Ambition has long been considered a driving force behind success in the workplace. Whether it meant climbing the corporate ladder or achieving greater financial rewards, ambition was often synonymous with professional growth. However, there has been a noticeable shift in the perception and pursuit of ambition as of late. Many individuals are now reevaluating their priorities and seeking fulfillment beyond traditional measures of success.
Is the basis of ambition solely about chasing bigger titles and paychecks, or can it take on more of a broad meaning and help individuals accomplish something new and bold while expanding the traditional scope of creativity? To effectively promote or revive ambition, leaders have to first identify and understand the causes behind this regression and better adapt to the needs of the employee within this evolving landscape.
Rethinking Traditional Notions of Success
Historically, going above and beyond in the workplace was seen as an obligation and expectation for survival and any measurable success. However, as society progresses, people are realizing that merely striving for advancement is not the key to personal fulfillment.
The global pandemic prompted a significant reassessment of priorities for many individuals. As people adapted to remote work flexibility, many quickly became enamored with and accustomed to the benefits of a better work-life balance. More time spent with family, the ability to be home for dinner and a newfound focus on personal well-being have reshaped the value placed on work.
The Prevalence of Burnout
Employees are facing mounting pressure to exceed expectations while working in demanding environments that often lack adequate support systems, and ultimately finding it increasingly difficult to sustain high levels of ambition. The secret is out on the negative impact of burnout on mental and physical health, and with that knowledge, people are feeling empowered to reevaluate their attitude toward work and in turn start prioritizing well-being.
Uncertainty in the New Economy
The rapid advancement of technology, the rise of artificial intelligence, and the prospect of mass layoffs in various industries have created a sense of unease among workers. And the ever-changing landscape of the job market has caused some to question the long-term benefits of sacrificing everything for the sake of a job.
In the face of what can seem like a hopeless outlook, there’s a silver lining—individuals in the workforce, especially those from younger generations, have not been shy about what they’re looking for from an employer or job. There is a clear way forward that demands a recalibration from company leaders, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to remember that what benefits the employee also benefits the organization as a whole.
To revive ambition in the workplace, organizations and leaders must adapt to this shifting paradigm. They need to foster an engaging environment and encourage creativity, while simultaneously recognizing the individual employee as a whole and pairing personal capability with corporate needs.
Learning and Development Opportunities
Provide employees with opportunities for growth and skill development, and encourage continuous learning, both within and outside their immediate roles, to nurture a sense of personal and professional advancement. Employees want to feel like their managers have their back and are invested in them as opposed to being invested in what the manager thinks the employee needs.
Creativity and Innovation
Cultivate an environment that values creativity and rewards innovative thinking. Encourage employees to bring forth new ideas, take calculated risks and challenge the status quo. When employees feel safe and supported, it eliminates that crippling layer of apprehension and self-doubt. Creativity fuels ambition, and if a leader can succeed in replacing the all-too-common fear factor with empowerment and courage, the result is better outcomes for the business.
Autonomy and Ownership
Grant individuals autonomy over their work and projects. When people feel a sense of ownership and responsibility, it can fuel their ambition to excel and achieve success. Empower employees to take charge of their tasks and provide them with the necessary support and resources to do so. In practicality, many successful business leaders treat their employees like individual entrepreneurs of their specific department or area.
Remember that all employees are also human beings with lives, interests, hobbies and dreams. The reigning days of the “live-to-work” model are rapidly dwindling, and this is forcing the hand of executives to implement policies that support the well-being of the employee. Companies are adopting hybrid work models, four-day work weeks, employee wellness programs, to name a few, and as a result, employees show up each day inspired, energized and focused.
The traditional workplace is dissolving in real time, and often so quickly that executives, managers and employees are collectively struggling to keep up and adapt. The most important thing to maintain throughout these changes is flexibility and willingness to evolve with the changing landscape.
Ambition might look different from individual to individual, and might require innovative approaches at times in order to maintain or revive. As companies continue to downsize and employees cower in fear of instability, commit to a nurturing work environment, encourage creativity, implement development initiatives and remain supportive of a positive work-life balance. Investing in the employee is a direct investment in the business—and will ultimately drive all parties forward with energy, traction, results and ambition.