WTF is the Great Negotiation?

The article was first published by Digiday sibling WorkLife

The youngest generation of workers is adamant about doing things differently in the workplace. They’re rejecting norms like staying in the office past 5 p.m., or coming in sick when they know they probably shouldn’t. They’re redefining traditional career paths and seeking to do work they find meaningful. And they appear far less loyal to the organizations they work for as job hopping becomes more normalized. 

They’re also no strangers to financial insecurity, as the cost of living continues to rise and many turn to side hustles or other ways to not only gain new income streams but explore their personal interests. What makes them different from previous generations (who hold many of the same values) is their open expression of their discontent and eagerness to change things, experts say. 

It’s given rise to a new term that describes this next era of workers and their attitudes to working on their terms: “the great negotiation.”

Bradley Schurman, founder and CEO of Human Change, a workplace analytics company, coined the term in a recent LinkedIn post. “Companies will need to rethink their concept of employee loyalty now that a 9-to-5 job on its own no longer offers the kind of economic promise it once did,” he wrote.

So what exactly does this younger generation of workers want to negotiate with their bosses, and how does that square with the reality of what businesses are willing to offer? Here’s an explainer:

What are they negotiating exactly?

While pay raises remain important to younger workers they are highly focused on negotiating their working conditions and how they impact their lives outside of work. “It’s much more than just salary negotiation, it’s about work-life balance, flexibility, the opportunity to work from home,” said Robert Garcia, vp of coaching in organizations for the International Coaching Federation.

The bottom line is that not only are their full-time jobs not paying enough, but they feel they aren’t fulfilling and are more demanding than ever. And it’s not exclusively a formal negotiation, but also a movement of collective resistance. 

“There’s a reason why we aren’t back to full-time 9-to-5 office work in this country — it’s because workers are saying we don’t want to do that, we’re not getting compensated enough,” Schurman said. 

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