“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”
“I hate my job!”
How many times have you heard that or said it yourself? My guess is a few times.
A study showed only 13% people like their job. The rest either hate or not interested in the job they are doing.
Yes, you read it right. Almost 90% people are not happy at their job.
The office can be a soul-crushing place. The endless bureaucracy and pointless conversation are mind numbing. Sometimes it gets so worse that it takes a physical toll on people.
It is like a small place where people are put together, but no one wants to be there. Everyone is looking for a way out.
What makes it worse is the time we spend at the office. A good part, almost one-third, of most productive years of our life.
And then there are exceptions. Few places where work can be real fun. A place to fulfill dreams. Stretch oneself. Everyone is looking forward to coming to the job every day.
Building something larger, together.
But these are rare
Many well-intentioned people have tried to improve the workplace. Companies spend tens of millions of dollars to understand how to improve the happiness of the employees.
But they fail. Almost always.
So why is it so difficult to build a happy company? What goes wrong?
I had my share of both experiences.
I worked at jobs which were so pointless that I sometimes left office in the middle of the day. And then I worked at jobs where I did not even take time off because I loved what I was doing so much.
I also had the opportunity to work with quite a few companies. I helped many CEOs/Founders building culture and workplace.
Here are my thoughts on how the two types of companies differ.
The happy vs. unhappy company.
“By the standards of the rest of the world, we overtrust. So far it has worked very well for us.” — CHARLIE MUNGER
The happy company trusts people. They share information. They trust people to be discreet with the information. They delegate and give people responsibility.
They do not micromanage. They build a culture of transparency. They err on the side of over communication. Taking the team along on difficult decisions.
Seeking feedback actively.
The unhappy company creates walls. They create unnecessary processes and a sense of fear. They do not trust the employees.
They hoard information. They use information as a source of hierarchy. They are poor at communication.
Results and rewards decoupled
“People may take a job for more money, but they often leave it for more recognition.” — Bob Nelson
The happy company recognizes performance. They are generous with their rewards to the right people.
They have a transparent way to measure results. They make it very clear who is getting rewarded and why. They do not wait the whole year to reward people.
They communicate the process. They are upfront with the feedback.
The unhappy company does not correlate rewards with results.
They do have an elaborate process on paper. They put in place a long evaluation process. But fails to reward the good performers. People tend to get rewarded based on years of work rather than actual performance.
People dread the year-end assessment process.
Processes built over time without question
“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.”― Dave Barry
The happy company questions every process. They always try to make work simpler. Because they trust people, they design processes to move things faster.
For people to say Yes.
The unhappy company builds new processes at every opportunity. People keep adding layers of controls in the workflow. Endless meetings are where people spend most of the working hours.
They have too many people to say “No” and very few people to say “Yes.”
Not explaining why
“If you hire people just because they can do a job, they’ll work for your money. But if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood and sweat and tears.” ― Simon Sinek
The happy company explains why things are done. They explain the reason for making a particular decision. Especially if the decision is not popular.
They spend a lot of time on building the culture of “why” at every team. This helps everyone to believe in actions the company is taking.
Why is the company doing something? Introducing a new product? Changing the team structure?
The unhappy company hardly explains the reason for anything. They make decisions and expect everyone to follow that. They seldom explain the “why” behind a decision.
“He wanted AFFIRMATION rather than INFORMATION.”
― Barbara W. Tuchman
The happy company knows that there are many biases in human mind. Preferences based on gender, religion, race and much more. They try to address that.
They guard against biases creeping in. They overcompensate for the default possibility of biases in decision making.
The unhappy company acts as if there are no biases in the world. Or they are immune to biases. They remain blissfully ignorant. The decisions do not have any checks built-in against hidden biases.
Short term approach
“In the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run it is a weighing machine.” — Warren Buffet
The happy company builds a long term business. They sometimes adjust courses, that may appear short term, for the sake of external forces. But, they remain faithful to the long term goal.
The unhappy company is run on short term goals. The leadership is driven by immediate rewards. Their actions do not reflect any long term ambition. They pursue short-term goals at the expense of their staff and culture.
Lack of leaders
“Great leaders create more leaders, not followers.”
― Roy T. Bennett
The happy company creates leaders. They give people opportunity to grow. They give challenges and provide support to excel. They have a systematic plan to develop leaders across the organization.
The unhappy company does not offer an opportunity for growth. They are usually built around hierarchy. People get larger roles based on years of experience and not on leadership potential.
They are poor at grooming and mentoring talents.
“In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.” ― Tina Fey
The happy company spends a lot of resources in hiring the right staff. They select for the right cultural fit. They install strong on boarding process. They do not short change attitude for ability.
The unhappy company selects people without much thought. They do not follow a clear process. They do not understand the importance of getting the right person in the job.
“The only possible failure would be never managing to find the right role or the right partners to help you realize that strength.” ― Donald O. Clifton,
The happy company is good at identifying individual strength. They place them in the roles accordingly. An organization has different needs. Different strengths are required to do different jobs.
The happy company corrects itself if a wrong person is placed in the wrong job.
The unhappy company does not consider individual strengths. They place people in roles and hope things will work out. They are slow to take corrective action.
No a**hole rule
“Bullying consists of the least competent most aggressive employee projecting their incompetence on to the least aggressive most competent employee and winning.” — Tim Field
The happy company does not tolerate a**holes in the organization. They are careful to ensure that individual dignity is maintained. At all levels and across teams.
They are quick to take action when a problem arises.
The unhappy company accommodates a**holes for the sake of results. They are lenient in their approach to human values. Slow to take actions when things go wrong.
“The caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity.” ― George Carlin
The happy company experiments to break silos. Discourage corporate politics and promotes open confrontation.
They understand that most corporate politics is a result of perceived unfairness and lack of transparency. They take actions whenever corporate politics overshadows culture.
The unhappy company is a melting pot of jealousy, back-biting and a deep sense of unfairness. They make decisions based on gossips and not data. They lack the leaders to take bold actions to uphold high values.
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