Team together

Dan Lyons' Lab Rats explains why it is more profitable for companies to treat their employees better, as humans, rather than rodents put to a race

Published 2 years ago on Jan 12, 2019 3 minutes Read

Anim Aweh sees the victims of these Silicon Valley sweatshops in her practice as a therapist in the Bay Area. “Some people here are making a ton of money, but their work is demanding,” says Aweh, a twenty-seven-year-old social worker who counsels young tech workers. She works a lot with people of color, who face unique challenges in notoriously undiverse Silicon Valley. “They’re told to work long hours. They’re competing against one another. It’s a rat race. One woman I work with said, ‘The expectation is that you should just work hard, not work smart. Just do, do, do, do—until you can’t do anymore.

Somehow a myth has arisen that Millennials don’t mind job insecurity, that they enjoy hopping to new jobs and even prefer the “team, not a family” arrangement. Well, no. In fact, a “family feeling” is something people, Millennials included, say they crave at work. In a 2015 survey of 2,200 employees, most said they wanted to work for a company “with a family feel, held together by loyalty and tradition,” though only 26 percent said they felt that way in their current positions. The desire for a family feeling wasn’t just the old folks but was “a consistent choice among all age groups,” according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a UK-based professional organization for HR people, which conducted the survey.

Data suggests that younger workers do not “accept the new psychological contract,” and that job insecurity “appears to be a significant stressor” for Millennials, Washington State University organizational psychologist Tahira Probst found. “Newer workforce entrants still desire job security, despite a decline in the amount of job security offered by organizations.

A 2013 Pew Research Center report found Millennials value job security and stability even more than Baby Boomers do. Nearly 90 percent said they would stay in a job for ten years if they knew they would get annual raises and the chance to be promoted. Nearly 80 percent said they would take a pay cut in exchange for greater security and stability, according to research by Qualtrics and Accel Ventures.

Job insecurity has always existed, but for most people it was a temporary phenomenon. Your company was going through a rough patch or had merged with another company, and there were rumors of “downsizing,” and for a while you worried about losing your job. In the era of “team, not a family,” however, job insecurity looms over employees at all times.

You may have worked for a boss who used fear as a management technique, presumably in the belief that a certain amount of insecurity keeps people on their toes and boosts productivity. That’s rubbish, according to Tinne Vander Elst, an organizational psychologist at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, who has studied job insecurity for the past decade. Her research shows job insecurity correlates with diminished creativity, lower overall performance and productivity, and higher levels of workplace bullying. Workers who experience job insecurity demonstrate worse health, higher rates of emotional exhaustion, and depression that can last for years. They are more prone to accidents and injury, and more likely to have ethical lapses. They will put in less effort, say bad things about the company, and spend their time looking for a job someplace else.

This is an extract from Dan Lyons' Lab Rats published by Hachette Books