gagement: Lipstick for Pigs - by John Sumser - HRExaminer

Promoting happiness in a screwed up workplace is just putting lipstick on the pig.

HR words that are overused and mean whatever you want –talent, brand, social, community, leadership, innovate, engagement.

HR word that is hardly ever used - work. 

Work is not the place you go to be entertained and to socialize. Employers are not responsible for making employees happy. Everyone is there to do the work of the company.

If HR is focused on making employees happy and engaged, they have lost their way. It’s not about awards, team building, lunches, parties, games, attaboys (and girls), incentives, or some new software that nobody has time or interest to learn. These things don’t make people want to show up at the office. They just waste a lot of time and money.

HR’s job is to help get the work done by people who are trained and skilled at doing it. It’s about making a great product or providing the best service to the client.

If your employees are not engaged, you don’t have a happiness problem. You have a management problem.

Promoting happiness in a screwed up workplace is putting lipstick on the pig. You’ll just end up with a red snouted pig (when we would all much rather have bacon).

You’re also not paying attention to the issues that really need to be fixed.

These are the main things that make work suck and how to fix them.

  • The Boss is an Asshole.  Really. This is the number one problem with most workplaces.  No amounts of meetings, interventions, therapy, or vacations will fix this.

If you can’t get rid of the boss, then leave.

  • Responsibility Without Authority.  When someone must both complete work and get multiple approvals for every increment, it’s impossible to ever get anything finished. Or the “Don’t bother me with this shit! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” supervisor who refuses to help or pay attention, but then blames everyone else when it goes sideways.

If you give people responsibility, give them the resources and authority to actually do the work.

  • Words and Actions Don’t Match.  Exaggeration, lies, unmet promises, and constantly changing stories, requirements, demands and expectations make people insane. Remember the rats from psych class who never knew if they were going to get cocaine or get shocked? If management’s words and actions don’t match, then nobody knows what to do or how to do it.

Be clear. Be real. Be honest.

  • No Trust. Secret meetings, closed door conferences, constantly looking over people’s shoulders, excessive monitoring of every little thing, and pettiness, do not promote better work. It makes people feel like they are being set up to fail – because they are.

Treat people like grown ups. Trust them to get the work done. If they aren’t, then send them on their way. If you can’t handle it, then you have control issues. Seek outside help.

If you want employees who like their work and want to show up on Monday, then pay them well and give them the resources and autonomy they need to do their best. Then, when they do, say thank you.

 
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  • http://twitter.com/BreaknEquations John E. Smith

    Great article Heather… and your 4 points are right on! :D
    But to your points on engagement and happiness…

    This was true during the industrial age… but
    in today’s creative and knowledge based economy the engagement and happiness of
    employees gives an organization a big advantage. There are lots of studies that
    have shown that engaged employee are more productive(as much as 6x) and happy
    employees are more creative(as much as 37%).
    In a future where the measurement of an employee is innovation and valued
    add over hours in a seat and phone calls answered, engagement and happiness do
    matter… they might even matter most. :D

  • http://twitter.com/heatherbussing Heather Bussing

    Thanks John. I’m sure you are right that happy employees who care about their work do better, more creative work. But to get there, first have a great service or product. Then hire the right people, pay them well, and give them resources, autonomy, and clear expectations.

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