two assumptions about the fast-paced workplace are the main culprits for this clash between expectation and reality.
Assumption #1: fast = smart
We live in a culture of immediacy where the assumption is that you must be really smart to deliver something fast. How quick you are becomes a convenient measure to assess how capable you are. It’s a simplistic and no-fuss tool to measure someone’s intelligence. Who has time for nuances, anyway? Fast thinkers are said to be sharp and highly intelligent. It also gives people a sense of deep comfort: if you were quick enough today, perhaps, you could go to bed reassured that you are actually smart and worthy.
Fact: smart work is slower
Tasks that can be executed very fast are, paradoxically, less intellectually stimulating. Examples range from building PowerPoints, managing databases, crunching numbers on Excel to contract drafting or doing generally administrative tasks. This is the type of work that can also be easily automated and replaced by technology. Work that demands more brain power has a steadier pace. Some examples include strategy-setting, client meetings, designing a project or building a software. In a corporate setting, junior employees will be tasked with the ‘faster’ tasks first until they prove themselves capable enough to be involved in more complex work.
Assumption #2: fast = exciting
There is a widely held belief that working in a fast-paced environment feels exhilarating and rewarding. Everything moves so quickly, there would not be a minute to get bored. Life becomes a fun roller coaster filled with interesting to-dos that will take your otherwise mundane existence through thrilling tight turns and steep slopes. What a ride! Overcome the challenges successfully and you will climb the corporate ladder in no time.
Fact: fast often means badly managed
We tend to ignore that the need to speed up often comes from bad management and lack of prioritisation. It is all too common that an e-mail sitting in a manager’s inbox for weeks suddenly precipitates a call for action to deliver a huge amount of work at short notice. It does not feel particularly exhilarating. Rather, it makes employees prone to sacrifice quality. Ultimately, it strips the pleasure out of working and creates a sense of frustration. Now, that is not exactly everyone’s definition of fun. The term ‘fast-paced’ can also hide a darker side, that of understaffed workplaces where a culture of overwork and long hours reigns.
When do things go wrong?
Millennials crave stimulating work that supports their professional development. Many assume that a fast-paced environment will allow them to explore diverse aspects of work that will support their aims. Although many are willing to do what is considered ‘grunt work’ in order to demonstrate their commitment to an organisation, this is only to the extent that it is combined with stimulating work. Things go wrong when companies hire highly capable employees and require them to do the ‘fast’ work for prolonged periods of time. The lack of balance between the steadier, more meaningful work, and the faster, more strenuous, work leaves younger employees disillusioned. The effect is that high-performers will leave organisations in search for more fulfilling work. It is an unfortunate outcome for all parties involved.
The solution is simple: wise organisations know that employees need to change gears between the ‘faster’ and ‘slower’ work — and then make this happen.
I am a coach and trusted advisor to driven and gifted people who feel there’s an inkling of rebellion in them. I help them create more fulfilment and reduce stress in their work and careers, on their terms. You can sign up to The Sunday Question, my weekly invitation for introspection and action, here: https://www.anisiabucur.com/sign-up/