11 Ways To Make Work Suck

11. Be thankful you have a job

Love this one, because it's super motivating and also…a veiled threat!

10. Giving orders to the minions

The days of top-down, military style management where the managers bark out orders to the workers is long gone. Or is it? There are still plenty of industries that operate this way, using micromanagement and threats to get employees in line. To these leaders, an intrinsically motivated and highly productive workforce seems idealistic and naive.

9. Criticize and abuse

Your employees don't need encouragement. No one likes to be praised or told they're good at what they do. Just keep pointing out the mistakes, making people feel bad about their work, and offering no support or constructive feedback. That'll do the trick!

8. Blaming your lazy employees for not being motivated

Maybe you think your employees are useless. You try so hard to motivate them and nothing works - they're just lazy, lazy employees! And those millennials with their entitlement ways and horrible work ethic.

7. Financial incentives

Financial motivation can be both a good and a bad employee motivation technique. It all depends on the approach.

Most companies are disappointed in the results they get from their incentive plans because they use them in one or more of the following ways:

  • "Carrot and Stick" approach to motivation

  • Means of changing behavior

  • Getting people to do things they don't want to do

  • Motivating people to "do the right thing"

6. The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle is commonly phrased, "Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence." Does your company suffer from this phenomenon?

Promoting employees up the ladder is a well-known employee motivation theory. But, not everyone is cut out to be a manager! Managing is hard...but doesn't have to be if you're focused on the right things. You know, results.

5. Overtime

No matter how much overtime you pay your employees, eventually your tired workforce will get burned out and become completely unmotivated. Expecting your employees to work insane hours, not take vacations, and deal with constant stress is a recipe for poor production and high turnover.

4. Bad goals and annual reviews

Employees are not motivated by the notion that their hard work will make company owners and executives rich, organizational change consultant Paul Levesque writes on Entrepreneur. Are your employees aligned around an ultimate outcome or goal that makes them feel proud to work at your company? When individual goals, management goals, and company goals are not in alignment, you'll see groups and individuals working against each other. Couple bad goals with rewarding effort vs. outcomes for a truly demotivating good time.

3. Convoluted mission statements

These should be relatable, easy to recall, and inspire people to rally around them.

2. Flexibility and other gimmicks

Or as we like to say, "Flexibility is the new F word." No matter which way you slice it, flexible work programs fail. Why is that? Because managers hate "managing flexibility" (oxymoron!) and employees are wary of when, how, and if they should even use flexibility options.

Our take is quite simple: programs focused on flexibility will always, always fail because they aren't focused on results. 

1. Ignoring intrinsic motivation

All of the above to say this...if you find yourself banging your head against the wall with employee motivation programs, gimmicks, rewards, incentives, perks, benefits, raises, promotions, all without success, then maybe you're ignoring the basics. Those of you who have read Drive by Daniel Pink are aware of his endorsement of Results-Only Work Environment. In this TED Talk, Pink talks in detail about what actually motivates us and how most businesses don't act in accordance with what the science tells us about intrinsic motivation. 

ROWE Is Not A Policy

Employees should be trusted to decide how, when, and where the work gets done. Period.

Turning the conversation into a simple "work from the office vs. work remotely" argument is totally missing the point. Telecommuting gives employees a small taste of freedom (while making bosses nervous) but it is still a system in which you're managing people, not work.

In order to truly drive results and focus on what's really important, you need to manage the work, not the people.

Telecommuting still has all the basic stone-age baggage of a traditional work environment. People are still expected to work "business hours." They still need to "check in" to show activity. They are still bound to a schedule that might define which days they get to work remotely. It's sometimes offered to a select few but not everyone. In short, telework is still a way of managing people.

ROWE is not telework. ROWE is not "working from home." ROWE is not a flexible work arrangement. A Results Only Work Environment IS NOT a Remote Only Work Environment.

If your organization has a remote work policy, a flex work policy, a compressed work week policy, or a telework policy, then the focus is on managing the people not the work. ROWE is a cultural shift that takes the focus off of managing people and places it, instead, onto managing the work. You know, the stuff that needs to get done.

We need to change the national conversation. We need to stop focusing on this short-sighted question of "should employees be allowed to work remotely?" and focus it on what matters: the work itself.


Myths. Debunked!

Myth #1 -  ROWE is delegation
In fact, ROWE is the very opposite of delegation. The traditional work environment operates under a “command and control” management style, which ROWE advocates against. In a ROWE, manager (Results Coach) and employee clearly define outcomes and metrics. That’s autonomy. Holding the belief “the manager should always those objectives are met” is authoritarian and so 1950’s! Creating opportunities for employees to contribute in all areas of business is what fosters relationships. Giving employees freedom to decide for themselves how, when, and where the work gets done is grounded in trust. As a result of having clear measures in place and the employee and manager having ongoing, objective performance conversations, accountability is strengthened.

The beauty of a ROWE is that it’s 100% accountability and 100% autonomy. No results? No job.  Not ‘no results? Let’s tell everybody how to work and live!

Myth #2 - If you can see people at the office, you know they’re working!
The idea is that by gathering everyone together for a big feel-good huddle in the office and getting “all hands on deck,” you will turn the ship around. We have no problem with people working at the office and collaborating face-to-face. But making it mandatory and not trusting employees to make common sense decisions about where and when they get the work done….Yea, we do have a problem with that. The belief people have about communication and collaboration is can’t really be done without a sit-down meeting. Um, have you heard of the interweb? Or a phone? Would space travel exist under this belief? Eeek!!!!! In fact, when leadership commands ‘all hands on deck’ they’re really saying ‘we don’t know how to get everyone on point’. Even worse, we don’t trust you to get the work done unless we can see you.

A Harvard study debunked the benefit of office face time myth.

ROWE means employees can meet in person when it’s necessary to achieve agreed-upon results, because ROWE is not a Remote Only Work Environment = be where you need to be, when you need to be there in order to achieve results.

Myth #3 - ROWE is a one-size-fits-all program
ROWE is a shift away from office politics and rules, and a focus on what really matters: the work. It requires a mind shift - to understand and move beyond roadblocks such as beliefs, judgments, and time. It is NOT technical change. It is adaptive change. It flips the script from managing the people to managing the work.

What is one-size-fits-all is the expectation that everyone is focused on and accountable to results. Period.

Manage The Work v. Manage The People

Human Resources has been focused on managing people for the last 125,000 years. Ok, well maybe not that long, but we know you all get what we’re saying.

It's time to stop managing people. Yup - people need to grow up and manage themselves. What we need to do is start managing the work and get crystal clear about it.  

But what does that mean?

What it sounds like when we manage people:

1. "Office managers and receptionists need to be in the office during standard business hours to achieve results."

2. "There are times we need to be face-to-face to communicate and collaborate effectively."

What it sounds like when we manage work:

1. "The target for our customer satisfaction score is 4.25."

2. "The deadline for this particular deliverable is Friday, April 2, at 2pm."

People are going to come face-to-face when they need to based on the objective, measurable results they have set together with their manager and team.  Whenever you prescribe HOW to collaborate, you are a degree of separation from the work. 

The future of work, and what the Human Resources field needs to focus on, is a true balance between 100% autonomy and 100% accountability. 

What happens when there isn't a balance between the two?

Heavy on Accountability - Light on Autonomy

This is a common scenario in the workplace. Here, you have an employee up to their eyeballs with work (often, a lot of activities that may or may not be feeding into a meaningful outcome for the organization), drowning in rules from the 20th century that don't make sense, and constantly trying to get rid of the micromanaging boss hanging over his shoulder. He doesn't get time off or the freedom to decide how to achieve his results and he gets no relief when he asks for help. What does that do for a worker? Stress, burnout, turnover, job hunting. Completely out of balance.

Heavy on Autonomy - Light on Accountability

This is the scenario of the modern day "Flexibility Program." Employees come in when they want to, they leave when they want to, they work from home when they want to, but aren't really ever sure what they're supposed to be doing. They look really busy, they talk about how much effort they're putting in, and say they can't take on any more. But something doesn't feel right. What does that do for a manager? It drives them absolutely insane.

This is the imbalance in the workplace that makes managers uneasy, but they've never really been able to describe it.

Too much autonomy and not enough accountability is what makes companies end "work-at-home" and pull people back to the office. "Sorry, we're taking away your telework, naughty employees!" 

When Autonomy and Accountability are equal, meaning employees and managers are both clear about the work and how it's being objectively measured, the end result is "No results, no job". Discussions are about the work itself, not how, where, or when it gets done.

What's happening in your workplace? Management of the work or the people? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!