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.