Coping with Temporariness

With change comes temporariness. Globalization, expanded capacity, and advances in technology have combined in recent years to make it imperative that organization be fast and flexible if they’re to survive. The result is that most managers and employees today work in a climate best characterized as ‘temporary’.

Evidence of temporariness is everywhere in organizations. Jobs are being continually redesigned; tasks are increasingly being done by flexible teams rather than individuals; companies are relying more on temporary workers; jobs are being subcontracted out to other firms; and pensions are being redesigned to move with people as they change jobs.

Employees need to update their knowledge and skills continually to perform new job requirements. For example, employees at nationalized banks like the State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and Corporation bank now need to know how to operate computers. That was not part of their job description 20 years ago.

Work groups are also in a state of flux. In the past, employees were assigned to a specific work group, and that assignment was relatively permanent. There was a considerable amount of security in working with the same people day in and day out. That predictability has been replaced by temporary work groups, teams that include members from different departments and whose members change all the time, and the increased use of employee rotation to fill constantly changing work assignments.

Finally, organizations themselves are in a state of flux. They continually reorganize their various divisions, sell off poorly performing businesses, downsize operations, subcontract non-critical services and operation to other organizations, replace permanent employees with temporary workers, and outsource various activities.

Today’s managers and employees must learn to cope with temporariness. They have to learn to live with flexibility, spontaneity, and unpredictability. The study of OB can provide important insights into helping to understand better a work world of continual change, how to overcome resistance to change, and how best to create an organizational culture that thrives on change.