Building culture and relationships in a changing world

by V J Rao, co-author of HR Here and Now

If we look at all the changes happening in society today because of the massive technological, economic, scientific and social developments, perhaps the largest impact has been on the way we relate to each other as human beings. The way we communicate, engage, collaborate, resolve issues and manage relationships at home, work and with people, in general, has dramatically been altered beyond what we could have imagined. Affection, love, intimacy and belonging have been redefined in ways that emphasize the primacy of the individual over the collective wellbeing leading to tectonic shifts in the way we experience relationships thus redefining expectations from each other.

Thus we experience greater power balances, huge need for autonomy, conflicting priorities, shorter-term goals and commitments, dissolving of personal and official boundaries, transactional relationships, social approval-seeking mechanisms, lower ability to deal with complexity and ambiguity and seeking quick-fix solutions as also a lower ability to form coalitions and collaborate for the larger context and in the larger interest.

Let’s look at some of the critical areas that impact relationships and how some of the boundaries have shifted in these areas:
  • Contractual: From Long term to fixed or short term and from lifelong security to flexibility
  • Legal: From emotional to contractual
  • Social: From general to customization and from fixed to 24*7 working. From doing to getting things done in a highly networked world.
  • Power: From authority to influence and hierarchy to expertise
  • Governance: From compliance to autonomy.

These are all leading to a more individualized workplace where connection and collaboration could be virtual and highly need-based.

So how do we manage organizational life in such a scenario?

By first pausing and accepting the reality and discussing what is important for us from a people and culture perspective. 
  • What are our core values and beliefs about organizations and people? 
  • What is the culture that we wish to build? Why? What will enable that? 
  • How do enable lead to more wholesome lives? 
  • Do we leave it to external forces to shape the future and direction within our organizations or do we anchor ourselves around some of these core values that we espouse and make some adjustments to some extent to the external forces even as we retain our core?

I think organizations will have to proactively and deliberately address issues of core and culture to be able to define their own uniqueness in a highly reactive world. Organizations need to develop mechanisms and forums where these issues are actively discussed and debated to enable critical perspectives on issues that would also enable employees to anchor their lives on meaningful values and relationships.


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