The COVID-19 pandemic, social justice, and other matters has resulted in employers and employees experiencing crisis, change, and circumstances beyond our control. We really don’t know how these turning points will impact the future and we only have the present knowledge or perspective to make the best possible decisions. Both employers and their employees are in a sustainability and survival mode. Simultaneously employees have new concerns, motivations, performance expectations, new work environments, and priorities.
The “Unraveling” and current “Crisis” were also described by organizational theorist Peter B. Vaill as “Permanent White Water,” used to explain the increasing experience of complexity and change in the 21st century. As Vaill explained, most managers and organizational teams are taught to think of themselves as “…paddling their canoes on calm, still lakes…” and to prepare for the “…periods when you will have to shoot the rapids.” Most people expect that there will be disruptions to things, after that things will “settle down,” and that soon they will be back on “calm lake mode.” But what Vaill warned about has become increasingly true: we never get out of the rapids, but rather are riding the tide of permanent white water. The 21st century has not only become more complex, but increasingly volatile, uncertain, and ambiguous. These conditions require new attention and skills to cope with living in a VUCA world.