x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

It's a career, not just a game

The Life: The mentality of the reset button is creating a much shorter attention span and related commitment challenges.

Many leaders find the impact of the gaming mentality in the workplace to be unnerving, writes Tommy Weir. Alain Jocard / AFP
Many leaders find the impact of the gaming mentality in the workplace to be unnerving, writes Tommy Weir. Alain Jocard / AFP

Growing up with Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox and the like, the younger workforce learnt how to use the "reset" button for their benefit. When a game is not going well, all you have to do is hit "reset" to start the game all over again. This button has crept into the job and tempts today's workforce, whenever things are not going the way they want, to press reset and get a fresh start.

The mentality of the reset button is creating a much shorter attention span and related commitment challenges. So when some employees see things aren't going well or get a little bit bored, they reach out to hit the organisational reset button, commonly know as HR.

For example, a fresh graduate may spend six months in accounts and realise they want to try something new. They hit the reset button HR and say: "I want to try marketing now." Or when a manager has a tough performance conversation, the employee says: "HR, I want a new manager because I'm not being treated fairly."

Some argue that short job tenure is a generational phenomenon and attribute it to a lack of commitment by Gen X and the millennial generation. That is a difficult conclusion to accept, as globally the generations have different personalities and descriptors.

Generational descriptions, such as baby boomers, Gen X and the millennial generation, are not globally transferable. They are rooted in American/western sociological trends. For example, the entire world did not experience a baby boom from 1946 to 1964 following the Second World War. So how can those labels and descriptions be universally exported?

However, there is a globally consistent generational (for the under-40 crowd) trait. Many are handling their careers just like they do the latest game. When things are not going as they want or if they simply want a fresh start, they press reset. It is becoming increasingly easy to reset and restart a new job.

Leaders find the impact of the gaming mentality in the workplace unnerving. When the rampant reset mentality is coupled with "cheats", the gaming industries way of overcoming obstacles, it creates a problematic mentality for performance at work. Leading this generation is different, as understanding this behavioural mentality is non-standard for many leaders.

What leaders need to focus on is building performance character in their workforce. Performance character consists of the qualities that allow employees to synchronise their actions to support achievement, rather than hitting the clichéd reset button.

The essence of these qualities is resilience, self-discipline and grit. Grit is the mental fortitude to stick with something and overcome the impending obstacles. Performance character refers to the cognitive, emotional, and behavioural dispositions needed to achieve excellence in performance environments. So to help your employees make character the core of their identity, challenge them to define who they are in a way that transcends temporary moments and fleeting feelings.

Given the pickup in the market, employment opportunities are on the rise. And mismanaged employees can easily be tempted to press reset and switch jobs quickly, perhaps too quickly.

Your leadership solution is to build the workplace habit of performance character in your employees to overcome that temptation.

 

Tommy Weir is an authority on fast-growth and emerging-market leadership, an adviser and the author of The CEO Shift. He is the founder of the Emerging Markets Leadership Center