Friday, August 10, 2007

The Miserable Job

My oldest son, a teenager, has been a busboy/dishwasher for about two years now, and he recently told my husband and me that he had come to an important realization about his job.

“You get yelled at for doing something wrong, but no one ever says anything to you if you do something right,” he said, in apparent disgust. “And it’s the same thing, every day.”

My husband reached out and shook my son’s hand. “Welcome to the world of work, son.”

Then we laughed while my son scowled at both of us.

Still, part of me was saddened that my son had come to this realization about work so early in his life. He used to enjoy going to work, thrilled with the thought of earning his own money, enjoying the camaraderie of the guys in the kitchen and getting a kick out of being part of a busy family restaurant.

But lately he’s come home from work more tired, more critical of some co-workers (“I worked with dumb and dumber tonight, who are going to get us all fired,” he groused) and more cynical about what it takes to earn money (“Who the heck is FICA and why is he taking all my money?” he complained).

I don’t think it’s what Patrick Lencioni would call a “miserable” job, but it’s headed in that direction. In his book, “The Three Signs of a Miserable Job,” Lencioni outlines what he considers to be a miserable job:

1. The people you work with don’t know you or care about you.
2. You don’t know how your job matters to others.
3. You can’t assess how you’re doing in your job.

Workers who are miserable are less productive, efficient, and more likely to have physical ailments that affect their professional and personal lives. With the increasing focus on remaining competitive in a global marketplace, Lencioni points out that managers should ask themselves what they can do to guard against workers becoming miserable in their jobs. As part of a self-assessment, he suggests managers ask themselves:

• Do I really know my people? Their interests? How they spend their spare time? Where they are in their lives?
• Do they know who their work impacts, and how?
• Do they know how to assess their own progress or success?

Finally, he says bosses should develop a plan to do a better job of getting to know and understand employees. He suggests one-on-one meetings, team sessions and clearly outlining what is trying to be achieved.

While this seems like a simple concept, Lencioni says that many companies and managers miss the boat. He also has a deeper message to impart to those in charge:
“By helping people find fulfillment in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual health of workers and their families,” he says. “That is nothing short of a gift from God.”

Amen to that.


Robyn McMaster, PhD said...

One addendum, Anita. Kids enter school with curiosity and many of them come out bored and defeated.

When we build classroom communities and voices are heard, things also change at school! It is caring communities that can make a difference for kids before they even go to work!

Bill Lampton, Ph.D. said...

Regarding having a manager who knows you and cares about you. . .picture this scene. When I hobbled into a senior staff meeting after being away two weeks for back surgery, I noticed another vice president ambling into the meeting slowly, too, since she had been away three weeks for surgery and recuperation. When the CEO entered the conference room, he gave us no welcome back, didn't even acknowledge that we had been gone. His opening comment: "Our first item on the agenda is. . . ." You can imagine that my dedication to him as my leader was never the same after that stark demonstration of apathy.

Anonymous said...

People want to be noticed, especially if they do good things. Not enough people take the time to thank others, especially customer service personnel. Over time, these employees can burn out and become very discouraged - unless they have a manager who cares about them.

Thank you for highlighting this issue, Anita! Let's all make it a habit to thank someone else for something positive (especially our kids).

Anita said...

All really valid points, and so simple...yet so difficult, it seems. When did being kind and open and caring about one another become so hard?

Nneka said...

I found your blog from the outstanding women bloggers list. I can't believe that I'm talking to an actual columnist. I'll stop gushing now.

"When did being kind and open and caring about one another become so hard?"

It was probably rhetorical, but we seem to be addicted to busy-ness. With all our communication avenues, we've lost connectivity. I don't know that we ever realized how important community was until we started living in stylos and taking it for granted.

In Spirit,

Anita said...

I appreciate you dropping by my blog and posting this comment...a very valid point. I think a lot of people are starting to question whether their "busy-ness" really accomplishes anything. When I was growing up, their was a hand-stitched sampler in our kitchen that said: "The busier I go, the behinder I get."
As for me being a columnist, don't let the title fool you...I'm just a regular person who still burns the toast and can't figure out how to operate the cruise control on my car.