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Democracy in the workplace

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Business leaders who want to retain and leverage talent and position yourselves for success in the new business landscape, listen up. More workers want to be fully engaged, and they want a new model through which they can express themselves while making a contribution that matters.

This demand for engagement is driven by five trends that are dramatically reshaping the business context:

•Technology, the Internet, and a "flat" world. Myspace.com made us somebodies; Wikipedia.com made us experts; Zimbio.com made us collaborators; Blogs and podcasts gave us voices.

•Enron backlash. People are disgusted with the greedy model of business epitomized by the rise and fall of companies such as Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing, and others.

•The victory of political democracy. With two-thirds of the world considered politically democratic, businesses need a system more compatible with democratic rule.

•Generations X and Y have arrived. As a a borderline Gen-X/Gen-Yer I can tell you we expect to have a voice at work, be treated with authenticity and openness, and have the opportunity to make a difference now.

•The search for meaning at work. In Patricia Aburdene's recent book "Megatrends 2010," she states that spirituality or the search for meaning is the No. 1 megatrend of our time. People want their work to matter and to be an expression of their sense of purpose and identity.

Command and control ways (as in, "do what you're told because I'm the boss and I know best") of the Industrial Age are dead. A Democratic Age demands a democratic approach to business that engages employees fully, taps their reservoir of talent, builds on their strengths, and rewards them in the process.

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