The Flexibility Fallacy: Build on Relationships and Trust Instead

By: Rachael Bosch

As summer begins heating up, students are graduating and beginning the process of heading into their post-grad jobs. When they get there, they will find that the professional world has many traps to which they can easily succumb. One that we have encountered with more frequency over the past few years is something I have started to refer to as the Flexibility Fallacy.

Millennials entering the workforce have clearly defined their desire for balance, flexibility, and autonomy. In a recent study by Deloitte, Millennials ranked work/life balance and autonomy/flexibility in the top three reasons to choose to work for an organization. Employers are beginning to realize the importance of these desires and, in an effort to attract the best talent, are flaunting their balance and flexibility programs. “You can work from anywhere!” feels as though it is a part of almost every recruiting pitch these days.

To be clear, I believe fully in the importance of creating balance and flexibility for your workforce. More than just a belief, the data shows us that these practices lead to greater employee satisfaction and higher retention levels.

That being said, I have seen too many new professionals utilize this flexibility at the expense of building critical relationships. The fact of the matter is that our modern workforce continues to rely more and more heavily on relationships, and the success of a relationship hinges on the trust between both parties. That trust requires an investment of time, and you build workplace relationships at, you guessed it, work. When it comes to balancing flexibility with face time, we suggest that employees and organizations consider the following:

Employers:

  • Put out a safety net: Although it may be difficult for your newest team members to accept in the moment, create a lag time after the start of employment before employees gain access to a flex program or policy. This period can provide critical time for people to begin building relationships while still letting them know that the option will be there for them at a later date.
  • Put it in writing: Having a clear and accessible policy reduces ambiguity for all of your employees at every level. By thoughtfully creating and implementing a policy around your flexibility program, you reduce the risk of inequities in the way individual cases are managed. Also, it becomes much easier to gather data and identify success stories! Organizations like The Diversity and Flexibility Alliance are a great resource if you are looking to build or revamp your flexibility policies.
  • Put expectations on display: The phrase “but, no one ever told me!” is one I hear from junior employees far too frequently. Your new team members may be damaging their career without even knowing it. Share face time expectations with them from the beginning and provide them with tools for building relationships with their peers and supervisors.

New Employees:

  • Be there: At least at the beginning, go to the office regularly. Get to know the schedules of the folks you work for and make sure that if they come looking for you, you are there to chat with them. Having a physical presence in the office also allows you to start building your personal brand in a way that gives you more control over the impression you leave with your team. 
  • Be present: This is not to be confused with being there. By being present, you bring your whole self to work and are engaged with those around you. Put down the phone and look for opportunities to connect, that is what this time is for after all. When present, you are showing those around you that you are interested and invested in the work that you do.
  • Be gracious: I know, I know. As a millennial, I don’t want to play to stereotypes or overgeneralizations. I am not saying that all millennials or younger employees are entitled. What I am saying is that the cultural narrative has cast us as entitled, so we need to work that much harder to prove that we aren’t. When you are starting that new position or new organization, be gracious for everything so no one can put the entitled Gen Y sticker on you!

This article previously appeared on ​FringePD.com.​

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Rachael Bosch is an advocate for innovative and organizational professional development. She works with professionals across disciplines and experience levels. Rachael has spent more than ten years in the legal industry and has a background in theatrical performance and vocalization. Through this experience, she has developed and executed training programs for lawyers, law students, and development professionals on the topics of executive presence, time management, communication skills, and presentation best practices.

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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