Work - In Working Order
by Tanmayee Dass
How to Keep Your Best PeopleIdentify Them
We often take good performance for granted. Also, a large number of organizations pile work on their best performers without recognizing their worth, while those who
To each one reading these words-let me ask a question. Did you feel inspired when you woke up in the morning? Inspired by the tasks ahead of you? Did you hum a song or tell yourself: "It`s going to be a wonderful day!"
It may not be far-fetched to say that only 10 per cent of the world`s working population is happy doing what it does. Possibly, 80 per cent of us believe that we are engaged in a `daily rut`-we do not do, what we do, for the Love of it. Eighty percent? Think long and hard about this statistic.
A CNN job satisfaction survey done across three time periods found that 61 per cent of the workers were only `somewhat satisfied` in the year 1989. This was 51 per cent in 1987 and 49 per cent in 1999. The world`s population numbers at about 6,280,103,484 (US Census Bureau). Presuming that half of it works for a living and 80 per cent of them are dissatisfied, slogging eight hours and five days a week-we have 1,00,481,655,744 hours of dissatisfaction at the workplace every year.
Just where did we go wrong? Why can`t we tap our incredible potential, Love our work, our Life and our colleagues? How can we find the motivation we so desperately need? Do individuals go wrong or organizations? Let us begin at the beginning.
Work Ethics Across History
In the beginning...
Man`s first move to work-to hunt or gather food-was need based. Everything stemmed from the need for survival. With evolution, faculties developed. In a cohesive society, tasks became increasingly specialized. Caste and guild systems emerged. Work was not a matter of choice but a factor you were born into. A farmer`s son would be a farmer, a cleric`s son a cleric, and a blacksmith`s son a blacksmith. There were aberrations, but by and large, until the late Victorian period, this was the Work ethos. Women were relegated to the nursery and the kitchen.
The way to the New World was paved with industrial Evolution in the 18th century. Dignity of labour was a new and widely acclaimed phrase, but the emotion of labour was yet to be refined. Capitalism and new respect for work, Money and individual freedom were beginning to take shape. A century later, Communism emerged as a new school of thought with Karl Marx. To Work for the state was the highest goal prescribed. Then came the wars, the world went topsy-turvy, colonialism was disappearing, and it was imperative that the existing fabric of life-and work-be questioned.
The preoccupation with individual mind, desires and proclivities, has been more evident in the last 50 years. The New Age has dawned and brought with it a new wave of emotions. It is no longer enough to Work for money, power or social welfare. It is accepted that the best form of Work is where an individual can harness creativity, foster emotional growth and achieve spiritual evolution. "During the 70s, 80s and early 90s, upper mobility and consumerism were the main values. However, this consumerism eventually became depleting, people began looking inward for meaning. Who am I? What do I have to contribute?`` points out Leslie Bendaly, author of Organization 2000.
Indeed, if the extent of literature available on the subject is anything to go by-besides the fact that six out of 10 bestsellers fall in the `work` category-oh boy! Aren`t we obsessed with achieving the best Work culture! And yet-80 per cent of us aren`t even half way there.
Work as Craftsmanship
To get to the essence, we must first learn what the term `work` means-or better, what it can mean, and what we would like it to mean. The Chambers Twentieth Century dictionary defines Work as: "Effort directed to an end; employment; the result of work; that on which one works; anything made or done," and so on.
The thinking, feeling individual has come a long way from the point where `work` signified pretty much what the Chambers dictionary would like us to believe. "The traditional attitude of Work as drudgery had its roots in manual labour. Going to Work meant going to someplace where one worked hard, came home tired but with enough Money to provide for a family. For the most part, the labourer did not labour for the Love of it," says Bendaly. That is, however, no longer the case. "More people are now looking for more than a pay cheque when they come to work. They are no longer willing to check at the door their values, ideas, opinions and sundry talents that may not apply to their job. They know they have more to offer and have a greater need than ever to make a contribution of which they are proud," adds Bendaly.
More Than a Pay Cheque
And if the pay cheque isn`t a good reason and the questions come tumbling after, what do you do? You believe you are a craftsman and watch the world change around you. For a craftsman: "There is no ulterior motive in Work other than the product being made and the process of its creation. The details of daily Work are meaningful because they are not detached in the worker`s mind from the product of work. The worker is free to control his own working action. The craftsman is thus able to learn from his work; and to use and develop his capabilities and skill in its prosecution. There is no split between Work and play or Work and culture. The craftsman`s way of livelihood determines and infuses his entire mode of living." C.W. Mills` description of a craftsman would be apt for anyone who loves or wants to Love his work. This, of course, does not exclude the pay cheque altogether. But it does make an effort to look at Work beyond its purely lucrative worth.
"You have within you more talent than has ever been exploited, more strength than has ever been tested"
Bored to Death
With craftsmanship and labour of Love comes the opposite. When Work refuses to be limited to drudgery, it also allows the serpent of boredom to raise its head and wonder if what you are doing is really worth it. So, what do you do if you are bored to death? What if you have allowed drudgery in your kingdom? "We have to face the fact that most men and women out there in the world of Work are more stale than they know, more bored than they would care to admit," John Gardner, an American leader, activist, author and reformer, holds out this scary truth. But even he is "convinced that most people enjoy learning and growing, at any time in their life. If we are aware of going to seed, we can take countervailing measures". And guess what? "There is something I know about you that you may not even know about yourself," says Gardner. "You have within you more resources of energy than have ever been tapped, more talent than has ever been exploited, more strength than has ever been tested, and more to give than you have ever given." Words of wisdom! And if you have read the book Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, Gardner`s words would have a familiar ring. "Most of us are uncomfortable thinking of ourselves as artists… But each of us is an artist… With every choice, every day, you are creating a unique Work of art. Something that only you can do… The reason you were born was to leave your own indelible mark on the world. Respect your creative urges… step out in faith… you will discover that your Life is all it was meant to be-a joyous sonnet of thanksgiving," she maintains.
The Way of The Fish
A similar theory is held out wonderfully in the best-selling book Fish! by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. The authors rubbish the notion that settling for anything less than what we Love demeans us, and describe how to transform the most mundane chore into an adrenaline-pumping rush. "If our quest for ideal Work focuses on the future, we will miss the amazingly wonderful Life that is available today, in this moment," they say. The way to "finding the deep source of energy, Creativity and passion that exists inside each of us" is "by learning to Love what we do, even if at the moment we may not be doing exactly what we love". There are four mantras for achieving this:
1. Choose your attitude: There is always a choice about the way you do your work, even if there is no choice about Work itself.
2. Play: You can be serious about your Work and still have fun with the way you conduct your work; not get uptight, but let things flow.
3. Make their day:Look for ways to create great memories for your customers and colleagues. Involving others and working to make their day directs attention towards them. Focusing your attention on ways to make another person`s day provides a constant flow of positive feelings.
4. Be present: When you are present, you show consideration for the other person, the customer or your colleague. Listen and don`t be distracted.
The Work Persona
There are various parameters to evaluate your Work personality. And whichever you choose, you need to understand your Work personality to bring out the best in you and to Work on your weaknesses. Here are a few definitions offered by Bendaly: "The personal profile describes an individual`s most comfortable and most natural style. If one pole of a dimension is dominant, the individual brings to the organization particular strengths in that area. Too much strength in any pole, however, results in weakness in its opposite pole, which may handicap the individual or the organization," Bendaly Stress es. The purpose of this exercise is to match your traits to the requirements of your workplace. In case there is a mismatch, you have some Work to do. Here are some of the Work profiles:
Independent Vs Interactive
Independents Work best independently. They can be at a disadvantage working in a group and often develop ideas quietly, on their own. A group discussion can block rather than stimulate their thinking. They do not think of communicating with others as they do not have a strong need to interact; and because they don`t share information readily, they can be misunderstood as someone who hoards information, is secretive or aloof. Delhi-based Seema Bhasin, 30, realized she fell in this category but not before she had changed four organizations in six years. "I knew I was good at work," says Bhasin, who is a columnist today. "But it irked me to have to deal with others` temperaments and abilities. I have, therefore, chosen to Work from home. I am much happier today."
Unlike Bhasin, 22-year-old Ragini Mehta has an `interactive` personality. When forced to stay home after an unplanned baby, she thought she`d go nuts. "Interactive individuals need people around them to re-energize by being active. They Work best with others and need interaction to stimulate their thought process. They thrive on meetings, think well out loud and may dominate discussions," says Bendaly. So much so that they even create their own meetings by carrying a cup of coffee into another`s office to bounce ideas off. It does not occur to them that they might be disturbing someone because any intrusion in their day is a welcome relief.
Objective Vs Sensitive
Objective individuals are able to separate Emotions from issues and examine them with a detachment. They separate facts from Emotions and recognize and test assumptions. However, they can miss the people factor and not value opinions that are not proven. They take pride in being sensible and level-headed and others` opinion of them is of no concern to them. Deepak Mistry, 45, manager of a travel agency, found this approach was causing him a significant loss. Even though he had the details of the smallest town in Timbuktoo and knew what clients wanted, he realized that the problem lay in his detached attitude.
Perhaps Mistry would have fared better as an accountant. But excesses on the other side of the fence can be equally damaging. For, "sensitive individuals become emotionally involved in issues. They consider others` feelings. They are more strongly influenced by feelings than logic and are moved by emotional pleas or motivational presentations". And, at the end of the day, their whole emphasis is based on what appeals to them emotionally instead of facts and figures.
Inward Vs Outward
Inward looking individuals Work well with detail and see it easily and clearly. They can get caught up dotting `i`s and crossing`t`s. At the same time, they are prone to missing the bigger picture. They focus on the job at hand, prefer clear goals and objectives. They like structure and tend to focus on their particular area of expertise and not develop broad interests or become a generalist.
Outward looking people are tuned into the bigger picture. They can be frustrated by nitpickers and are likely to speak in broad terms and generalities. They would prefer developing a mission statement or strategic plan instead of goals and objectives. They enjoy exploring the theory behind an application and the cause and effect of issues, and are usually well-versed in many topics. When two bricklayers were asked what they were doing, one responded by saying, "laying bricks" and the other with "building a cathedral". This is a classic case of inward and outward looking people.
Logical Vs Intuitive
Logical individuals need the world to make sense. They approach things in a logical, step-by-step fashion. They believe issues can be resolved with a little common sense. To them, issues are black or white. They prefer to Work with structured models when problem solving. Wide-open brainstorming does not appeal to them.
Intuitive individuals like to think and explore possibilities. They are not limited by a need for structure or pre-conceived ideas. They are open to all possibilities and like to try new approaches. They like to brainstorm, generate creative ideas and are not comfortable working in a highly structured environment. They often examine issues from a different and not non-rational perspective. They are also more likely to take what appear to be risks since they take a decision they `feel good` about, but which may not be supported by logic.
Vikram Rawal, director of a Jaipur-based NGO, started an outfit because he `thought differently`. Today, he is a successful man. But his workspace has no meaning for the word discipline. When Sunayana Rathore chose to Work with him, she was all enthusiasm. But soon, she discovered that she needed a `structured environment`. She is now happily employed in a multinational call centre.
Convergent Vs Divergent
Convergent individuals have firm opinions. They live comfortably with their decisions feeling confident that they are right. They are quick to make decisions and change their mind reluctantly. They are often good at closing deals and are more likely to supply answers than ask questions.
Divergent individuals like to hear as much information as possible. They are open to others` points of view and carefully consider all information and opinions. They like a discussion to run its own course and reach closure when the group is ready. They take a facilitative approach to dealing with people, asking rather than telling. They enjoy working with the unexpected and dealing with needs as they arise. They often look for a compromise.
That`s as far as the worker is concerned. It is one thing for the individual to analyze himself to death. But it is equally imperative that an organization knows where it stands and where it must get. Motivational pundits will give you any number of strategies and sub-strategies to deliver an A-1 organization. Most of them will work. However, there are some basic rules that any organization worth its salt will do well to adopt in the new economy-become fast-paced, horizontal, outward looking, balanced (between task and process) as well as spiritual. An organization today needs to structure itself in teams, pay more attention to the input the world around offers and ask customers what they need instead of prescribing it to them. An organization must also continuously evolve.
From Vertical to Horizontal
The world is changing at a rapid pace. New Technology and attitudes have made many things obsolete. Against such a scenario, we need to ask ourselves: Are we really changing? Or, are we simply doing our best to cope? Are we making adjustments to allow ourselves and the company to experience greater success? Is change in our organization cosmetic or substantive?
"Too frequently, behaviors are not modified," points Bendaly. More meetings, task forces or additional responsibility is ineffective unless they come with an attitude.
Individuals would enjoy what they do and deliver better if they felt responsible for it. This calls for a horizontal organization as against a vertical one. A vertical organization, according to Bendaly, is a "top down, command-and-control organization that asks people to bring their bodies to Work and just enough of their minds to get the Work done and leave the rest, including opinions, Creativity and values at the door".
Does that have a familiar ring? Don`t we owe it to ourselves not to do this? Large companies such as Proctor & Gamble and GE recognized the pitfalls of a vertical structure way back and created a movement towards participatory management. Sharing information is the key quality of a horizontal organization. Team members are quickly and fully informed about changes, the management looks to the frontline for input and direction, and displays remarkable peer communication. Here, information is not exchanged only during meetings but also over a cup of coffee.
The Spiritual Ladder
When Lou Gerstner came into IBM as CEO, his famous first observation was: "I`ve never seen an organization so caught up in its own underwear." Getting caught up in the little internal stuff is what drags around the ankles of an inward-looking organization. "The outward-looking organization, on the other hand, has a heads up land-ahoy approach. It is constantly scanning the environment. It checks its experience against that of others; it learns from others` successes and failures. It looks for input from customers and acts on it. It knows its industry and competition," explains Bendaly.
But being either overtly vertical or horizontal can have pitfalls. While a horizontal organization thrives on facilitation, intuition and information, it can also result in too much consultation, too much wheel spinning, lots of activity but too little action. A vertical organization`s obsession with task on the other hand results in directing, controlling, structuring, logic-based decision making and bringing tasks to closure. What is clearly required is a fine balance between the two approaches-a focus on process activities as well as enough vertical structure to ensure productive outcomes.
"The visioning and value exercises of the 1980s began the process of bringing beliefs into the workplace and recognizing their ability to enhance outcomes. People began exploring New Age thinking and the spiritual side of themselves." Bendaly`s conjecture is substantiated if we take a moment and scour around. More and more people are looking for the `something else` to energize and sustain them. It is only a matter of time before a critical mass demands this energy from its workplace. If this be a given, the emergence of a value-based organization is also inevitable as well as imperative.
"A value-based organization lives by certain principles-not just values that enhance the company`s external image, but principles that it lives and breathes by, makes decisions by and treats employees by," defines Bendaly. And there is a distinct advantage of being an organization such as this. In a value-based organization, not only does the organization treat employees and customers with care and respect but also employees treat one another with the same appreciation. "The trust and caring that develop in a spiritual organization enrich the connections resulting in powerful interconnectedness. As connections open and Stress is alleviated, energy blockers are removed. The organization revitalizes."
And though this is a far cry from the way most organizations are run today, the change is discernible. At least in the employee-employer expectations. Perhaps it is time we took a second look at our management policies, and paved the way for a better workplace. Because, at the end, survival will be of the fittest-be it in terms of balance, principles or creativity.
Are you ready for it?
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