Unsplash Photo: Credit to Laura Lafurgey-Smith

Unsplash Photo: Credit to Laura Lafurgey-Smith


A recent Gallup publication identified a number of "changing traits" of today's employees; including:

  • They want their work to have meaning and purpose.
  • They want to use their talents and strengths to do what they do best every day.
  • They want to learn and develop.
  • They want their job to fit their life.
  • And they're willing to look for a company whose mission and culture reflect and reinforce their values. (Gallup: State of the American Workplace preview)

For some of us from earlier cohorts--the Baby Boomer generation in my case--most of these items are familiar, motivations that we would have embraced as young people. In fact, it is only the last two that seem to represent a real change. There does seem to be a shift in focus that could be characterized as a move from an attitude of "work to live" toward a construct of "live and work." The choices--and demands--that younger workers are making, combined with the changing skill-set needed in the workplace today, is definitely revolutionizing many corporate policies and practices.

Yet, I can't help wondering if these younger workers have "jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire." Yes, they are getting a "Pixar--Google" work culture, unlimited vacation, remote work . . . and lots of other perks to help fit work into their lives. Corporations continue efforts of "going green," becoming "For Benefit Corporations," and embracing a corporate activism unheard of in the past. But many of these "youngsters" are, never-the-less, still dependent upon a corporate culture which will effect their experiences with all the bullet items above.

So . . . What happens when their particular market sector turns down? What happens when the demand for their skill-set falls? What if the political winds change? Who really controls the satiation of their needs and wants?

It may be "old fashioned" but it seems that the surest way to have control of these factors is to embrace the idea of being your own boss. It be sure, being your own boss, especially in the early days may mean that the job "controls your life" instead of fitting into your life. Many entrepreneurs report working 90 or more hours a week in the critical early days of a start up. Stress management, anxiety, and security can be big challenges. The job at this early stage may not fit at all into the life that a young person dreams of having. But, in the long run, it may still be the most reliable means of providing a level of freedom and life-fit unattainable when working for someone else.

But, this is not easy for many people. Accepting responsibility for your own "fate" requires a willingness to face one's own demons. No longer can you blame a lack of work-life balance on the capitalist system, corporate self-interest, or a boss's lack of understanding or empathy. For now you are the boss, the corporation, the capitalist.

This quickly brings you to deal with another level of personal "demons."

Do you like to avoid issues? You may be forced to face them. Do you face issues but react with anger or feeling overwhelmed or defeated? You may have to find more adaptive ways to cope. It is a journey that will test you, challenging your real values, your personal integrity, your tolerance for risk, your prioritizing your responsibilities, as well as your need for meaning and creating something of value. It can be quite a ride.

In some ways, being your own boss is like a taking a canoe trip down the "rapids" . . . where at times you feel like everything but you is in control. But being your own boss is a trip in which, at least, you get to choose the river you travel, the companions you invite along, and the benefits of sharing the experience.

If you are a leader, check out our free eBook: Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading "difficult" people.