Do you find people just want to do their job?
Recently I was traveling for business. It’s sort of funny how people gravitate towards certain conversation while waiting in airports and on planes.
Anyway, on two separate occasions, two different airports and in two different parts of the country the story was the same. Why can’t I just do my job? It doesn’t matter what age the person is, the job the person occupies or even the industry, I have found this complaint to be almost universal.
Why is there such unhappiness in the world of work in this day and time?
I have a few hunches so let me provide my take on this.
First, in a modern organization, one of the fundamental things that should be done is establishing a very strong Mission, Vision and Values statement which guides the organization in both good times and bad. My business partner and I fundamentally believe that all decisions and all answers to perplexing issues can be found in the belief system of the organization. A well-constructed statement, which is a living document, provides the basis for decision-making. All too often they are meaningless to the employee’s because usually what is written is not what is practiced.
Just imagine what would happen if the truth of organizational dysfunction is provided on the front end of the hiring process. It would look something like this.
Hiring Manager: We really like your profile and think you would be a fit for our organization. And before we make you an offer, we want to tell you how we operate, a bit about our culture and what can be expected of us and what we will expect from you.
Sounds good thus far, right? That is until they actually tell the truth.
Hiring Manager: First off, we have been a very successful operation for a very long time. This is our Mission. However, that is not really our Mission. We are here to make money and lots of it.
You will be plugged into the system whereby we will make it seemingly unbearable for you to want to come to work each day. We plan on tampering with you and making you part of our “team”. However, team is a concept we place in our Mission but you really won’t be on a team. More than likely we will create infighting amongst you and other employees because that is how it is done and has been done this way for some time.
And finally, at the end of the year, I will sit down with you and go over your performance. It will be my job to judge you on merits of your performance. But don’t worry, I am fair. You will be placed into a bell curve and your predetermined performance generally will dictate what sort of increase you will receive.
Who would want that? Sadly, very sadly this is how it’s done, even though illustrated above in a tongue in cheek manner.
Secondly, the concept of a job is very simple. (1) An organization has a need for something to be done and (2) an employee has the skills and desire to do it. Where they intersect is the formation of a job.
Very simple but wrought with complexities.
So getting back to the two different from people on opposite sides of North America, the following similarities emerged. Here they are:
- Both were educated, professionals.
- Both occupied a management role.
- Both had concerns about their immediate supervisor.
- Both felt controlled (and even manipulated).
- Both were looking for a light at the end of a tunnel.
- Both felt they were powerless to effect any sort of meaningful change to make their job more pleasurable.
- Both plodded along because that is the way it is.
- Finally, both were obviously unhappy in their work.
So they complain to a complete stranger and hope for a brighter day. How frustrating.
I often wonder why people in the trenches understand what needs to be done, but those at the top of the food chain don’t? Perhaps its ego, power, information control and control in general, which stifle two people. These two really care about what they do. I don’t know any organization that wants to sabotage their success. Unwittingly, however, they do.
In our consulting business, we often talk about the notion of surrender, meaning leadership must surrender old habits, rituals, and paradigms of the past. One thing is certain. You cannot lead a 21st-century workforce with 20th-century methods and techniques. It simply won’t fit.
People just want to do their job.