Shouldn’t your job help you unfold? Darn right it should.
Never let a job keep you from your potential.
I wrote the following while at a job I used to have:
I Know What It’s Like Now
They say having autonomy in one’s job increases motivation. I understand why that’s true more deeply now, because I know what it’s like to have that taken away. I was trusted to notice when there were needs at work – and to respond to them. I had some leeway to change my priorities and help others in other departments – and I did that. I was trusted to come to my boss if I saw a significant need. We worked together to decide if I had to rearrange my schedule. I was thanked for that.
Now we have someone in charge who doesn’t seem to see any value in people helping each other outside the lines of their job descriptions or across departments. She says I have to check with her before any change. She doesn’t seem to trust me an inch. I’m never asked to help with anything other than my same duties anymore. I get told off if I ask so I don’t ask anymore. I don’t make any suggestions. I keep my head down. And my head is down.
It’s Basic Leadership
The more I go through information about good leadership and healthy workplace cultures, and the more I hear from employees with managers of varying skill levels, the clearer it becomes to me that a job can either help employees spiral up or spiral down.
Employee Experience: Spiral Down
If employees aren’t treated as human beings who matter; if employees don’t have opportunities to apply and challenge their capabilities (even if only by practicing autonomy in their sphere of responsibility), they spiral down through stages of disengagement. They feel angry, they feel anxiety, they feel powerlessness. They spend more time in negative talk at home and at work; they need to, because they have to process the experience that they’re dying a little each day.
They may try to bring their concerns about the situation at work. If that doesn’t help, or even gets used against them, they go through further stages of disengagement. They may cry in the washroom at work; they may have insomnia; they may become unwell. On a bad day, they become unable to make themselves go to work, so they take more sick days off. They stop caring about their jobs; often, they actively make the decision to do this for the sake of self-preservation. They shut down. They stop making suggestions. They stop going the extra mile with customers. If they’re dishonest, they may steal or shortchange the organization. They may actively work to sabotage their manager’s wishes. They start looking for a job elsewhere. Their focus is out the door.
Employee Experience: Spiral Up
If employees are treated like they matter, encouraged and given opportunities to develop; if they’re included in plans and given the information, tools and support they need to do their jobs, they spiral up through levels of engagement. They have a buzz when they hear new plans unveiled (or better yet, explored with employees) and talk about this with each other and their managers. They feel interested and happier.
If their suggestions are encouraged, and they’re treated with fairness they become more engaged. They get excited to bring new ideas and come up with ways to improve things. They strive to be supportive to those they work with, the organization and customers. They smile at each other and talk about their work more. Their happiness shows to the customers. There is a spring in their step. They feel more optimistic about their potential and the potential in the organization. Attendance improves. They open up and grow more trusting. They become more loyal. They work more quickly at routine tasks because they’re excited to get to the other, new facets of their jobs. Their focus at work is towards the organization.
In a way it’s as simple as 1-2-3. In a way it’s so not simple. These things happen day after day around the world, and we all struggle to see how to make it different. We need to.