I was just saying that the workforce is a "really disloyal, hustling, hunkering or hostile group of people". That sounds a little harsh. I'm a compassionate fan of this workforce. It is just that the churning and fragmentation of the work and career scene has created a motley crew. Dumped out of the secure nest of traditional employment onto the street, we woke up into a world where everyone is a sort of free agent responsible for their own employment or business gig.
- Disloyal: we know that our employer or clients will downsize or reorganize our jobs or contracts out of existence when it suits them. Dependent and dutiful employee behavior may never have been a good proposition. Now it is so dysfunctional that the norm is to keep your options open and be ready to move quickly when or before your job or contract is terminated - not if. This doesn't mean most of us don't try to appear loyal.
- Hustling. Working hard, mobilizing, even scrambling to keep financially afloat, to forward his or her career, to keep an ear to the ground for changes and opportunities, to get or keep more and better clients. This is perhaps the Type A - active - response.
- Hunkering. Short for hunkering down in one's home. It's the head in the sand method. Battening down the hatches. Playing video games. Ignoring the changes all around us. Gardening. Drinking beer. Being a couch potato. Either wracking up big credit card bills or skimping and playing it safe. Being apathetic. The Type B - more passive - response.
- Hostile. These are the people who are pissed off that all this is happening. They're the ones left holding the short end of the stick. They may not be able to get a job better than McDonalds, if that. They've lost or never had faith in the system. They are cranky. Some are extremists, some are "crazy", and some are agile and amazing political activists.
The truth is that we use all of these responses at one time or another as we try to adapt to our new circumstances. The social and economic safety net has withered. But, we live in a pretty abundant society so, even in tough times, at the minimum, we can probably get some credit to tide us over until things improve and, if things really get bad, there's still bankruptcy and what's left of a social safety net for those of us who are in dire financial straits or know how to manipulate the system so that it thinks we are.
How does social networking fit in this world? It's what's needed. When traditional social structures have disintegrated to the point where we are all veritable free agents, we immediately face the need to to get connected for jobs, work engagements, business alliances, marriages, partnerships and friendships. We free agents are free to choose but it's never been truer that "freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose".
Luckily, we have a growing, internet-enhanced toolkit to draw on to get that close, cozy, connected feeling and economic viability we all want. A created rather than inherited (family, neighborhood, town, class) or indentured (traditional, hierarchical employment) social network can be our new succor and safety net. Whether by necessity, drive or enthusiasm, many of us are learning to navigate these muddy waters. [To be continued]