Workers, Like Plants, Only Thrive in the Right Environment

Last Updated Oct 19, 2007 7:07 PM EDT

Workers, Like Plants, Only Thrive in the Right EnvironmentWriting for the Harvard Business Review Discussion Leaders, Tammy Erickson asks her reader to imagine a scenario: You're looking for a new job and interview with three companies. All of them offer excellent career opportunities and compensation, but they differ greatly in terms of how they would structure your entry experience.
Company A tells you that "your first three months will be a probationary period in which you'll get to know and work closely with your assigned teammates.... At the end of that period, your teammates -- your peers -- will vote on whether or not you will get to stay in the organization."

The representative of company B "can't tell you what your exact role will be or who you'll be working with. For the first three months, you'll be in our "fishbowl," performing a series of weekly challenges... under the close scrutiny of our CEO and other senior executives."

Company C explains that "your first three months will be spent learning our way of doing business. We have a specific way of operating, and we expect you to follow our processes closely. We're convinced that the ways we've outlined are the most productive and successful."

Which position do you accept? In a post yesterday, Erickson argues that there is no right answer, but that your choice reveals a great deal about your relationship with your work. Her research has identified six fundamental archetypes, which she calls "Life's Lures." Among them:
  1. Expressive Legacy: Work is about creating something with lasting value
  2. Secure Progress: Work is about upward mobility; a predictable, upward path to success
  3. Individual Expertise and Team Victory: Work is an opportunity to contribute to a winning team
  4. Risk with Reward: Work is an opportunity for challenge, change, learning, and, maybe, wealth
Which sounds like you? If you're unsure, Erickson offers this self-assessment. By better understanding what you gain from work, you'll be in a better position to choose the opportunities that are tailor made for your personality type. Check back at the Discussion Leaders for more advice on the topic from Erickson next week.

(Image of unhappy plant by gierszewski, CC 2.0)

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