Have you ever voted with your feet?
Voting with your feet means you’ve left a job because you were absolutely miserable doing the work. You weren’t challenged by the work, you felt you were just a cog in a wheel, and no one really knew you for who you were, just the jobs that you did.
That’s the Miserable Workplace.
When you vote with your feet, you’re hoping to move into a different environment, a different work place, where what you do will be seen as important, what you produce is valuable, and makes a difference in the lives of others around you and impacts some who don’t even know who you are.
That’s the Wonderful Workplace.
Work is no fun when you’re invisible or not challenged. And Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job” speaks to three key, fundamental reasons people disengage or become miserable in their job.
First, anonymity – your manager doesn’t know you as a person, who you are, what you care about – You’re just “Joe at The Desk”.
Second, irrelevance – not being able to see how efforts the individual puts forward make a difference to the lives of others. Do your employees know how their efforts make a difference to their co-workers’ products? Your overall mission effectiveness? Ensuring a customer had a great experience? A supervisor’s effort needed for level of review? – – not knowing if there’s any difference means employees start to assume they don’t make any difference, and eventually stop trying to make a difference.
Third, is what Lencioni calls “immesurement” (yes, a little made up word, but go with it here for a second). Immesurement builds on irrelevance, in that the individual can’t point to any particular factor and determine for themselves if their efforts were successful or not. This means they rely on the objective view of others, (and this means, most often, their manager/supervisor) to determine what their level of success is, and often, are disappointed in the results.
So how can a project manager or a program manager avoid creating a Miserable Workplace?
First, don’t let your employees be anonymous. Take the time to learn about your employees. Even the silly stuff. Some managers will attest they don’t have the time to do it, but take 10 minutes out of your day. It’ll be an investment of your time that will absolutely keep on giving.
The corollary to this is don’t be anonymous to your employees. Let them know who you are – do you lead Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts? Do you volunteer with a cause you particularly care about? Are you an avid fan of (insert band/sports team name here)? What’s interesting about YOU? The foundation of trust is in sharing. Share something about yourself you feel comfortable with your team members/employees knowing about you. It’ll help make you human in their eyes and they’ll want to share something about themselves too. And prevents everyone from remaining anonymous.
Another element to consider is to ask employees what they think about the workplace. What will make them more effective? How can you help make them more effective/productive/efficient? What would they recommend you do to help the team be most effective?
Lastly, fight immesurement and irrelevance. As more and more jobs evolve from “widget production” to “knowledge production”, we need to get creative on how we measure our level of effectiveness. It’s easy to measure items turned out, number of items produced within tolerance, etc. Six Sigma started in order to drive significant variance in manufacturing out to the sixth decimal point. When we “see” the product of our labor, we know it’s a good product – we feel a sense of accomplishment – – at least I do when I put together Ikea furniture; seeing my flat box o’wood come to life, I feel fighting with that Allen wrench was worth it.
The challenge many of us face as project or program managers is how should we measure the work product that’s about contributing to the overall knowledge base? How do we enable others to see that their Allen wrench is worth fighting with? How do we help others find return on their investment that they can “see” or visualize?
What are your thoughts – How can managers/supervisors help others see their value to an organization? How should we measure value and worth when you can’t point directly to output? What are other ways to create a “Wonderful Workplace”?
Photo by Flyinace2000, via Creative Commons