The best organisations

Posted in: Bloggery

The best organisations are places where people really enjoy their work and their careers.  Enjoyment is infectious. It causes people to look out for each other. People who are positively rewarded by the work they do – tend to do it well.  Customers notice. People who find their work fulfilling tend not to leave. They stick around and come back for more as well.

These observations are abundantly obvious to most of us. Yet somehow or other in many environments subtle and invidious forces intrude.  The organisation becomes a place where work is synonymous with negative stress. Research shows that almost two-thirds of the Australian workforce are considering a new job or career. Australian workers totaling 75% complain of being pigeonholed by employers because of their present jobs. Just 45% of Americans are satisfied with their jobs, the lowest level since it began studying the issue more than 22 years ago, the US Conference Board reported in 2010.

Why is this so?  What are these invidious forces?

Here is a list based on the comments we hear from the clients we work with:

  • Unrealistic expectations are set. Sometimes people are enthusiastic but drive their teams too hard. Sometimes there is a more malign desire to create fear. Sometimes managers feel they have no alternative if they are to survive in a changing business environment.
  • People with power use it inappropriately.
  • Sometimes individuals put themselves into roles for which they are not suited. The resultant stress and unhappiness causes stress for others.
  • People are confused about rewards. The desire for power and money creates unfortunate politics in the office. Information is with-held, or changed, favours are granted, resources allocated poorly in the pursuit of individual advantage.

We are all human, and not inherently evil.  That is why I have called these forces invidious.  Lots of little things and behaviours coalesce to steadily create toxic organisational environments over time.

Size is often a factor and leads to growth of bureaucracy.  The character and behavior of particular leaders is also significant.  People tolerate, grit their teeth and hang on for months or even years at a time.

Sometimes it takes an unplanned drastic change for individuals to sit back and move away from situations with these elements: a business closing down or an individual being retrenched.

Sometimes a career needs to be taken by the scruff of its neck and given a good shaking. We need to ask: is this the work I want to do?  Is this the place I want to be?  Is this experience adding value to the whole of my life – or simply a vehicle for making some money?  Am I creating around me an environment where others find fulfillment? Or am I a part of what is grinding them down?

At times like this it is best to start with “me” and then work outwards.   The work we do with senior managers and professionals is around getting the best answers to these questions:

  • What are my values: what is fundamental in my beliefs about myself and the community  Are there things about me, my behaviours and how I invest my time which need to change?
  • What are my capabilities: my signature strengths – and is my next career going to rest on these and their growth, rather than require me to do things which cause me stress?
  • Can I articulate my capabilities and link them back to achievements: explain myself well to others?  Can I look back through the times when I was really delivering great outcomes and enjoying my work – and then look forward to doing work like this again
  • Where are the markets for what I want to do: where is there work of the kind I am best at, how do I research these fields of activity
  • Can I engage with the right people – people with good values and behaviours – and create opportunities

The best organisations want people who have worked through these questions, and who seek them out as a place to come, where they can really enjoy their work and perform at their best.  The best organisations believe that if they offer roles which address these questions, then they will build leaders who encourage others. And their businesses will grow too.