Winter of worker discontent? Collaborate for best ideas |

Winter of worker discontent? Collaborate for best ideas

John Barrette

Society and business are moving past information to insight, and leaders need to replace hierarchy with authenticity.

So said Mike Brooks of Reno, founder of Mission30, as he talked generational differences and societal cycles to a Carson City Chamber of Commerce luncheon audience Tuesday. He said we’re in a period of crisis that will last about another decade as the millennial generation comes to the fore and members bring a desire for fulfilling six needs, rather than one, to bear in their personal and work lives.

“There’s going to be a lot of trial and error,” he said, as work force and other changes push businesses to innovate, collaborate with employees and fashion altered work places to forge ahead.

The six needs he identified for people are certainty, variety, significance, growth, contribution and love or connection. He said that for part of the last century, certainty ruled the roost despite boring aspects; people in many cases traded the other five for lifelong careers. “The trade-off worked,” he said, “because they got that certainty.”

Brooks is a Gen-Xer, which is the group born between 1961 and 1981, and early on he learned the job-for-life deal was off the table. He said the millennials of the 1982-2004 period are in the work force now and they take job mobility, effects of globalization and career insecurity as part of the landscape.

This all means that in Brooks’ view, current leaders must understand millennials want leadership to be vulnerable and authentic, need to flatten work place structure by jettisoning the old boss-worker model, and even abandon titles to decentralize decision-making. He said now even the military, a hierarchical model for centuries, seeks more field decisions.

Even though this is a crisis period, also known as winter, he said that doesn’t translate into a gloom and doom scenario. Things shift through four generationally driven periods over 80-year periods, with each stage 20 years or so, and we are headed toward a high period also called spring.

The problem he sees, and a Gallup poll warns about, is that now 70 percent of workers are either disengaged or actively disengaged, the latter a term for those who actually try to sabotage things where they are employed.

“Winter is where we renegotiate all the contracts,” he said, speaking generally and not necessarily about actual labor contracts. “We’re kind of stuck right now.” He said things will change over time and smart businesses will want “the best ideas to win.”

Brooks, who recently moved to Reno from San Diego, offers consultancy work based on a Strauss-Howe generational theory to help business firms cope with 21st century work force and related problems.